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climbing in keswick

The main climbing interest in the Keswick area centres around Borrowdale with its easily-accessible valley crags. Don't assume this is a rock athlete's playground however - if its character you want to find, try the sombre Eagle Crag or Gillercombe for some contrast. Climb in the shade on Goat Crag or bask with the masses on Shepherds, the choice is up to you.

The climbing is split by how energetic you may feel: Roadside, Less Than 30 minute Walk, or The Full Mountain Experience and we've described each crag, given basic approach information and recommended some top routes. Beyond that we recommend you buy the appropriate guidebook for each area, published by the Fell & Rock Climbing Club and available in most outdoor shops.


Reecastle Crag (GR 273176)
Short but hard. Positioned in the beautiful Watendlath valley above Borrowdale, the crag boasts several strenuous test pieces on good rock.

Access: Take the Watendlath road from Borrowdale, the crag is on the left once you emerge from the woods. Park considerately.
Recommended routes: Ador (VS), Daylight Robbery (E5), Penal Servitude (E5), White Noise (E3), The Rack (HVS), Thumbscrew (E2).

Shepherds Crag (GR 263185)
An extensive crag with excellent single and multi-pitch routes spread between several buttresses. Can get very busy due to its roadside nature, and a sun trap in summer.

Access: Situated three miles from Keswick between the Lodore and Borrowdale hotels. No parking below the crag, best spot is on the roadside near the Borrowdale Hotel 400 yards south.
Recommended routes: Brown Crag Grooves (E1), Brown Crag Wall (HS), Conclusion (HVS), Brown Slabs Arete (D), Ardus (HS), Adam (VS), MGC (E2), The Bludgeon (E1), Little Chamonix (VD), Monolith Crack (VS).

Woden's Face (GR 253167)
Popular, small crag with well-worn routes - but still worth a visit.

Access: Just off the Bowderstone path, 250 yards from the Bowderstone Quarry car park.
Recommended routes: Woden's Face (HVD), Woden's Face Direct (S), Woden's Cheek (HS).

Castle Rock of Triermain (GR 322197)
An impressive and attractive crag with good rock and some classic routes. The main crag can be steep, sustained and surprising airy - positive attitude essential! The South Crag has an open, sunny aspect and more amenable routes, making it more popular.

Access: Just off the Keswick-Ambleside road, four miles out of Keswick. Take the B5322 for a short distance to a car park on the L, then follow paths up to the crag.
Recommended routes: Agony (E1), Zig Zag (MVS), Overhanging Bastion (VS), Thirlmere Eliminate (E1), Rigor Mortis (E2), Harlot Face (E1), Via Media (S), Kleine Rinne (VS), Gangway Climb (VD).

Less than 30 minutes walk

Lower Falcon Crag (GR 271205)
Situated two miles south of Keswick, Upper and Lower Falcon Crags dominate the Borrowdale hillside. The Lower Crag is closer to the road and features many overhangs through its blocky, slatey rock. Most routes are VS and above, and can feel serious but a positive approach unlocks some excellent routes.

Access: Park either in a lay-by on the main road or at a car park a few yards up the Watendlath road. Paths lead up to the crags.
Recommended routes: Spinup (VS), The Dangler (E2), Hedera Grooves (MVS), The Niche (E2), Dedication (HVS), Plagiarism (E2), Illusion (HVS).

Gowder Crag (GR 266187)
Lurking in the trees behind the Lodore Hotel in Borrowdale, this steep quick-drying crag is home to a number of good multi-pitch routes. A good option for mid-grade climbs with several quality VS and HVS routes.

Access: Either by a private footpath beside the Lodore Hotel, or a public path from a small lay-by 200metres north of the hotel.
Recommended routes: Fool's Paradise (VS), Lodore Groove (HVD), Kaleidoscope (HVS), Lodore Buttress (VS), The Neb (HVS).

Black Crag (GR 263172)
A fine crag in the Troutdale valley with good rock, excellent positions and routes that take full advantage of the ambience. A great spot to tick classics of all grades - don't be put off by the morbid names!

Access: Park 100m beyond the Leathes Head Hotel then walk back to the lane just by the hotel. Follow this and at the end cross a field and stream, then follow the steep wooded path to the crag.
Recommended routes: The Coffin (VS), The Shroud (VS), Grand Alliance (E3), Vertigo (E2), Prana (E3), The Mortician (HVS), Troutdale Pinnacle Direct (VS), Troutdale Pinnacle (MS).

Bowderstone Crag (GR 256165)
Situated just above the Bowderstone this is a crag that's relatively small, yet boasts routes of all grades across its collection of buttresses.

Access: From the Bowderstone car park walk past the Bowderstone and Woden's Face until a series of paths lead up to the crag.
Recommended routes: Woden's Needle (VD), Hell's Wall (E6), Wheels of Fire (E4), Heaven's Gate (E3), Bowderstone Pinnacle (D), Thor's Exit (MS).

Goat Crag (GR 245165)
Not a single cliff but a collection of crags opposite Bowderstone Crags on the west side of Borrowdale. Each crag is very different yet there are many famous routes here, on ground that varies from slabs to steep walls, single pitch to multi pitch. The crags are east or north-east facing, so can be cold or offering welcome shade depending on the season! Most of the better routes are in the upper grades - HVS and above.

Recommended routes: April Fool (VS), Alone in Space (E1), DDT (HVS), The Voyage (E3), Tumbleweed Connection (E2), Praying Mantis (HVS), Footless Crow (E5), Bitter Oasis (E3), Mirage (E5).

The full mountain experience

Eagle Crag (GR 277122)

A mountain crag featuring some fine, hard routes bristling with character. Northeast facing so slow to dry, but cool in the summer.

Access: From Stonethwaite at the top end of Borrowdale follow the path up Greenup Ghyll then follow a wall up to the Lower Crag, from where a gully ascends to the main crag.
Recommended routes: Flying Circus (E5), Where Eagles Dare (E2), Verdict (E3), Falconer's Crack (VS), Daedalus (E2), Dead on Arrival (E5), Autopsy (E1).

Sergeant Crag Slabs (GR 274114)
A popular mountain crag in upper Borrowdale with excellent rock and great views - well worth the walk in. As the name suggests, this is not a steep crag and the routes come highly recommended. Arguments about the merits of a bolted abseil station mean that your descent could be easy or protracted, depending on whether the bolts are in place.

Access: Park at Seathwaite and head towards Eagle Crag, but take the Langstrath path on the right. The crag is easily seen up on the left about halfway up the valley.
Recommended routes: Mystic Knee (VS), Woodrow Wyatt's Reasoning (E2), Revelation (VS), Endurance (HVS), Lakeland Cragsman (HVS), Terminator 2 (HVS), Aphasia (E2), Quicksilver (E1).

Raven Crag (GR 248114)
A large, broken crag in Combe Ghyll providing some long mountaineering routes on good rock - 8 pitches not unusual! North east facing, so slow to dry but shady on a hot day.

Access: Take the road to Mountain View Cottages, about a mile east of Seatoller and park next to the river. A path over a stile leads up to Combe Ghyll from where Raven Crag is seen at the head of the valley.
Recommended routes: Raven Crag Buttress (VD), Ibis (VS), Corvus (D), Raven Crag Gully (VD), Summit Route (MS).

Gillercombe (GR 221124)
Another high crag with some long mountaineering routes in good positions. South east to north east facing, so choose sun or shade.

Access: From the top of the Honister Pass, follow a path southwards diagonally to a col on the skyline ridge, from where the crag can be seen.
Recommended routes: Gillercombe Bastion (MVS), Gillercombe Buttress (MS), Raven's Groove (VS), Patient Tigers (E2), The Black Knight (E1).

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