climbing in wasdale
Ah, Wasdale. The birthplace of rock climbing of course, with the ascent of Napes Needle in 1886 by WP Haskett Smith. This inspiring area is suffused with historic connotations, with classic and ground-breaking routes representing each generation right up to the present day.
Don't get overawed, however. The best approach is to choose the best crag depending on the weather, turn up and open the guidebook. Whatever your ability, you'll find a classic route to keep you happy. And at the end of the day there's the Wasdale Head Inn to help it all make sense.
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.
Sorry - you have to go that bit further to take on the crags of Wasdale!
Less than 30 minutes walk
Buckbarrow (GR 135057)
A series of small crags scattered across the fellside above the Gosforth to Wasdale Road, Buckbarrow overlooks the west end of Wasdale and catches the sun. Good routes abound, as long as you adopt an exploratory attitude. Best to take stock of the crag locations from the road to make sure you follow the best approach.
Access: From Gosforth travel towards Wasdale, the crags are above the road on the left after approximately 7km. Park further along the road, depending on the buttress you intend to climb on.
Recommended routes: Un-named Groove (HVS), Imagine (E1), West Side Story (E4), Wild West Show (E5), Final Curtain (E6), Witch (VS), Too Many Hands (E2), Pace Maker (VS), Needless Eliminate (E1), The Buckbarrow Needle (VS), Fall Out (E1).
The full mountain experience
Kern Knotts (GR 215096)
In a word, classic. A relatively small crag in a big mountain environment, Kern Knotts provides steep routes with a lot of history. South west facing and relatively sheltered, the crag often offers possibilities when higher locations are in the clag.
Access: From Wasdale Head, take the Styhead path and the crag is 5 minutes from the pass.
Recommended routes: Sylvester (E2), The Chrysalid (E2), Central Climb South Face (MVS), Triffid (E2), The Buttonhook Route (HVS), Kern Knotts Crack (VS), Innominate Crack (VS).
The Napes (GR 210101)
The birthplace of English rock climbing, The Napes has represented a forcing ground for several generations of climbers. Although a little broken, the crag is superbly positioned with good rock and a variety of grades. Tweed may be required on certain routes. Tophet Wall provides a different character with several steep test pieces and its uber-classic Hard Severe.
Access: From Wasdale Head follow the Styhead path until just below the pass. Go left below Kern Knotts to join the Gable Traverse, then follow paths to the base of the Napes Ridges.
Recommended routes: Tophet Wall (HS), Supernatural (E5), Incantations (E6), The Viking (E3), Tophet Bastion (VD), Belfry Crack (MVS), Needle Ridge (VD), The Wasdale Crack, Napes Needle (HS), Eagle's Nest Ridge Direct (MVS), Abbey Buttress (VD), The Tormentor (E4), Arrowhead Ridge Direct (VD).
Gable Crag (GR 213105)
A crag with a serious feel, yet find it on a calm summer's day and you'll enjoy some high quality routes in a superb setting. North facing and high, so choose your timing carefully. The crag is made up of several buttresses near the summit of Great Gable.
Access: From Wasdale follow the approach as if going to The Napes via Gavel Neese, but instead of turning off at Moses Finger continue until a traverse left is reached. Follow the track to Beck Head Tarn then up to the north west shoulder of Great Gable until a track leads left under Gable Crag.
Recommended routes: The Slant (E1), Powder Finger (E3), Dream Twister (E3), The Troll (HVS), The Angel of Mercy (E1), Snicker Snack (E3), Engineer's Slabs (VS), The Tomb (E2), Sarcophagus (E3), The Jabberwock (HVS).
Scafell Crag (GR 209068)
Approach with reverence. Situation and history combine to create a superb high mountain crag where a day's climbing will always be memorable. North facing, so best visited in warm and dry weather. Long, excellent routes in a true mountain setting - spare a thought for the first ascentionists on those exposed walls and slabs.
Access: From Wasdale Head follow the Lingmell Ghyll/Brown Tongue path. Continue past Hollow Stones to the huge boulder from where the situation is laid bare - Pike's Crag straight ahead, Scafell Crag on the right, Shamrock further right and Scafell East over the Mickledore col.
Recommended routes: Keswick Brothers' Climb (VD), Botterill's Slab (VS), White Wizard (E3), Ringwraith (E5), Nazgul (E3), Central Buttress (E1), Saxon (E2), Moss Ghyll Grooves (MVS), Moss Ghyll (S), Hopkinsons Gully (MVS), Moss Ledge Direct (MVS), Woodhead's Climb (MS).
Scafell East Buttress (GR 215067)
Phew, a little steep; "A splendid climbing ground for the proficient", as the old Scafell guide put it. You'll not find much of interest here under E2 but for the rock hero there's one of the biggest tick lists in the Lakes.
Recommended routes: Mickledore Grooves (VS), Centaur (HVS), Yellow Slab (HVS), Hells Groove (E1), Lord of the Rings (E2), Ichabod (E2), Roaring Silence (E3), Lost Horizons (E4), Shere Khan (E5), Borderline (E7), Talbot Horizon (E9) and Welcome to the Cruel Word (E9). Other excellent routes are Phoenix (E1), Overhanging Grooves Direct (E2), Chiron (E3), Dyad (E3), Midnight Express (E3), Equinox (E4), Cullinan (E5), The Almighty (E5) and Zeya (E5).