Longsleddale was the one place I really wanted to go on my bouldering trip to the Lake District. Some people might think it a bit strange to prioritise the Settle Earth Boulders in Longsleddale over destination bouldering venues in the Lakes like St Bees or Langdale. But I wanted to go as I knew that Longsleddale is beautiful and tranquil, and, after reading the new Lake District Bouldering guide, I’d learned that it also has a great lower-grade bouldering circuit.
I’ve been to the Lake District many, many times, but didn’t know about Longsleddale until a few years ago. I was staying in Kentmere and hoping to go bouldering on the famous Badger Rock. On-off rain meant that I’d given up on that idea for the day and had gone for a walk instead. The walk took me into the upper part of the next valley. This was Longsleddale, and walking through it was the highlight of my day. A lovely, quiet valley of grassy fields and drystone walls, with a river snaking down it, and surrounded at its head by rocky fells. It felt like the Lake District at its best.
My drive into Longsleddale took a fair bit longer than my walk over from Kentmere had that day. I had to drive out of the central Lakes to Kendal, and then take the A6 towards Penrith, before turning off on to a single-track road. This wound its way (and it seemed like a long way) along Longsleddale until the asphalt road ended at the hamlet of Sadgill. The road was replaced by a rocky track, and it was this that I walked along to get to the boulders.
The Settle Earth Boulders are spread out over a grassy slope, at the bottom end of an old scree field, at the head of the valley. I could see them in the distance soon after I started up the track. It was a gentle climb through pretty scenery. The sun was shining and the heat seemed to be building in the shelter of the valley. It was a pleasant walk, but I had a nagging worry about how to actually get to the boulders. I had to cross the River Sprint, and I wasn’t too sure how easy this would be with my bouldering pads and my bag. It turned out to be fine. I left the track at a gate in the wall, and followed a faint, boggy track to the river. After wandering back and forth along the river for a few minutes, I decided on the best-looking section of rocks for rock hopping. I then ferried my pads across, before returning for my bag and crossing again.
A bigger obstacle was the barbed wire topped fence that separated me from the boulders. It’s not mentioned in the guidebook, although, to be fair, I would have realised it was there if I had looked at the photos more carefully as it is visible in some of them. I found what looked like the lowest section of fence, and threw my pads over. I then followed; being thankful that I have long legs.
The Settle Earth Boulders are in an absolutely stunning location. I had views down the valley and of the fells, with the only noise for most of the day being the waterfalls on the River Sprint. Only a handful of walkers (and a couple of guys on motorbikes) went up the track while I was there. I found the climbing much more straightforward than I had the day before in the Coppermines Valley. There was also a good variety of technical slab climbing and sharp cracks. The climbing put a grin on my face.
The one problem that I just could not work out was Jacko Slab. The guidebook described it as a “fine problem” and gave it a star. However, despite it being just a 3+, I couldn’t get more than a couple of moves off the ground. It was one of those problems where I got to a certain point and then simply couldn’t see what to do. I kept feeling that, at the grade, there ought to be another hold somewhere. What there was instead was a gentle bump/raised area on the slab with chalk across the top edge. In the middle of this bump was an area of unweathered rock where a piece had broken off the boulder. After trying all sorts of different combinations of moves, I decided this fresh bit of rock was where the crucial hold had been. This might not be entirely true – but it was a good way of making sure I didn’t feel frustrated about not being able to get up something.
Everything else, I managed to complete. I left feeling happy and satisfied after several hours of good bouldering in a fantastic location.