Bouldering in Longsleddale

Climbing an unnamed problem on the Jacko Boulder at Settle Earth Boulders, in Longsleddale.

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.

Longsleddale.

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 River Sprint, with the Settle Earth Boulders on the slope in the distance.

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.

Climbing an unnamed boulder problem on the Splitter Boulders at Settle Earth Boulders.

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.

Climbing the problem The Black Cross (3) on the Jacko Boulder, at Settle Earth Boulders.

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.

Climbing to climb the 3* problem Jacko Slab, on the Jacko Boulder at Settle Earth Boulders.

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.

What looks like a missing hold on the problem Jacko Slab.

Everything else, I managed to complete.  I left feeling happy and satisfied after several hours of good bouldering in a fantastic location.

11 thoughts on “Bouldering in Longsleddale

  • Yes, that used to be my excuse when failing on a route “a hold must have come off”
    We used to regularly visit Longsleddale, a beautiful quiet valley, to climb on Buckbarrow Crag. A good selection of lower grade routes.
    I like the look of the bouldering – may have to invest in the guide, or more likely search the web.

    • I was going to ask about how hard Buckbarrow Crag was as I like the look of it. I hope my club go there one day. It’s a shame I can’t afford to join lots of different clubs as I could do with a Kendal area one as well as the Keswick and my Snowdonian climbing clubs. I can’t really afford 3 though 😦

      • I’m afraid that I don’t really know much about Buckbarrow Crag, except that it looks good from a distance.

        Joining lots of clubs would be a good way to get variety and meet lots of people, but I can see the cost would be an issue.

        • It is when you’re retired. I haven’t even got my retirement money yet either – despite it being originally promised for August (when I left my fulltime job) and then September etc… 😦

          I like the look of the fact that, at the back of Buckbarrow Crag, there is a gap – a big gap! looks fascinating!

      • There are some good climbs on The Dandle – Dandle Buttress D and Sadgill Wall S. Exciting place to climb easy multi pitch. The descent route is good scrambling. Maybe have to wait until next summer now.

  • Never been to Longsleddale, probably for the same reason as yourself. It seems as though you are driving out of the Lakes to get to it!! I’ll need to go there eventually to get up to Tarn Crag at its far end!!

  • Didn’t know there was bouldering up Longsleddale – but then I don’t boulder really. How do you get back down from the top? jump onto the crash mats or climb back down? With osteoporosis and very thin bones I think I’ll be sticking to roped climbing myself but I am curious.

    • Usually you top out (get onto the top of the boulder) and then climb down an easier way than you came up. However, there are times when that’s harder than it sounds. Down climbing the way you came up might be an option, but it depends on the problem and I find you rarely need to do it. The times I have done it has mostly been when the problem was on bottom part of a cliff face rather than a boulder.

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