Langdale Bouldering

Climbing an unnamed boulder problem on the Top Block at the Langdale Boulders.

I’ve been wanting to climb on the Langdale Boulders for years.  Ever since I moved from mostly climbing trad to mostly bouldering, they have been on my list of places to climb.  Famous, iconic and right in the heart of one of the Lake District’s most beautiful valleys.  The Langdale Boulders are one of those places I’d seen pictured in climbing magazines, in guidebooks, and on the wall of the café in one of my local bouldering walls.  My climbing trip to the Lakes gave me the perfect opportunity to go.  A weather forecast of intermittent showers on my last day of the trip also meant that climbing at a venue with a two-minute walk-in seemed like a sensible idea.

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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.  Read more

Bouldering Below The Old Man

The cloud beginning to lift, revealing the Old Man of Coniston and Boulder Valley.

I couldn’t actually find the boulders.  I walked back and forth along the same stretch of grassy ridge looking at the boulders scattered around me, trying to find one that matched the photos in my new guidebook.  If I could find the Ridge Stone boulder, then I could orientate myself and get on the right track.  But in the mist it wasn’t easy to work out which rock was which.  I felt certain I’d missed the path to Boulder Valley shown in the guidebook, and so had ended up walking too far up the ridge.  The Ridge Stone was shown in the guidebook’s map as being after the start of the path I wanted.  I reasoned that if I found the Ridge Stone, I would know for sure I had gone too far. I looked again at a tall boulder sitting just to the side of the path, trying to work out if its shape matched that of the boulder shown in my book.  The whole situation felt ridiculous.  I felt ridiculous.  I was walking about in the mist, on the first day of a bouldering trip to the Lake District, unable to find the boulders I’d come all this way to climb. Read more

My Climbing 2015 in Pictures

Climbing a Wet Badger

Me climbing Badger Rock in Kentmere in the Lake District.
Me climbing Badger Rock in Kentmere in the Lake District.

Badger Rock is a famous boulder that I’d been eager to climb for years. Its reputation is built on providing great climbing, across a range of grades, in a picturesque, quiet Lake District valley. If that wasn’t enough to make it popular, Badger Rock is also only about ten minutes walk from a car park. I’ve been waiting for a chance to climbing on Badger Rock since I first saw it three years ago when walking the classic Kentmere Horseshoe. Last weekend looked like it might finally be my chance to climb on the Badger, but all of my hopes of climbing rested on it staying dry. Read more

My Climbing 2014 in Pictures

My Climbing 2013 in Pictures

Wire in the Lakes – the Honister Slate Mine Via Ferrata

The UK’s first via ferrata is one of the Lake District’s biggest attractions but has also been one of its biggest sources of controversy in the last few years.  How might these controversies, and the quality of the climb, affect your decision to pay to climb this via ferrata?

The gully and the Burma bridge on the Honister Slate Mine Via Ferrata.
The gully and the Burma bridge on the Honister Slate Mine Via Ferrata.

It was probably inevitable that when it opened in 2007 the first via ferrata in the UK would attract some strong opinions.  The system of climbing a mountain using ladders, stemples and occasionally bridges, together with a metal cable to attach to so as to prevent a long fall, could be considered to be more at home in the Alps.  Vie ferrate have their origins in the Alps and they seem more at home among the cable cars and ski pulls that dot those mountains.  Yet a via ferrata had been constructed on Honister Crags to provide a way to climb from a little way above Honister Pass to just below the summit of Fleetwith Pike. Read more

The Beauty of Rime

Rime on a boulder on the summit of Glyder Fawr in Snowdonia National Park, North Wales.
Rime on a boulder on the summit of Glyder Fawr in Snowdonia National Park, North Wales.

I love rime.  I love how these tails of ice seem to form on rocks, fences, walls, posts and anything bold enough to stand upright on a frozen, windy mountain.  I love how rime’s strange, white crystalline structures seem to sprout from the dark surfaces of rocks to either bring them into relief or bury them in ice.  It amazes me that rime can form as a razor of ice down one side of a single blade of grass and as an icy lattice inches deep on a wire fence.  What I especially love about rime is how it adds a new beauty and character to these small things as well as to a whole mountain landscape.  Rime is also wonderful for being something that is superficially simple – frozen water – that forms from an interesting process into something varied and complex. Read more

Rocking stag weekend

The Plan

Rock climbing certainly had to be part of it.  My best man, Jim, and I agreed that pretty early on.  My stag do would have to involve adventure and I’m a keen climber, plus I had met all of my friends who would be on the trip through rock climbing.  However, there were some issues with this idea.

Climbing on Glaciated Slab in Borrowdale.

My brother isn’t a climber and had been less than enthusiastic when I had taken him to a climbing wall in the past.  My friends also tend to be wall and sport climbers, with little experience of the trad climbing that is more common in the UK.  The solution, I thought, was to find somewhere with some easier, single pitch climbs on which I could set up a top rope.

I also thought this would be a great opportunity to try out something I’d been interested in doing for a while – the via ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District.  I’ve done lots of via ferrata in Italy and I was curious to try out England’s first via ferrata.  Climbing on ladders and stemples (i.e. big staples punched into the rock) while attached to a safety cable also seemed more accessible than full rock climbing, while still being a mountain experience and adventurous.

The plan was to do the via ferrata on the Saturday and rock climb on the Sunday.  To get round the fact that my friends don’t own tents, we would stay in a yurt.  This was something else I’d been interested to try now that there are a few companies providing them as a more glamorous alternative to camping.

In a big estate car, we would drive up to Seatoller (in Borrowdale and just below the Honister Pass) on the Friday night and then be ready to go the next morning.

This was the plan, but plans don’t always go as you expect. Read more