Dad used to bike or walk down the valley all the time, usually to climb and before I got into climbing I thought he was mad to do so. Just seemed such a waste of time. After an ascent of Troutdale Pinnacle with Dad, slipping about on the snow on the way down I became much like him and couldn't get enough time down this beautiful valley. Almost every cliff here holds an assortment of fond memories, of friends, family, solitude and youth.
The crag itself offers good easier climbs on Brown Slabs as well as the likes of Donkeys Ears and the famous classic rock route, Little Chamonix. There is a good assortment of HS/VS such as Ardus, Eve and Fishers Folly and around HVS/E1s my favourites were Aaros (lovely wall climb), Finale, Grasp, Black Icicle and the intimidating Bludgeon which feels ludicrously exposed for the grade, abit like Barbarian at Tremadog, it will have seen loads of epics, as the wall when stepping off the top of the spike, is steep.
Took my first lead fall here with Hock and Wez off Wild Side and didnt sleep that night due to the adrenaline. Wild side, Porcupine and inclination give some of te better tricky climbs on the crag. Gouther crag just to the left of Shepherds has a great VS, Fools Paradise, HVS, Kaleidoscope and E1, Gosh.
Upon entering Borrowdale the 1st crag on the left, Walla, is one nobody goes to!. But the next, Lower and upper Falcon crags are fantastic and highly underrated, giving a lot of great climbs with truly stunning views across Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake (the only lake in the Lakes) and catches the evening sun. Think I first climbed on here seconding dad up Illusion (big fucking traverse-scary when your a beginner). When my friend Hock didnt turn up to meet me here I did my first solo, the VS, Spin Up on the left, the the HVSs Stretch and Funeral Way, opened up a totally different world of possibilities and climbing style, very different than when you have a rack and rope.
Dad put up one of his best routes here in 1962 with Adrian Liddel, the very good E2 called The Niche. Incidentally my first E2 with Hock, gave him the strenuous pitch 2 on it. Other great routes here are Hedera Grooves (HS), Plagarism (esp direct finish), Kidnapped, Usurper and Dedication. Last time i climbed with dad was on here, with my sister jennifer on Hedera (means Ivy) grooves.
If you take a left just after this crag and go past Ashness bridge you eventually arrive at the premier hard crag in the valley, Reecastle. Exceptional for E2s, 3s, 6s and 7s. The central E3 crack, White Noise was put up by Jeff Lamb and dad and relates to dads constant talking. The Rack finger flake, Guillotine, Thumbscrew, Inquisition, Penal Servitude and Daylight Robbery are all cracking whilst Paul Cornforths route Burnt at the Stake is still a contender for giving the hardest pitch in the valley, if you place gear on the lead. Great in the evening sun but watch out for midges. Vaguely remember decking out here, whilst soloing low on Executioner, cartwheeled 20 or 30 feet and landed next to a block. Was a busy day on the crag and everyone went silent, someone found my glasses and wez carried my rucksack and I limped over the top to Shepherds cafe for a brew, hands shaking. Ended up just being a bruised strap muscle in back but couldnt lift legs very high for months.
Next up is another big crag (for Borrowdale), Greatend crag, a short walk from Black cag if somewhat agricultural. A contender for the best E1 in the Lakes lies here, Banzai Pipeline. It follows a weakness up the middle of the crag with very varied pitches, the first 2 giving the cruxes but with a cool 'step across the void' finale to cross a bottomless groove. The other classic line here is Pete Liveseys E4, Nagasaki Grooves which gives a testing mantle type crux in a groove, an essential Borrowdale classic and miles too hard for Hock or Twyford (she was rather tiny when she tried it). The E2 on the right, No Holds Barred is well worth doing if clean too. The small crag nearer the road, Grange crag is rather dirty but Red Neck, Rough Justice and Desmond Decker are worth seeking out for a quick hit.
Just beyond, the quickest to access crag is Quayfoot buttress, right above where you can park for the Bowderstone. The HVS here Mandrake is one of the best, having a great finish up a finger crack and the Go between gives one of the better techy E2s. Irony is another good HVS here. Quick drying but slippery as fuck when wet, some smeary moves on the routes.
Bowderstone crag itself has the classic diff, Bowderstone Pinnacle but the steeper area of cliff has an incredible array of hard routes, with probs best E6 and E8 in the valley. Hells wall, well pegged, desperate start into pumpy climbing. The arete to the left, Bleed in Hell is outstanding and very safe at the grade. The Birkett route to their right, Hellish might be the most dangerous route in the valley, having 7c climbing and deckout potential on most of it. Wheels of fire gives a great E4 and Bulger and Lucifer used to get E4!
On Castle Crag, the small hill in the middle of Borrowdale there is a good HVS, RIP and E3, a Face in the crowd. The best route on here might be beneath Millican Daltons cave, an E6 called Sherrif of Nottingham, named after Colin Downer. Millican Dalton used to live in the nearby cave in Summer months for 50 years from around 1920, Guiding and known as the professor of adventure, well worth looking up on his life. Some of the worst routes I've ever done have been on this side of Castle Crag, with dad, green and vegetated as fuck. Castle Crag is a great little walk to its summit, from Rosthwaite, giving stunning views back across Derwentwater to Keswick and Skiddaw.
Further down the valley is one of the many Raven Crags of the Lake District, with this one having the classic diff, Corvus on it, giving steep climbing for the grade. High above Seathwaite Farm (the wettest inhabited place in England) lies a classic rock route, Gillercomble buttress, and on the right side of this crag Dave Birketts route, Caution is another contender for the most serious route in the valley at possible e9.
The big crag above, Eagle crag is impressive and has one of the best E2s, Where eagles dare, and one of the best E3s, Daedalus. There are 3 very good e5s here too, Restraint of beasts, Flying Circus and Dead on Arrival. Took my first fall on a skyhook here on Fall of eagles, not far thankfully. The wall left of Flying Circus gives one of the more dangerous routes in the valley, The ego has landed (Woody and Nick Wharton supplied the name) offers a deckout from the crux moves, with a low peg too low to do much in a fall. Longband crag opposite is a great place to escape the crowds too, but starts at a stiff grade of E4 with routes like the Professional and steep Technician (seconded Planky up that i think).
Down Langstrath itself you've got a lovely swimming area, Black Moss pot and up on the hillside to the right the raped by affection bivvy spot Woof Hole, which was a great effort by whoever made it before it became too busy, you pulled a leaver and a hard to see door swung open into a cabin with a wood burning stove and small sleeping quarters. It was quite special.
Above this lies Cam crag with the 2 best hard bold wall climbs in Borrowdale, Kamikaze and Camouflage. Hocks put up some modern horrors up here too. The crag beyond again is a hike, Black wall, with a good E7 in the middle of the face, Satans Little Helper. Hocks route, Codebreaker near it is named after something I did (said), after telling Hock you wouldnt want to fall off on the crux onto the sideways rock 2, i promptly went up and lobbed onto it.
Opposite this and the final crag in the Borrowdale list (that I can be bothered to write about, there's loads more col things here) is Seargant crag slabs. Dad discovered this crag in the 90s whilst working opposite and it gives exquisite slab climbing on perfect rock with mainly great protection. Particularly good for easy HVS and E1s. Did my first HVS on here Lakeland Cragsman and dad told me to space the gear as we didnt have much. The E2 Aphasia is lovely pitch too.
There was a few of us at the crag in the 90s and Hock and Dewhurst started throwing mud down on Wez. some women shouted "stop that pillocks" which didnt go down well with them. I didnt like the scene and made my way down. Near the base of the valley Hock came running down to say that Carter (a school friend who never normally came out) had pissed in a boot, total dickhead. We did 1.
At Shepherds cafe the day after, Carter was their again, and we got a lot of glares from some club members who were sat outside before the women from the crag arrived and rightly started laying into us. I shrank down in shame, Ad Wilde started arguing with them and Carter the fucking bastard, sat smirking. I got the blame for everything.
I loved this valley, trekking between the crags and wasting days at Shepherds cafe. I was slightly amused at my own feelings when I'd clocked that the cafe was fully closed, made into an air bnb and the parking shut to climbers. I felt a little heartbroken, which rest assured is a very rare for me. It felt like the end of an era, a closing of a chapter in your life and the lives of your friends that was mainly golden. Thankfully, the reality is that all the climbs and beautiful places I've mentioned are still there, but you'll have to take your own quiche and cream scones.