Dow Crag - Classic Rock
3rd June 2013 by Pete Hill
Recently while flicking through my UK Climbing logbook I noticed that I had ticked about half of the “Classic Rock” routes in the Lake District. For those that don’t know Classic Rock is an old hardback book listing a number of high quality rock routes in the UK graded up to VS (Very Severe), there is also a “Hard Rock” and “Extreme Rock” listing harder classics.
I have set myself the challenge of completing the remaining classic rock routes in the Lakes before the end of this year. With that in mind I found myself a partner, Mr Bob Ashcroft and we set off for Dow Crag, high above Coniston.
Dow Crag holds just one route listed in the book, this being the HS (Hard Severe) graded “Murray’s Route” a 4 pitch line wandering up the crag taking in some interesting hand traverses, slab sections and crack climbing along the way.
The crag has a reasonable walk in of about 1 hour, it’s pleasant enough strolling up well maintained bridleways that looked perfect for mountain biking. Then you turn off on to a steeper footpath which leads to a tarn at the base of the crag, the only barrier remaining is a small scramble up a scree slope to the bottom of the crag.
In short the route is fantastic, Bob and I swung leads, I took the first pitch then ran the last two pitches together after Bob lead the second. The first pitch features the technical crux of the route, a short traverse across a slab on good hand holds, the difficulty being in getting your body positioned correctly to grab the next hold!
I felt the most fun climbing was in the last two pitches of the route, the second pitch leads to a cramped, sheltered stance. From this you make moves up a small pinnacle then make an exposed swing out on to a ledge and hand traverse – a brilliant sequence that definitely put it into the Three star category for me. Following the hand traverse you find yourself stood at the base of a wide crack that looked a perfect Camalot 5 size! We carry such protection so what followed was a couple of bold moves up the crack on excellent holds to a good ledge and protection, an exhilarating feeling comes as you grab the jug at the top and reach safety.
Upon reaching the top of the climb we made our way down the easy ledge system to our rucksacks. Not content with one classic route we then gathered our gear and moved together up another classic “Giants Crawl” a D (Difficult) graded slab climb of 7 fantastic pitches. The route wanders up easy angled slabs with nice exposure on your right hand side with good holds and gear to keep confidence levels high. After the slabs comes a short, easy traverse to another pinnacle like feature that must be surmounted to reach a gully line to the top of the crag. Again this route is brilliant and the best Diff route I’ve ever done, definitely worth the walk in.
My next Classic Rock challenges lie at Scafell crag, if the weather hold out I should be able to get up there this week, or at least in the near future, if they are anywhere near as good as the routes I’ve done already then I’m in for a treat. If you haven’t already started working your way through Classic Rock then look up the tick list on UKC and get started as soon as you can, it wont disappoint.