The Lakes: Waking Up To Potential

The Lakes: Waking Up To Potential

Three points of contact at all times. The leader must not fall. Crimping is more injury prone. Adages like this were thrown at me as a new climber, as no doubt they still are today. As time goes on you learn which ones contain a grain of truth and which are just plain wrong. But a few of them stick and prejudice your outlook if you're not careful. One which I seem to have subconsciously been infected with is the notion that there was no decent bouldering in the Lake District.

When I started becoming keen on bouldering, late 1990s to early 2000s, we went bouldering in the Peak, in Yorkshire, in Wales, in Northumberland, in Fontainebleau, but never the Lakes. The Lakes was where you went for easy mountain routes with ledges every 10ft, big boots, piss wet through; you didn't go bouldering there. We knew about the mighty Bowderstone, but other than that and the Langdale boulders, that was it. Not worth the drive from Sheffield, so we went elsewhere. I'm more than willing to put my hand up right now and say we were bang wrong.

Bouldering in the Lake District has undergone something of a transformation over the last 15 years—thanks to any number of local activists, not least Greg Chapman who not only tirelessly developed many new areas but also documented it all. The Lakes are no longer just a backwater sideshow, a rainy day option for trad climbers and locals only. These days, you're a fool to overlook it. Classic daytrip venues now dot the Lakes, alongside the larger venues like St Bees and Carrock Fell. Good cafes, good views, a few mates, witty banter; there you have a winning recipe.

I found myself up at the Lad Stones, a high mountain venue midsummer. It's a long sweaty walk to get there but you're rewarded with a breezy spot and the tremendous vista of the southern part of the Lake District. Rough hard solid rock and enough problems to keep you entertained for the whole day or longer, yet we are the only souls we see all day. Some shade from the sun is found and we crack on through the warmups and rattle off a few classics, getting stuck into a few short battles along the way. A few big lines are noted to come back for on a cooler day.

We all start to flag a little, skin and muscles pretty much all used up, but Dan our designated local starts furtively brushing up a line of improbable looking fingertip drags along a low lip. Fifteen minutes later a new hard looking problem is in the bag. These crags are far from being worked out. Looking at the Lakes generally it's clear that there's load of unclimbed rock out there for anyone with the time and inclination to go exploring.

I finish the roll of film in the camera as we walk down to the car, and discussion soon turns to next time. Topos to be printed, videos to watch, research to be done, plans hatched. Maybe check out Sourmilk, or maybe Dow Crag? Could we do Carrock in a day from Sheffield? Dan says Gouther is a quick hit from the motorway. Why the hell have we not already been to these places? There's no excuse now we've seen the potential.  

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