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.

Bouldering in Longsleddale