on Crag Lough and Peel Crag
by Karin Magog
Climbing in Northumberland Ė ball-bearing sandstone, bold and intimidating
routes, under graded? Fancy a change? Well how about clean-cut Whinsill,
comfortable cracks and positive edges, well protected, reasonably graded and
with an abundance of low to mid grade routes? If that sounds tempting then Crag
Lough and Peel could be the crags for you. Situated adjacent to Hadrianís Wall
at Once Brewed, in West Northumberland, they offer the highest concentration of
quality easier routes in the County, with several three star D Ė VS climbs.
Their accessibility and northerly aspect make them great summer evening venues,
although their many fine west-facing walls means they enjoy the benefit of the
sun from lunchtime onwards.
Although further from the car park, Crag Lough offers many superb routes in
the lower grades. Add to that an idyllic setting above the Lough and
several west-facing walls and itís well worth the 20 mins approach time. With
over a hundred routes, many of which are up to 20m high, it is one of
Northumberlandís largest crags. It was first discovered in 1907 by Marcus
Beresford, who recorded a number of routes in the 1912 CC Journal, which
included the excellent Main Wall. In the 1940ís Basil Butcher, Keith Gregory and
other members of what was to become the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club,
climbed many of the classics such as Pinnacle Face, Gradís Groove and Hadrianís
Buttress. The 1950ís saw the formation of the Crag Lough Club and several of the
harder routes were climbed including Crescent Crack and Y Climb. There was
little further development until the 1970ís when Bob Hutchinson and John Earl
freed Whinstone Churchill and then later that decade when the first free ascent
of Impossible Wall fell to Jeff Lamb during a raiding trip from Cumberland.
PINNACLE FACE VS 4C
A well-positioned and popular climb, offering positive climbing on jams and good
breaks, with plenty of good protection. The usual approach is to climb the
corner behind the pinnacle to the sentry box, before pulling up and right onto
the face. However, for the more adventurous amongst you, it is also possible to
climb the pinnacle itself and step across or even to back and foot between the
pinnacle and the face.
A very attractive climb which gets the sun from early afternoon. The route
follows the eye-catching crack, which offers good gear and plenty of jams.
Alternatively, just use the crack as a layback between the many positive breaks.
The choice is yours!
One of the crags many great easier climbs, offering a good variety of climbing
techniques as it works itís way to the top of the buttress. The route starts by
climbing the wall to the right of a deep chimney before stepping back left to a
ledge below a deep cleft. This is followed to a strenuous pull onto a ledge, and
then the gap between the wall and the pinnacle is climbed before finally moving
out onto the wall and heading rightwards up this to finish.
CRYSTAL HVS 5A
An exposed and strenuous route. A tricky overhanging corner leads to the meat of
the climb, a steep flake crack. Power up this to a good break before deciding
whether to go for the delicate traverse right to finish up Y-climb or the more
direct finish on small rounded holds! Well protected if you can hang around and
a good range of medium to large cams and hexes could prove useful!
MAIN WALL S
A great route offering everything from wall climbing to chimneying, a classic of
the crag. It starts with wall climbing before a difficult move using twin cracks
leads to a good ledge on the arÍte. From here a groove is followed to a short
chimney, which quickly leads to the finishing wall.
WHINSTONE CHURCHILL E2 5B
The cragís most popular extreme climb, but no pushover. Fairly strenuous but
with good protection, it starts up the corner on the right of the buttress.
After moving right after the overhang it then heads back left where a long reach
enables the upper groove to be gained. This is followed more easily to the top.
The direct start at E3 5c is also well worth doing and is good value for the
Tarzanís Mate VD
Ravenís Tower MVS 4b
Crescent Cracks VS 5a
Y-Climb HVS 5a
Gradís Groove MVS 4b
Impossible Wall E4 6b
Great Chimney S
Virtually every route on Dexter Buttress (D-E3 5c)
At less than 10 mins from the car park, Peel is a good choice for a quick
eveningís climbing. Although discovered at the same time as Crag Lough it was
considered too broken to offer quality climbs and was much neglected until the
formation of the Crag Lough Club in 1952. Albert Rosher was a key figure in the
development of the crag, along with such climbers as Frank Carroll, Don Laws,
Geoff Oliver, Nev Hannaby, Eric Rayson, Terry Sullivan and John Cheesmond. It
was these climbers who during the 1950ís and 60ís climbed many of the classics
such as Grooves, Certificate X, Overhanging Crack and Rock Island Line. In the
1970ís Bill Wayman freed Ritual, the cragís hardest route.
The classic of the crag, which gets the sun from mid-afternoon. A tricky start
leads to a fine corner, which offers quality climbing with holds and gear just
where you need them. A brief respite on a good ledge can be enjoyed before
moving up to the overhang and the exposed traverse left. A tricky pull onto the
ledge then a couple more moves lead to the top. A high quality climb with good
OVERHANGING CRACK MVS 4C
Interesting face climbing on small holds leads to a steep corner crack. This
succumbs by jamming and bridging and fortunately eases towards the top.
ROCK ISLAND LINE E1 5B
The best of the E1ís, well protected but strenuous. The cracked lower wall is
climbed mainly on positive edges where good technique and footwork pays
dividends. Once the overhang is reached the character changes and a quick,
powerful pull soon leads to the easier upper wall.
TIGERíS OVERHANG VS 4C
Very similar to the previous route but with thankfully bigger holds. The lower
wall does enough to hold your interest and leads to a comfortable position below
the roof. From here arrange plenty of gear before committing to the pull over
onto the headwall - donít forget to bridge. Now cruise to the top in style.
OTHER WORTHWHILE ROUTES
Line E1 5b
Certificate X E1 5b
The popular Twice Brewed Inn offers a warm welcome to walkers and climbers
alike. Serving good food and many fine types of ale, this ancient coach house
also provides accommodation.
There is an excellent Youth Hostel at Once Brewed. Camping, as well as B&B,
is available a short walk westwards at Whinshields Farm.
Donít forget to marvel at the wall itself, built many years ago by the Romans.
There are also several Roman Forts in the area which are well worth a visit,
with Housesteads being the most extensive.