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Howns Gill



OS Landranger Sheet: 88

Map Reference: NZ097489

Altitude:  200m

Aspect: West facing

Approach: 5 minutes from parking place



Malcolm Lowerson was responsible for detailing the routes at Howns Gill although some of the routes may have been climbed before Malcolm started his records during the 1980’s. Malcolm has led all the routes but only after careful preparation and this approach is not recommended due to the unstable nature of the shale band that runs across the upper section of the crag.

Situation and Character

Howns Gill lies between Consett and Castleside in County Durham, some 15 miles southwest of Newcastle. This west-facing old sandstone quarry is in a sheltered wooded valley. The rock is of variable quality particularly towards the top of the quarry, which has a height of 25m in places. Due to the nature of the rock, top roping techniques are recommended here and descriptions are written assuming the technique is used. The rock is usually vertical or overhanging with distinct lines to climb in places, however it is characterised throughout by an abundance of flat holds in the horizontal strata. Drawbacks aside, the ‘gill’ is a useful place to train and the height of the quarry gives the climbs a “big” feel. The sheltered aspect is another plus, with quick drying rock, and a visit early in the season can be worthwhile as tree cover casts some gloom over the main face in the summer. The quarry has been extensively developed in the past, however only the better lines are described here There are several long, low level ‘pumpy” traverses of varying grades of desperation.


Access and Approaches

From Consett, take the A692 towards Castleside. Pass a roundabout, then take the next turn left (1/2 mile). Follow the narrow road to a picnic area on the left just before passing through a tunnel in the disused railway/walkway. Walk up onto the disused railway track (Known as the “Waskerley Way”), and follow this for about 100m (west) to the start of the viaduct. Turn off left onto a path through the woods, which runs gently down to the top of the quarry. Descend the (true) right bank of the quarry.


The owner is concerned about liability and placed NO ENTRY signs in Nov 2003 to discourage climbing. 


The Climbs

The climbs are described from left to right. Malcolm Lowerson's climbs were originally recorded in North of England Rock Climbs by Stuart Wilson. My guide (and website) only included a selection of those routes. I have amended this page to reflect all the routes recorded by Malcolm despite the fact that many of them were only a metre apart and many others have long since become overgrown. These are shown in italics and he descriptions and grades are for historical reference only.


Initial Corner

Two walls which converge to form a 9m corner.


1. Pup   4m   VD

Start the left side of the left wall below the first, broken crack. Climb the crack passing an overhanging block at 3m.


2. Fang   6m   VS 4c

Start a few metres right below a wall with an undercut base. Climb the wall using two rectangular slots and finish up the block with the serrated edge.


3. Doggy Bag   9m   E3 5c

Start as for Fang. Climb up to the two rectangular slots below the small overhang and step right to reach a pocket in a horizontal crack Climb up with difficulty to reach the two vertical slots on the wall. Climb to the top avoiding the corner.


Choker   8m   MVS 4c

Start at the foot of the corner. Climb the corner for a couple of metres then move onto the left wall. Make an ascending hand traverse left and finish up the block with the serrated edge.


4. Cold Nose Corner   9m   HVS 5a

Climb the corner.


5. Dog End   9m   E3 5c  *

Start just over 1 m right of the corner and beneath a weakness in the small overlap. Climb the steep wall direct making an awkward move at 5m.The centre of the smooth wall above is climbed on small holds.


6. Distemper Wall   9m   HVS 5a

Start as for Dog End. Climb the steep wall, but trend right to reach thin crack lines, which are followed to below the right-hand side of the small oak tree at the top.


7. Foxy   9m   E1 5b

Start just over 1 m left of the aręte and below a recess in the bottom half of the wall. Climb the wall to the small recess below the overlap. Gain the twin crack lines above and climb, trending to the left to finish at the same place as Distemper Wall. An easier start is to climb the aręte until it is possible to traverse left to each the twin cracks above the overlap. This reduces the overall standard to 4b.


Rising Wall Section

This wall extends rightwards from the aręte and forms a 15m corner at its junction with the next section.


8. Bloodhound   HS 4b *

Climb the aręte, starting on its right side.


Aniseed Trail   15m   HS 4b

Starts one pace right of the aręte. Climb the wall to gain a horizontal ledge at 4m. The widening ledge is traversed right into the corner up which the climb finishes.


Dogs Dinner   HVS 5b

Start 2m right of the aręte! Climb over the overlap to the ledge. Small holds on the wall above lead to a horizontal crack. Continue up and left to the top.


Paws   14m   HS 4b

Start 3m right of the aręte!! Climb the wall to gain the horizontal ledge by an awkward mantelshelf. Traverse into the corner and finish up this.



9. Watch Dog   E1 5b   *

Start 4m right of the aręte. Climb the unpleasant wall to the ledge via a letterbox pocket. From the diagonal crack on the wall above, move left and up to reach the horizontal crack. Strenuous climbing leads straight up over the block overhang at the top.


Lapdog   15m   VD

Climb the corner passing an Oak at half height. (The Oak was a sapling on the first ascent it may be a mature tree or dead now?).


Walkies   20m   HVS 5b

A left to right girdle that starts up The Fang to the two pockets then traverses right across the Initial Corner and Rising Wall Sections at he same height.


Shale Wall Section

The next section of wall whose base lies within the confines of a long pit like depression extends rightwards from the corner. Trees above are useful for top roping. This wall has many features, most of which are indistinct. However with the descriptions and a quick inspection from the top of the bank forming the outer side of the pit, it is possible to pick out the complexities of the routes. All of the following climbs terminate at 10-12m in height according to the description. A 50m rope is desirable for top-roping purposes. Some routes may have a bolt in situ below the shale band.


10. The Snarl  E1 5b  *

Start 2m right of the corner at some red paint splashes. Climb the wall, which is undercut at the base keeping just right of the paint splashes to reach a niche below a small overhang. Move up and right into a shallow, square recess and out of it to the right via shot marks moving left. Finish by stepping right onto a good ledge.


11. The Growl   E1 5b

Start a little over 4m right of the corner below an overhanging nose lust out of reach. Pull up with difficulty on the right then move back left above the nose. The thin crack is climbed before pulling right to a small ledge in a V-groove at 8m. From here step left and climb into a shallow recess and continue straight up to a roof-capped sentry box at 15m.


Moving right a contorted ash tree is a feature, growing from the steep bank in front of the crag. On the crag face opposite this at 3m is a diagonally aligned fin of rock below the overlap.


12. The Eyrie   E2 5c

Start below a V-groove, which splits the overlap almost 3m above, the ground about 2m left of the diagonal fin of rock. Climb this groove and the crack above to a small ledge at 9m. Traverse right for a short distance until it is possible to climb the bulging wall until a step right can be made onto a sloping ledge at 15m.


13. The Whimper   E1 5b

Start just over 1m right of the V-groove, below a prominent diagonally ­aligned block beneath the overhang. Climb directly up the wall via this, passing a small bulge. Continue up the slightly overhanging wall, passing to the right of an unusual rounded boulder puddingstone to reach a ledge at 15m.


14. Mad Dog   E1 5b  *

Start in front to the contorted Ash and below the diagonally aligned block beneath the overhang. Climb over the overhang and traverse right to gain the bottom of a vertical crack. Climb the crack to a good ledge.


The slim wall between the crack of Mad Dogs and the left-hand of the twin cracks taken by The Bark and The Bite respectively is ascended by Plague Dogs.


15. Plague Dogs   E4 6b

Start below the wall to the right of the vertical crack of Mad Dog Surmount the overhang at 3m with difficulty onto a small ledge and climb the bulging wall to reach the large ledge at 12m.


16. The Bark   E3 6a

Start right of Plague Dogs at a chest-high overlap. Above is a small ledge with cracks leading up from it. Climb onto the ledge at its right-hand end. Step left and climb the slightly overhanging left-hand crack to a ledge.


17. The Bite   E2 5c

Start as for The Bark. From the ledge, climb the right-hand crack to the large ledge above triangular overhang. Follow The Bark to the recess and bolt lowering point.


18. The Howl   E2 5c

Start 3m right of The Bark below a block, which protrudes from beneath an overhang 14m up the face.


Climb up past very thin, twisting cracks where the overlap diminishes and step right and up to a small recess. Climb the crackling to the protruding block and use this to surmount the overhang. Gain the V recess above.


19. Hound Trail   HVS 5a

Start 2m right of The Howl at a 1m high vertical crack. Climb up for 2m and move left to a small pocket recess. Climb the vertical crack of The Howl for 2m until a ledge above is gained. Continue traversing left to a large ledge and over into the recess.


20. The Whine   E2 5c **

Start 2m right of Hound Trial below a small, tapering, hanging come-just above head height. Climb the wall left of this corner to a narrow ledge and follow the crack lines from its right-hand end direct to where the wall overhangs. Step left and climb the weakness in the overhang, trending up left via a ragged crack line and shallow groove.


21. The Bitch   E1 5b *

Start as for The Whine below the hanging corner. Climb up to the corner and follow two parallel cracks leading to a bulging, cracked block. Gain the narrow ledge above direct or by moving first left them traversing right. Climb the wall above into large V-recess. Exit the recess through the roof on the right to a ledge.


21a. The Bitch Direct   (E1 5c)
Start as for The Bitch, below the hanging corner. Climb up to the corner and follow two parallel cracks leading to a bulging, cracked block. Gain the narrow ledge above direct, climbing into and over the bulge. Climb the wall above into large V-recess. Exit the recess directly over, finally pulling left to the bolted lower-off point.

Martin Hurton (Not Led) 25/Oct/2012 


22. The Wolf   E1 5b

Start 2m left of the first aręte on the right below a recessed groove whose walls diverge. Climb the groove to a small ledge and continue up the recessed groove using the right-hand of the parallel cracks to some overhanging blocks. Climb the blocks to a ledge on the right.


23. Hardpad   HVS 5a

Start in the corner to the right of the first aręte. Climb the corner for 11m until it is possible to move left onto a small ledge on the aręte.


24. Vixen   E2 5c  **

Start 2m right of Hardpad and just left of the second aręte at a vertical crack. Climb the crack and where it ends continue direct to another short, vertical crack which in turn leads to a bulging wall. Move up and rightwards.


On the Leash   73m   E2 5c

The high level girdle was originally climbed in four pitches and the first ascent finished at 10pm... in October!


Dachshund 35m   5c

A low level girdle from Snarl to Vixen, many variations are possible.

Karin Magog exploring the low level traverse.  



Sandwich Corner Section

Four routes were recorded here. Sandwich Cake Wall E2 5c, Teacake Corner HS 4b, Teabreak Wall HS 4b, High Tea HVS 5b and Cake Walk VD. They have never been popular.


Graffiti Buttress



Undercoat   17m HS 4b

Start on the right hand side of the fourth cave entrance to the right of the Sandwich Corner Section. Climb up the recessed, left edge of the wall moving right past a small roof and up onto a ledge. Traverse right along the ledge and gain and climb a large corner.


Topcoat   17m   MVS 4c

Start 2m right of Undercoat below an aręte to a sloping ledge and from here gain the large ledge and finish up the corner on the right as for Undercoat.


To the right is the multicoloured Graffiti Wall itself...


25. Watercolour Corner   HS 4b

Start 2m right of the aręte in a recessed corner. Climb the corner to the top.


26. Daubers’ Delight   VS 4c

Start on the right side of the knife-edged aręte, 2m right of the recessed Watercolour Corner. Climb up the wall to the right of the large nose on the aręte at 6m and pull onto the top of it. Continue up the aręte until a traverse can be made onto the large ledge of Watercolour Corner.


27. Nom De Plume   VS 4c  *

Start 1m right of the knife-edged aręte by an Oak tree. Climb up the cracks passing a recess to reach a roof at 11m. Step right and pull onto the ledge above.


28. Initial Wall   HVS 5a

Start 4m right of Nom De Plume below a thin, vertical crack in the centre of the buttress. Climb up the crack to a ledge at 4m. Continue to a smaller ledge and on up past a small recess to a long ledge at the start of the shale bands.


29. Doodler   HVS 5a

Start below an overlap at head height. Climb the thin cracks above the overlap to the right end of a ledge at 4m. Climb the wall above up a staircase of small ledges to a small roof. Move up right into a V­ groove, which leads to the ledge below the shale bands.


30. Heavy Make-up   E2 5c *

Start 3m right of Doodler below a vertical crack line that ends at 6m. Climb the vertical crack line through the bulging wall. Pull up on a good jug to reach holds on the wall above and climb the shallow corner up to the shale bands.


31. Brushline   E1 5b **

Start as for Heavy Make-up below the vertical crack. Climb the crack until a hand traverse can be made rightwards to its edge below a bulge with a slim, shot-mark. Climb the bulge and crack above to a ledge at 12m.


32. Heavy Breathing   E3 6a

Start at the foot of a rib 2m right of Brushline. Climb up to the inside edge of the first cave entrance right of Graffiti Buttress and move left on to the outer edge of the roof. Move back right to beneath the corner in the roof and pull into it with difficulty continuing straight up to the shale bands.

Alternative Start: Climb the outer edge of the cave entrance to the roof (5c).


The First Pillar

The next two climbs are on the first pillar to the right of the cave.


33. Obscene Phone Call   E3 6a

Climb the left, inside face of the First Pillar to the roof (Bolt Runner). Pull round right onto the face and climb straight up to the shale bands.


34. Corinthian   E1 5b **

Climb the crack on the front of the First Pillar to the recess at the top. Climb up and left out of the recess to a small, narrow ledge below another shallow recess. Move up right via a break in the overhanging wall and reach a ledge.


Karin Magog climbing Corinthian  


The Second Pillar

The next route is located on the Second Pillar, which is right of the second cave entrance.


Hercules   18m   VS 5a

Climb the left hand face of the second pillar pulling on to the ledge at the top. Climb the overhanging wall above to reach a large ledge where the shale bands start. Lower off or continue with great care into the groove which leads to the top.


35. Lipstick Traces   E2 5c *

Climb the front face of the Second Pillar moving to the left edge to pull onto a ledge at 7m. Move up left to traverse above the second cave to reach holds on the wall right of Corinthian.


Samson   VS 4c

Start at a vertical crack on the right outside edge of the pillar. Climb the crack to a ledge at 3m Continue straight up to a recess and then trend left to a large ledge below the shale bands. Lower off or continue with great care into the groove which leads to the top.


Delilah   VS 5a

Start 1m right of Samson, below a vertical split in the pillar. Climb the split to a crack which leads to a roofed V groove. Exit right onto a ledge in a corner. Climb the corner through the shale bands to the top.



The Third Pillar

A clutch of steep and powerful routes all lead up to the in situ chain lower off.


36. Rising Dawn   E4 6b

Start at the aręte to the left of the niche on the left wall of the pillar Climb the aręte on its right-hand side and move up diagonally right to gain a pit-prop. Move out left to cracks in the bulge and by means of a vertical shot-mark to the left of the cracks, gain a good hold. Move back right and up to lowering chains. Sustained.


37. Edge of Darkness  E4 6b

Start at the aręte as for Rising Dawn. Climb rightwards into the niche and up onto a sloping ledge. Climb the overhanging wall past a slot and move right onto the right-hand wall to the pillar above the rough cave entrance making some strenuous moves on poor holds to react easier ledges.


38. Rib & Roof   E3 6a *

Start on the right-hand face of the Third Pillar. Climb up and left to the roof then using a horizontal finger crack, swing out right to reach good jugs below the hanging corner. Climb the corner with difficulty to reach good ledges.

Alternative Start: Climb the outer edge of the pillar direct to the roof.


Karin Magog climbing Rib and Roof  



Cave Campers   12m   E3 6a



39. Wildman    E1 5b **

Start as for Rib & Roof. Climb up for 3m and traverse to the let outside the edge of the pillar below the hanging corner. Follow a series of handholds up to the left on the overhanging wall to a small inset block, above and right of bolt runner. Pull up past the block and move up right to a ledge.



The Fourth Pillar

The fourth and last pillar is less popular.


Still Life    12m   HVS 5b

Start at the bottom left edge of the wall. Climb the left edge of the wall moving into the centre below the overhang. Make a long reach for holds above and pull onto a large ledge. Move left and climb the broken buttress above to finish.


Fresco   12m   VS 5a

Start as for Still Life. Make an ascending traverse up to the right to a small ledge on the right-hand edge of the wall. Climb the edge below the overhang, then swing round onto the right wall (without putting a foot on the ground). Reach for a small crackline and pull
onto the large ledge above. Climb the broken buttress to finish.

Neo-Classic   7m   S 4a

Start 2m right of Fresco on the front face. Climb onto the large ledge then climb the right-hand side of the aręte to the top.


Rainbows End   48m   E2 5c

A left to right girdle of Graffiti Buttress starting as for Initial Wall below the thin vertical crack in the centre of the buttress.

1.  18m 5c.
Climb the crack past the large ledge to the small ledge at 6m. Traverse right below the V-groove of Doodler, crossing Heavy Make-up below the bulging wall and meet Brushline at the arete. This is followed to a belay below the Shale bands.
2. 15m 5c
Climb down into the hanging corner of Heavy Breathing and traverse right above the first cave to reach Corinthian below the shallow break in the overhanging wall. Continue rightwards, crossing above the second cave to reach the ledge on the Second Pillar.
Traverse rightwards around the pillar and move up 2m to belay.
3. 15m 5c
Climb down and traverse over the third cave. Move right up to good ledges which are followed to the aręte.


Beyond here Quarry Basin, Pond Wall and Rake Wall have all enjoyed recorded climbs.


Quarry Basin
The climbs are on the-crag above the pond on the South side of the wooded basin below Graffiti Buttress. This section, whilst composed of good compact rock is now very dirty and overgrown from lack of use. The routes are described from right to left.

Pond Wall
The following routes are on the wall immediately above the pond and which is bounded on its right by a corner of easy-angled rock.

Tadpole   9m   HS 4b
Start in the corner by the pond. Climb up the easy-angled, right wall to a ledge. Climb the wall above moving left at a protruding block-like feature and follow the vertical broken edge to the top.

Newt   12m   S 4a
Start as for Tadpole. Climb the corner for 3m then move onto the left wall below the right-hand side of an overhanging, triangular block. Pull up to the right of the block and continue up the recessed wall via ledges to the top.

Toad   13m   HVS 5b
Start 2m left of the corner of Newt. Climb the wall to reach a short, thin vertical crack leading to the left side of the triangular block. Pull up to the left of the block onto a ledge. Traverse 2m left and climb the steep wall to a ledge. Trend left to finish at a small tree.

Dragonfly  13m   HVS 5b
Start 3m left of the corner. Climb the slightly overhanging wall to below a small bulge. Pull up past this on the right, to below an overlap. Move up left to gain a ledge and continue to another ledge. Climb the steep wall above to yet another ledge and finish to
the left of a small tree.

Mosquito   13m  MVS 4c
Start 4m left of the corner and below the left end of the overlap. Climb up to and above the overlap to reach a ledge. Finish as for Dragonfly.

Horsefly   13m   S 4a
Start 6m left of the corner at a small corner below the right-hand end of the rake. Climb the corner to gain the rake. Move into a larger corner and follow this to a ledge on the right. Climb the wall above to a small overhang and pull over this to finish.

Rake Wall
This is the wall to the left of Pond Wall. Rake Wall is split by the grassy rake sloping up from right to left.


Whirligig Wall   13m   VS 5a
Start 2m left of the small corner of Horsefly below the right end of the rake. Climb the short wall to the rake. Move left and go up the wall to reach the thin vertical crack in the lip of a small overlap above. Pull up the crack and trend right into the middle ofthe wall.
Move up into a small corner and climb the little overhang to finish.

Crowfoot Crack  13m   S 4a
Start 5m left of Horsefly. Climb the short wall onto the rake and move up and climb. the thin crackline running up the edge of the wall above. Finish up ledges.

Kingcup   8m  VD
Start on the rake, 2m left of the thin crackline of Crowfoot Crack.


Climb the wall trending right to join Crowfoot Crack at the first of a series of ledges leading to the top.

Duckweed Wall  6m   MVS 4c
Start as for Kingcup. Ascend the wall direct, surmounting an overlap before moving up to finish to the right of a tree.

Liverwort Wall   4m   HS 4b
Start 2m left of Kingcup. Climb the wall via an overlap to finish to the left of a tree.



Full details in the

North East England Guide


Howns Gill Photodiagrams

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