Climbing in Northumberland by Steve Crowe
"There is no nobler country than that of Northumberland, as it rolls processionally northward to the Border in great waves of coloured and historic moorland, cresting upon the skyline into sudden and surprising crags, which crown for us the magnificent walking and admirable rock climbs. May the growing tide of northern climbers flow on as great-heartedly." Geoffrey Winthrop Young 1950
Andrew Earl leading Endless Flight Direct (E8 7a) at Great Wanney © Steve Crowe
Geology and Archaeology
Lordenshaw Hill has the largest concentration of rock carvings in Northumberland, these date back more than 5,000 years. If you keep your eyes open there are examples on crags across the county. To discover more visit the Northumberland National Park website. Derek Cutts wrote an interesting and entertaining article for the Northumberland Bouldering Guide in which he explores the archaeology of many of our local crags. "The crags before the climbers" has been reproduced on northumberlandclimbing.co.uk with intriguing information about the activities of the Ancient Britons at Bowden Doors, Kyloe Crag, Goat's Crag, Corby's Crag and Jack Rock.
Cup and Ring marks at Lordenshaw Hill.
The rocks of The Bizzle and Henhole are created by the eroded Andesite lava remains of ancient Cheviot volcanoes that erupted across the area about 380 million years ago.
Around 340 milion years ago a vast river deposited sand in a wide delta eventually creating the magnificent Fell Sandstone that can be see is superb escarpments sweeping from Bowden Doors and the Kyloe Crags in the north to the Simonside Hills further south.
Jack Rock and The Wanneys along with Rothley and Shaftoe are from a coarser sedimentary sandstone.
Prehistoric spirals can be found at Jack Rock. There are some near Jack of All Trades & Ancient Briton
The Great Whin Sill resulted from the intrusion of magma squeezed between the layers of sedimentary rocks. The major outcrop is composed of quartz dolerite which sweeps in an arc from the Farne Islands in the north to Crag Lough and Peel Crag in the south west where it's defensive capabilities were utilized by Hadrian when he built his wall.
Crag Lough from Hadrian’s Wall © Steve Crowe climbonline.co.uk
The earliest references to rock climbing in Northumberland can be found in the Climbers Club journal over 100 years ago when G. W. Young discusses Simonside and Wanney in 1902. The Scottish Mountaineering Club journal for 1907 records an ascent of Bizzle Chimney. A lot of early development focused on the Simonside Hills, The Wanney Group, Crag Lough and Peel Crag but all record of those earliest development have been lost. The Northumberland Mountaineering Club was formed in 1945 and by the end of 1950 they produced the first climbing guide to Northumberland, with three sections; Crag Lough, Simonside and the Wanney Group.
Working Class by Pete Kirton
Malcolm Smith added his sit start to Working Class in 2003 © Steve Crowe
Steve Crowe on Off the Rocks E7 6c Back Bowden Doors © Steve Crowe Collection 2003
Andy Earl on County Ethics E7 7a Back Bowden Doors © Steve Crowe 2003
Climbing Centres and Bouldering Walls
Alien Bloc opened 24th June 2017 and is a modern indoor bouldering
centre with lower walls where ropes are not used.
Climbing in Northumberland is covered by the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club. They have produced two definitive climbing guides to the county. More information on the Northumberland crags can be found in the online guide on the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club website
THE COUNTY CODE (Extract from the NMC guide books)
Up to the time of the last guide both first
ascents and repeat ascents were in the main done in what would be
described as very good style, virtually no new routes having been top
roped or extensively practiced prior to leading, with abseiling, cleaning
and minimal inspecting the norm.
Routes and Bouldering