Northumbrian Climbing Guide

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Crag Lough (High Shield Crag) What the symbols
& colours mean
Grid Ref: NY765679   Aspect: N   Routes: 103   Max Length: 90   Average Length: 20Warning Nesting Restrictions 
Altitude: 260 mtrs   Walk in: 20 mins   Route quality: *** 
Click here for StreetMap Right of access under CRoWThis crag is an SSSI
The crag lies about a kilometre north of the B6318 Newcastle/Carlisle road (the Military Road). Cars can be parked at the Steel Rigg car park which is reached by turning due north from the Military Road at the Once Brewed Youth Hostel. From the car park a clear pathway (right of way) leads beneath Peel Crag and Crag Lough is reached in about twenty minutes. The land is owned by the National Trust and camping is forbidden but there is a small farm camp site at Winshields Farm about 200 metres west of the Twice Brewed Inn. An alternative access route lies along the farm track leading to Hot Bank Farm until the Roman Wall is reached and followed west to the top of the crag.
The crag, which is dolerite and forms part of the Whin Sill, is impressively situated above the Lough and is the largest and most extensive crag in the county. The rock is formed into large columns and many of the better routes follow definite natural lines. Some of the best routes are in the lower/middle grades and there are one or two classics which bear comparison with the best outcrop routes anywhere in the country. The northerly aspect and the smooth nature of the rock makes climbing here in the winter months a character building experience; even when completely clean the rock is virtually frictionless when wet and this is certainly no all weather crag. WARNING: There has been some substantial rockfall on Hadrians Buttress. Treat this area with extreme caution.
Whinstone Quartz Dolerite, Permo-Carboniferous
Access issues:
There are usually nesting Peregrines at Crag Lough. During the season, please do not walk east of the lake end and avoid all routes above the lake until after 21 June
There are many quality routes, particularly in the lower grades, with good protection, solid rock and fine natural lines. This is an excellent place for the low to mid grade climber.
Bad landings, poor friction and a lack of variety make this a pointless place to go for bouldering.
Other interesting stuff:
Nothing really, except for a wall thingy on the top. Oh, and a sycamore tree up which Robin Hood famously sat, which you pass on the walk in.
Crag Lough was probably first discovered in 1907 by Marcus Beresford Heywood who recorded a number of routes in the Climbers Club Journal published in 1912. The article referred to five routes which are shown in a rather featureless diagram but from the descriptions it seems possible to identify what are now Hadrian's Chimney, Great Chimney and Main Wall. In the 1920's there were further visits by the next generation of climbers and though no doubt much was climbed nothing was recorded at that time. In the 1940s activity increased with a keen band of climbers including Basil Butcher, Keith Gregory and other members of what was to become the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club climbing many routes; by that time Pinnacle Face, Main Wall, Hadrian\'s Wall, Grad's Groove and the High Level Girdle Traverse were receiving regular ascents. Impossible Buttress and Route 1 was led by Tony Moulam giving possibly the hardest move on the crag at that time. In the 1950s the Crag Lough Club was formed and many harder routes were ascended including Crescent Crack, Y Climb, Why Not and Impossible Buttress Route 3.Further exploration continued into the 1960's but towards the end of that decade interest in the crag began to wane as increasing mobility among climbers brought the more distant sandstone outcrops into reach. Less frequent ascents have resulted in many obscure and some worthwhile climbs returning to a heavily vegetated state. The last routes of significance were added in the 1970's. Bob Hutchinson and John Earl made a rare diversion from the sandstone to free climb Smooth Bastion and rename it Whinstone Churchill, Jeff Lamb freed the previously aided Impossible Wall to produce the hardest route on the crag and Bob and Tommy Smith added the bold Stephenson's Rocket. In recent years there have been few, if any, worthwhile additions.