Northumbrian Climbing Guide

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Bowden Doors What the symbols
& colours mean
Grid Ref: NU070325   Aspect: W   Routes: 151   Problems: 4   Max Length: 55   Average Length: 9 
Altitude: 170 mtrs   Walk in: 2 mins   Route quality: ***   Bouldering quality: *** 
Click here for StreetMap  This crag is an SSSI
The crag lies just north of the B6349 Belford Wooler road. Turn left from the A1 at the B1342 Belford Wooler sign. Follow this into Belford then turn left at the B6349 Wooler road. Continue for 5 kilometres keeping left when the road forks at 4 kilometres. Continue for 200 metres until just over the brow of the hill. The south end of the crag is visible about 100 metres north of the road.
This splendid open crag dries extremely quickly which, coupled with its proximity to the road and the low rainfall makes it a most valuable climbing ground. The majority of climbs are steep and often technically difficult. The rock is Fell Sandstone and varies in hardness across the crag. In many parts it is easily damaged and top roping and abseiling should not be practised. Also the leader should at all times make sure when belaying that the rope to the second is not rubbing across the top of the crag resulting in irreparable grooves being created. We only have the rock once so please look after it.
Fell Sandstone Carboniferous, Dinantian
Excellent, but soft in parts, more so as you head towards the NE end, away from the road.
Access issues:
Do not obstruct the gate when parking. Park off the tarmac and on the opposite side of the road from the crag only. Only that section of crag north of the wall is on CRoW land, climbing on the section up to the wall, and access from the south, is still at the discretion of the farmer.
135 routes, almost all good. Protection is a bit thin on the harder routes.
Excellent bouldering, quick drying and problems of all grades. Having said this, many problems are suffering from serious wear and it's worth trying Ravens Crag occasionally to relieve the load on this fine crag
Other interesting stuff:
Bowden Doors is an SSSI, on the basis of the sedimentary features with which the crag abounds. The most obvious of these is the cross section of a river channel which can be clearly seen on Wave Wall, around where Rising Damp crosses the wall.
Very little is known about the early years of Bowden Doors although a few notes were made in the Oxford and Cambridge Journals in 1935, and Peter Biven did some seven routes in 1955. Unfortunately most of the routes ascended from then to the late sixties went undocumented and any attempt to catalogue them would prove a difficult venture. In 1967 Eric Rayson climbed Canada Crack and Alan Austin with Dave Roberts picked off Woolman's Wall and Pitcher Wall. The following year saw the first known on sight lead of Lorraine by Malcolm Rowe. Austin with Ken Wood climbed Scoops 1 and 2. In 1969 Malcolm Rowe collected a couple of gems with Main Wall and First Leaning Groove. 1971 saw the first aided ascent of the Overhanging Crack involving a rest on a large chockstone near the top. It was later to be freed and the chockstone removed by John Earl and Bob Hutchinson. In the autumn of 1972 Hutchinson, who had only been climbing some twelve months, created the crag's first extreme with his excellent route The Trial. Not only was this a test piece on Bowden but a significant step forward in the county. He soon joined forces with John Earl and together they prised open Bowden Doors freeing the aforementioned Overhanging Crack and picking up Stretcher Wall. The period from 1976 to 1978 saw the only significant first ascent by a raider. Jeff Lamb slipped across the border to pick the ripe plum: The Manta, while Hutchinson and Earl collected The Sting. Another local activist Steve Blake produced some fine routes, in particular Transformer and Don't Let Go. He also turned out what seemed at the time insignificant problems but in later years became stepping stones for the up and coming Hard Man. Climbs like The Harvest Bug, Big Splash and Y Front have become routes in their own right. By far his best achievement however was the upside down Poseidon Adventure which was the first route to break through the long wave formation at the left end of the crag. This was soon challenged by Hutchinson and Earl who produced an even harder and bolder route up the white flakes on the left to give The Wave. In 1978 the same team went on to collect a string of brilliant routes such as The Gauleiter, The Goose Step and The Boomer. Two new faces, Bob and Tommy Smith, started to climb new routes and in 1978 Tommy provided The Judge, and Jury either side of The Trial, and slipped his way up The Flying Fish. Meanwhile Bob climbed The Rajah, the first 'unrecognised' 6b on the crag, and the brutal Barbarian. In 1979 other local climbers also got in on the scene, namely Bill Wayman and Paul Stewart who competed over Cruel Dude, a solo duel which Wayman closely won; Revenge was close at hand for Stewart with Brutally Handsome. Bob Smith started to hot things up with the strenuous Rising Damp and High Tide, together with Crater Maker and Street Runner. The following year was quiet for Bowden seeing only a few routes by Bob Smith; His Eminence, Kaiser Bill and Dog Eat Dog , an oft tried problem. 1981 and 1982 were years of short, hard problems; Pete Kirton leapt for joy on Vienna and Bob Smith climbed Toffs, Rough Passage and Liberty. Karl and Graham Telfer found Outer Limits whilst Bob Smith and Earl picked up its Direct Finish and Child's Play. 1983 and 1984 saw only two significant routes The Bends and Poverty both on sight solos by Smith, whilst Ian Kyle clenched his cheeks and pushed his way to the front of the queue on The Belford Pie Shop. Bowden had a sleepy few years until 1988 when Mark Liptrot returned and like one of the railway children shunted his way up and down the very bold Death Knell before soloing it. The end of the 1988 summer saw Smith and Earl making Rough Passage a hard and independent route. Who knows what the future will bring, hopefully no more chipping or heavy wire brushing only more brilliant routes with which this crag abounds.