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Exploring the Best Diff and VDiff Climbs in the Lake District

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

The Lake District, a stunning region in the northwest of England, is a climber's paradise. With its rugged landscapes and dramatic fells and lakes, this area offers a wealth of climbing opportunities for adventurers of all skill levels. Whether you're a seasoned climber or a beginner looking for a thrilling challenge, the Lake District has a variety of climbs to cater to your needs. In this blog, we will be exploring some of the best Diff (Difficult) and VDiff (Very Difficult) climbs in the Lake District, each promising breathtaking views and an unforgettable experience.

Rock Climbing in Langdale
Rock Climbing in the Lake District

  1. Dow Crag

Dow Crag is a fantastic location for rock climbing and offers a challenging ascent that is well worth the effort. The route takes you up a series of exposed pitches and offers breathtaking panoramas of Coniston Water, Goats Water, and the surrounding fells. The rugged beauty of Dow Crag and its imposing aspect above Coniston make it a favourite among Lake District climbers.

Routes to highlight include:

Giants Crawl (Diff)

The quartz-flecked ramp that cuts across the buttress is a brilliant line that is one of the best at its grade in the Lake District. The line is striking and offers a line of weakness amongst a plethora of steep rock walls and buttresses. You ascend through some amazing rock architecture over the course of 5-6 pitches of climbing.

C Ordinary (VDiff)

Dow Crag is split into a series of imposing buttresses of rock; A, B, C, D, E, Buttress. This routes climbs up C Buttress, the narrowing buttress is a gratifying climb packed with interesting climbing.

It is worth noting that the climb is slightly more difficult than in the past as a result of the loss of a large spike of rock high on the route. Another remarkably long route, up to 7 pitches of climbing.

Linking these routes together offers a fine mountaineering day out on one of the highest and biggest crags in the Lake District. Looking for a Dow adventure? Or maybe you want help to link these routes together? Lake District Mountaineering can help; we are regularly guiding on these cliffs.

Explore Giants Crawl and C Ordinary on Dow
Climbing on Dow Crag

2. Gimmer Crag

Gimmer Crag is renowned for its challenging climbs and has an amazing concentration of classic rock routes too. Gimmer Crag is considered one of the Lake District's premier climbing locations. It has many high quality routes that offer a thrilling mix of cracks, corners, slabs and exposed traverses, with mesmerising views of the Langdale Valley. This climbing here is not for the faint of heart but provides an unforgettable adventure for slightly more experienced climbers or those looking to take some next steps towards multi-pitching.

Route highlights

Ash Tree Slabs (VDiff)

An all-time favourite taking the line of least resistance up the long slab. The line weaves around across the slab, choosing the easiest line. Gear can be a little fiddly here and the belay is exposed as you hang out high above the gully.

For descent, some abseiling skills are needed or you will need to climb up to Severe to be able to walk off. The route tops out on Ash Tree Ledge, this is at half height on the crag and you will need to climb up to Severe to climb above here.

Classic rock climbs on Gimmer with Lake District Mountaineering
Climbing on Ash Tree Slabs on Gimmer Crag

3. Raven Crag, Combe Ghyll

Combe Ghyll sits on the slopes of Glaramara and is accessed from Borrowdale. The walk in to this location is around 45 minutes, firstly along an easy valley path (some bogs) before striking up hill towards the foot of the cliff.

The cliffs here face north east and are often shady and damp. Don't let this out you off though, as the climbing is amazing and the route we feature is billed as 'A Route For All Weathers'. The clean rock is nearly always climbable with good in-cut ledges and holds with amazing views along the Borrowdale valley towards Derwent Water and Skiddaw.

We recommend being a confident leader in wet and damp conditions and have the ability to place good gear or the skills to retreat if necessary. If unsure, you can always hire a guide.

Route highlights

Corvus (Diff)

One of the finest mountaineering Diffs in the UK, and a real gem of a route according to the guidebooks and UKC.

The hand traverse is the crux of this climb, and also the best part of it. Heading out across the slab, leaving the sanctuary of your big belay ledge is always a daunting task. The hand holds are good though, stay low and use the big crack effectively and the footholds will present themselves. Cams are good for protecting this section as much of the crack is horizontal.

The best mountaineering routes in the UK
Hand Traverse on Corvus

4. The Napes

A true icon of Lake District climbing, The Napes stands tall above Wastwater. This prominent rocky buttress offers a series of challenging but rewarding climbs, with breathtaking vistas of Wastwater and Wasdale Head.

The ridges are striking and there are many of them, all at different grades and challenges. For many climbers, climbing the iconic Napes Needle is a rite of passage for many Lake District enthusiasts and promises an unforgettable adventure; this is not our focus in this blog but a service we can offer for those interest.

Route highlights

Needle Ridge (VDiff)

This classic ridge climb provides unique views of Napes Needle. For this climb, you start in the gap between the needle and main cliff. The hardest sections here are at the start. The first pitch takes a polished slab, with some small footholds and moves that require trust, balance and co-ordination.

As you ascend, the route gets easier, but please don't treat this a scramble. The climb is serious and requires a good use of ropes and gear and appropriate techniques to climb safely.

Climbing on the best mountain routes for climbing in the UK
Needle Ridge on Great Gable

The Lake District is a climbing haven that offers a wide range of challenges for enthusiasts of all levels (look out for our next blog that explores further grades and different venues).

Whether you're a seasoned climber looking for a thrilling ascent on these routes or a beginner hoping to tackle some climbs and gain experience on the rock, the Lake District has it all and Lake District Mountaineering are on hand to help.

So, gear up, embrace the challenge, and discover the beauty of the Lake District from new heights with our experienced, local and qualified guides.

5. Grey Crags (Buttermere)

Grey Crags in Buttermere has a diverse range of routes and breathtaking views. From classic trad climbs to exhilarating scrambles, this rugged terrain promises an adventure for climbers of all levels.

Grey Crags boasts a striking array of rock formations, providing climbers with a rich canvas of challenges and opportunities.

Situated above Buttermere, the crags offer climbers stunning vistas of the surrounding fells and water. You may recognise these views from the latest Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning part 1, so there is plenty of allure to this location.

Route highlights

Harrow Buttress (Diff)

This short three pitch route is polished and worn, and is home to a tricky chimney at the start. It is a great start to the ascent of this multi-tiered buttress. We recommend stringing the first two pitches together, there is a good belay after the chimney, on the big ledge there is a good block. It's easy to the top from here.

Slabs Ordinary (VDiff)

Tricky route finding up to the corner, once here though its fantastic. The corner is jugs galore and the climbing is absolutely amazing. Once on my favourite pitches at the grade.

Climbing on Grey Crags

6. Langdale Link-Ups

Langdale is a beautiful valley in the Lake District National Park, known for its stunning scenery and excellent climbing opportunities. Langdale offers a diverse range of climbing experiences, from challenging multi-pitch routes to accessible bouldering sites. Its accessibility makes it a haven for climbers from all over the world.

Route highlights

Middlefell Buttress (Diff)

One of the most popular lower-grade outings in the Lake District. This is a first lead for many people with easy route finding and good belays. Start on the right hand side at the base of the climb (recognised by the fence) and head up from here.

From the top you can abseil, or continue up on scrambling terrain and link the next two routes together.

Crescent Climb (Mod)

The Crescent in the lowest section on Pavey Ark. A big triangular buttress with some amazing lines. The easiest line here is on the left hand side, on the rib that overlooks the gully. Belay on the ledge with the pegs (recommended to back them up) and then traverse across the narrow ledge. Easy climbing but amazing exposure.

Gwynne's Chimney (Diff)

The obvious line from where Crescent Climb meets Jack's Rake, and the perfect continuation to reach the summit of Pavey Ark. Not hard, but definitely awkward, especially with a rucksack on. Amazing day for those looking for easy link ups and alpine preparation days; let us know if we can run this day for you.

Crescent Climb - Guided Climbing with regular client, Ellis

Climbing Safely

It's important to remember that climbing, like any mountain adventure, should be undertaken with safety in mind. Adequate preparation, knowledge of the terrain, proper gear, and an understanding of the weather conditions are all essential to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.

Whether you're an experienced mountaineer or a first-time climber, the Lake District offers an unforgettable adventure, a challenge, and a deep connection with the natural world.

Remember, if in doubt seek out qualified instruction or professional guiding from local companies.

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