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Route Feature - NEEDLE RIDGE

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

We were all geared up and ready to go for a big mountaineering route on the high slopes of Great Gable.

Above Wasdale, on the south side of Great Gable you will find The Napes crag. It is one of the best mountaineering venues in the Lake District offering alpine type ridges, airy scrambles and a few more technical pitches of rock climbing in between.

This area is known for the birth of British rock climbing and the origins of the sport came from Walter Perry Haskett Smith's ascent of Napes Needle in June 1886. This is a classic rock route and is now graded at Hard Severe so an incredible achievement for the period; likely climbed solo, in tweed and hob nail boots (in descent as well). Very impressive.

Napes Needle with a backdrop of the Scafell Massif; Scafell and Scafell Pike, Broad Stand, Ill Crag and Great End
Napes Needle

We headed up the steep path of Gavel Neese and onto the climbers traverse - this ascent is slow going but the climbers traverse is a good trod that picks a route through some amazing terrain; this walk is worthwhile in its own right but there is a grade 2 scramble known as threading the needle - something we can offer and organise a guided day.

We stopped at the Needle and geared up for our route, Needle Ridge. This is a mountaineering route graded Very Difficult and it gets easier as height is gained. The first few moves and initial slab is very polished and can be a little unnerving but once over this the climbing is fantastic - highlights include a crack system arete and on the upper walls that provide the most entertainment.

Climber on the gendarmes of Needle Ridge above Wasdale and Wastwater
Needle Ridge

After this section of climbing the ridge levels off and the terrain goes into easy and exciting scrambling across the gendarmes and pinnacles. This is proper alpine terrain set with a dramatic back drop of Wastwater and Wasdale.

The route can be extended and include a continuation up on the high crags of Westmorland - Pinnacle Ridge is a great ridge route that finishes at the summit of Great Gable. It tops out at Westmorland cairn which is built in honour of the view down the valley, it was erected by two brothers in 1876.

After the climb, we headed steeply down from Great Gable to Beck Head and onto Kirk Fell. It was a hot day and to save time and effort we left our rucksacks under some boulders, off the path and out of the way. This allowed us to run over to the summit of Kirk Fell, which is huge flat plateau.

We headed back down Gavel Neese and swam in Gable Beck before declaring a good day and heading back to the car in Wasdale.

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