My Top 10 Favourite Lakeland Crags #2: Dow Crag, Coniston

For the fourteen years that we lived in Torver, Dow Crag was practically in my back yard. In the summer I could nip up after work and tick off a couple of routes, walking out by headtorch. I occasionally take a client to Dow, if the weather is looking good and we’re looking for lots of mileage. The crag has a special atmosphere, with steep scree sloping down to steely blue Goat’s Water, and views of the gentle lowland and estuaries of the southern edges of Cumbria.

Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man from Peel Island on Coniston Water

Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man from Peel Island on Coniston Water

Having trawled through decades of photos, this is the only pic I can find of Dow Crag - must have been too busy climbing to stop and get the camera out.

The earliest recorded ascent on Dow was ‘E’ Buttress by – who else? – WP Haskett-Smith, with JW Robinson, in 1886. For the next seven years the crag was neglected in favour of great deeds on Pillar, Scafell and Gable. In April 1985 Intermediate Gulley and Hopkinson’s Crack were climbed by the Hopkinsons, bringing Dow Crag back into the limelight as an interesting place to climb, and being easily accessible by train to Coniston, it became a popular climbing venue.

The crag is divided in five buttresses, labelled alphabetically from A to E, hence the use of these letters in many route names. Here’s my selection of favourite routes, listed with the easiest first.

Giant’s Crawl

First climbed: 1909
Current grade: D***
Length of route: 115m
Number of pitches: 7
Follows an obvious line of weakness through impressive rock scenery. Good nut belays, but a desperate route in poor conditions.

‘C’ Ordinary Route

First climbed: 1904
Current grade: D***
Length of route: 100m
Number of pitches: 7
A classic of its grade, and probably the most popular route on the crag, but not to be underestimated in wet conditions.

Arête, Chimney & Crack

First climbed: 1910
Current grade: MS***
Length of route: 96m
Number of pitches: 5
A great way up ‘A’Buttress, with varied climbing and great positions.

Murray’s Route

First climbed: 1918
Current grade: S***
Length of route: 74m
Number of pitches: 4
One of the greatest classics in the Lake District, giving fantastic climbing in amazing situations.

Eliminate ‘A’

First climbed: 1923
Current grade: VS 4c***
Length of route: 107m
Number of pitches: 6
One of England’s greatest routes, possibly the best VS in the world – what more is there to say?!


First climbed: 1962
Current grade: E1 5c***
Length of route: 84m
Number of pitches: 4
Another one of the best Lake District routes, which gets a bit harder with each pitch. Great climbing!

Isengard/Samba Pa Ti

First climbed: 1962/1977
Current grade: E2 5b***
Length of route: 102m
Number of pitches: 4
Two excellent routes in one. A bold approach to a roof leads to good gear and a rest - superb!

Pink Panther

First climbed: 1973
Current grade: E2 5c***
Length of route: 40m
Number of pitches: 1
This climb packs a lot of climbing in a short route.


First climbed: 1975
Current grade: E4 5c***
Length of route: 36m
Number of pitches: 1
Never too hard, but sustained climbing which keeps on coming.

What’s your favourite route on Dow Crag, and why? We’d love to hear your stories.