Lower Falcon Crag. A Lakeland Gem
What is the best crag in the Lake District? It's a great conversation starter and everyone has their own opinion that they will strongly defend. Is it Scafell's East Buttress on a summer evening, Dow Crag's moody atmosphere, Pillar Rocks isolation or Gimmer for its quality lines? Whilst the debate is endless there are a few crags that over the years I've grown particularly fond of. One of which is the steep and seemingly impregnable buttress of Lower Falcon Crag.
Although being no more than 10 minutes from the road the crag always feels serious despite only being 60 metres at its highest point. The rock at times can be loose however I've been reliably informed it's "mechanically sound" whatever that means! (Use your own judgement!)
Initial visits may be saved for once you have ticked all the honey pot crags, Shepard's Crag, Black Crag and Quayfoot Buttress but there are a few lines that will tempt the sub E1 climber. Hedera Grooves (VS 4b in the latest guides, it used to be MVS) is the obvious choice for the uninitiated. Weaving a devious line on the first pitch before some steep moves above a very spiky holly tree. Fortunately the steep moves relent quickly and you can declare yourself initiated into the Lower Flacon Crag Circle as you follow the final gangway to the top enjoying the views over Derwent Water.
If your initiation on Hedera Grooves has gone well you may have spotted the line of Illusion (HVS 5a) as you abseiled timidly back down to safety. The obvious line of the crag following good holds and rock under the impressive roof (climbed by Vanishing Act-E3). The route is best done in one pitch with all of your protection extended as much as you can. With half ropes the route flows well allowing you to enjoy the 44m of quality climbing described in the guide as having a "big feel". Enjoy another swift abseil back to the ground and rack up ready for the next route, my favourite of the crag.
Usurper (E1 5a) is in my mind the best route on the crag despite only being given two stars by the FRCC. You'll need all 50m of your rope (best done on 60's) for a voyage into the steeper world of Lower Falcon. Again the route darts between overhangs maintaining interest to the top. The gear is all there but you have to work for it and your best protection will be a bit of confidence in your ability as you move through the steeper ground. What a stunning line! Quickly ab back down (this time with a bit more confidence whilst free hanging) and keep hold of the rack. One last route before the sun dips down behind Catbells.
Whist climbing Usurper you can't help but wonder what other lines there are on the crag and just left of the steep line you've just climbed, Kidnation (E1 5b) takes in some awesome rock, moves and positions.
Again make sure you've got 60m of rope and cautiously make your way up to an obvious crux sequence. On first arrival this can look pretty tough (especially when wet) but some good pinches quickly see though the crux and onto the top to enjoy the last light of the day.
You'll have now got a good feeling of the crag and can start to explore some of the other great lines that await in the E2 grades. The Niche, Plagiarism and Kidnapped (all E2 5c) give typical Falcon Crag climbing and give a great day out at the grade.
Having ticked the whole of the lower crag you'll be ready for Upper Falcon Crag. Climb Dry Grasp (E4 6a) and you'll be a true Falcon Crag aficionado !