Ennerdale possesses several relatively uninspiring crags and one magnificent venue - Pillar Rock, which forms the central feature of the rugged north face of Pillar Mountain. It is an imposing, atmospheric crag offering superb rock climbs at all grades on impeccable rock, and its summit (which is only accessible by climbing) was the focal point for the earliest pioneers of rock climbing in the Lake District.
In 1826, John Atkinson of Croftfoot, Ennerdale, made the first recorded ascent of Pillar, it is believed by the Old West Route (today graded Moderate). The popular Slab and Notch Climb (Moderate) was added in 1863, and in 1891, Walter Parry Haskett-Smith, the first man to climb Napes Needle on Great Gable, worked out his intricate North Climb (Severe), the first route to tackle the imposing North Face of Pillar.
Two classic routes on the West Face are the New West (Very Difficult, 1901), which was put up by Keswick's famous Abraham brothers, photographers who recorded so much of Lakeland life around the end of the Victorian era, and Rib and Slab (Hard Severe, 1919), climbed by a team that included another famous Lakeland pioneer, Harry Kelly.
Pillar possesses many climbs, from the easiest up to E6. The best however are in the lower to middle grade range. Its isolated position requires rather more commitment than most Lake District crags and means that it is never crowded, and in fact, often climbers will find that they have the entire crag, and its magnificent scenery, entirely to themselves - ample reward for the long walk in.
The Fell and Rock Climbing Club publish a full set of climbing guidebooks to the Lake District, including Gable and Pillar (2007). They also publish a selected guidebook to the Lake District, Lake District Rock (2003), which includes a selection of the best climbs on Pillar.
Peregrines at Long Crag
Text with thanks to Stephen Reid who is an experienced climber, editor of the FRCC Lake District Rock and co-author and editor of the latest edition of FRCC Gable and Pillar. He also owns Needle Sports in Keswick,
Climbers photo thanks to Zac Poluton, MountainZ, Mountain Safety Consultant, Expedition & Mountain Trainer , from a series taken whilst working with Itv Countrywise climbing Pillar Rock.