Eagle Crag

Published 31 May 2020

Eagle Crag seen from the Stonethwaite road

One whole day after visiting Borrowdale to climb Grange Fell, we were back in Borrowdale to do a kind of horseshoe walk around Ullscarf. After alighting the bus at Stonethwaite, we headed to fell number one: Eagle Crag.

Imagine you’ve got a ball of clay. The grey stuff you make pots and plates out of. It’s cold, wet, a little slippery in your hands.

You shape it into a ball, moulding it gently into a rough, not quite perfect sphere. And you hold it in your left hand. And you squeeze. Not with all five of your fingers. With only your thumb and index finger, leaving two deep grooves in the clay. Like thick ridges. Imprints of two of your five digits.

Leaving Stonethwaite for an Ullscarf Horseshoe Adventure!

Then imagine you’ve thrown it down onto a bigger lump of clay. So now you’ve got this big bobble, with two thick ridges on top.

Congratulations. You’ve just made a model of Eagle Crag.

Sitting near the village of Stonethwaite in Borrowdale, Eagle Crag has a commanding position. It sits near where the Langstrath Beck and Greenup Gill valleys join together. It’s probably the most impressive, distinctive fell in the Greenup Gill valley. Which doesn’t say much as there’s only a few fells there, and the others – when seen from the valley floor – are a little nondescript.

But not Eagle Crag. No. Eagle Crag is a defining feature. All craggy and rocky. You look at it and wonder quite how you are supposed to get up there. It’s all sharp edges and rocky crags. But there is a way up. Oh yes there is.

Eagle Crag and Langstrath Beck

We’d set off, Catherine and myself, from the bus stop just south of Rosthwaite. We’d been the only passengers to board the 09:20 78 bus from Keswick. And the only ones, other than the driver, to travel on the open top vehicle that was plying its trade on the route that day. The only other passenger boarded as we got off, a stop or two from the terminus. It was hard to imagine that that particular journey would be particularly profitable for the bus company.

We strode down the road to Stonethwaite, past the tiny Borrowdale school – closed for the half term – then picked up the track alongside Stonethwaite Beck. On the wrong side of Stonethwaite Beck as it turned out, thanks to a navigational error. But one swiftly rectified with a little detour, and a bridge.

Borrowdale looking resplendent seen from Eagle Crag.

Then the hard work began. Although Eagle Crag looks rather impenetrable from the valley floor, there is one point where a climb can begin. You need to pass by stone drystone walls, then start climbing up on the steep, rough path. And climb is what you do. Up and up and up, making your way slowly but surely upwards. It’s pretty straightforward, if a bit of a slog. Still, there’s some great views down to Borrowdale to enjoy as you go. I could even see the open top bus driving back down the valley floor.

But eventually, perhaps with sweat dripping from your forehead due to the exertion, you make it to a rickety looking wire fence, with a stile over it. And you cross it. And that’s when the climb up Eagle Crag gets interesting.

A narrow path along the rocks to get to the summit of Eagle Crag

For starters, you need to do some scrambling. Hauling yourself up the hillside using your hands and feet to propel you along and up. There was quite a lot to be done, made all the more “interesting” given the steep drops down towards the Langstrath valley. But at least there were lots of good handholds and places to put a large boot.

Then the scrambling gives way to the zig-zagged path to go the final stretch up to the Crag’s summit. And then, voila, you’ve made it. You’re now at the top of that blob of clay you’d admired from down below. It’s been hard work. There’s been a lot of sweat. But you’ve made it all the same. And there’s only one thing to do. Well, two, after you’ve checked out the view.

At the top of Eagle Crag

We wandered over to the tilted rock slab that is the highest point on the fell, noting with sadness that there was no cairn to celebrate at. But we had sandwiches, and noting that it was now nearly twelve noon, munched on some of our provisions.

Sometimes a sandwich is all you need. Although if you have a lump of clay to squeeze, that’s even better.

Next time: Sergeant’s Crag.

Sitting at the top of Eagle Crag

Your Comments

Vic Flange

31 May 2020 at 1:06 pm

Well done on the scrambling. Usually I find it OK but a bit unnerving when I can’t see where I’m heading for. At which point, I have to pull myself up through a gap just hoping that the next part will reveal itself.

I can’t remember Eagle Crag though by definition I passed it on the C2C. Another one to revisit some day…

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