- Buttermere side – 2.3 miles
- Borrowdale side – 1.7 miles
Both sides – 25%
Where to find it?
From Keswick follow the wonderful Borrowdale Valley and take in the beautiful scenery. After the village of Seatoller enjoying the scenery becomes a little more difficult!
You can approach from the Buttermere side after summiting the Newlands Pass first from the easy side, then turning left at the junction with the valley road. Or you can approach from the west down the valley road taking in the lakes of Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere, this is the way that the Tour of Britain tackled it in 2014.
Tough both ways and probably with each side offering a different character but very similar sustained pain!
Buttermere side – From a purist’s point of view this is probably the pick of the two approaches. First you go through the picturesque village of Buttermere with the Lake on your right. Then up ahead you have the spectacular ridge of Fleetwith Edge and the near vertical Homister Crag with the bulk of Dalehead looming on the left. The most impressive of places to start a climb. And to start with it eases you in just after Gatesgarth Farm, just a few percent here, then it gradually steepens and becomes more twisty until you can see the challenge ahead. The vastness of the scenery makes you feel like a dot moving (very slowly!) against the landscape. The building of the slate mine comes into view, this is the top, for the last half mile you just need to keep battling against the ever increasing gradient, 20%, maybe even 25%, relief comes, eventually!
Borrowdale side – The opposite side and the opposite in other ways too. Rather than the huge expanse of the Buttermere side you start from the relatively claustrophobic confines of Seatoller with the road banking up steeply on both sides. Straightaway you hit the steepest 20-25% section as you make your way through the lightly wooded area. This challenge is sustained, brutal even, and gives very little relief for the first 0.6 of a mile. It’s also tricky when wet with wheelspin easy when out of the saddle. Eventually the gradient eases to about 8% and almost flattens for a short section before kicking up sharply to maybe 12-15% before the summit is claimed.
9 for both sides. If you like to get the worst bit of the climb out of the way first you may prefer the Borrowdale side but if you like to ride your way into a climb it will be your worst nightmare. The exact opposite is true of the Buttermere side. I would probably rate them both equally and that is equally very hard indeed!