Peak District Rock Climbing
Rock-climbing in the Peak District, which includes much of Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Cheshire, began with early pioneers in the 1890s, and has now expanded so that every weekend there are thousands of climbers on the crags. The Peak has a wide range of crags both large and small with well over 10000 recorded climbs - probably no-one knows exactly how many - and being close to several large population centres means that it is a popular place to climb.
Rock climbing on Stanage Edge
Historically the gritstone crags were the first to be explored, and those where access was not restricted by gamekeepers - Laddow Rocks and Castle Naze for example - were those where the much of the first climbing was done, though crags such as Stanage which were officially 'out of bounds' also had many routes recorded.
This state of affairs continued until the 1950s, when a post-war generation emerged and simultaneously, public access to the majority of crags became possible. The number of climbers increased and, led by legendary figures such as Nat Allen, Joe Brown and Don Whillans, standards soared and the number of recorded routes increased dramatically.
By the late 1960s the gritstone crags had been widely explored and attention turned to the limestone crags - which had hitherto been largely avoided, being regarded as either too steep or too loose. Many of the first limestone routes used one or more pitons but it was gradually realised that these could be climbed without aid and in the 1980s a large number of steep technical limestone routes were added to the list of Peak climbs. More recently some extremely technical routes have been added where majority opinion is that the use of bolts for protection is both justified and necessary.
Climbing on Burbage Edge
The Peak provides a wealth of climbing for all standards and there so are many crags that it is not possible to list them all.
In the north of the Peak there are gritstone crags in the Chew Valley - mostly providing strenuous rather hard gritstone routes, at Laddow - which has a range of mostly easy routes, and in the Longendale Valley - where Shining Clough provides a delectable selection of climbs when conditions are right.
Valkyrie - Froggatt Edge
Around the moors above Hathersage there is a concentration of gritstone crags of which Stanage is pre-eminent, with a complete range of climbs. Further south, Higgar Tor, Burbage Edge and Millstone Edge provide generally hard and strenuous routes, while Froggatt Edge is both more sheltered and rather easier. Continuing southwards along the Derwent valley, Curbar Edge is more similar to Millstone while Baslow and Birchens Edges are relatively easy. Gardoms Edge is different again, green and wooded, with a range of routes of varying standards.
In the west of the Peak the gritstone edges are relatively small and broken. However, Windgather provides a good training ground for beginners, and Castle Naze has an interesting and sometimes testing range of climbs.
In the extreme south-west corner the Roaches, Hen Cloud and Ramshaw rear up out of the Staffordshire plain, all three providing a wide range of routes at all grades.
The most important of the limestone crags are concentrated at Stoney Middleton and around the valleys of the Wye, Derwent around Matlock and the Dove. On the Wye, Cheedale has a concentration of climbs almost unmatched elsewhere. Continuing downriver to Miller's Dale, Ravenstor is probably the most ferocious crag in the whole of the Peak and has a range of modern testpieces, while the crags of Water-cum-Jolly and Rubicon wall are hardly much easier, but in a side valley lies Ravensdale with rock at a gentler angle and some easier climbs.
The Derwent valley at Matlock Bath has in High Tor probably the most impressive of all the limestone crags, plus other easier and less visible ones such as Wildcat and Willersley. The Dove valley, from Milldale downstream, has a number of important climbing areas including Raven Tor, Tissington Spires and the daunting pinnacle of Ilam Rock, and though the Manifold valley has generally less rock than the Dove, in Beeston Tor it boasts probably the best crag of this area of the Peak.
Finally, there are high crags on Kinder, Bleaklow and Black Hill which, if conditions are right, provide some of the most enjoyable climbing of all. Laddow on Black Hill and Shining Clough on Bleaklow have already been mentioned - on Kinder there are high crags on all except the east side, and even winter climbing is sometimes possible on Kinder Downfall.
A number of climbing clubs operate in the area and guidebooks are published by a local guidebook committee under the auspices of the British Mountaineering Council. The Council will provide contact names and addresses for local clubs and is based in the 177-179 Burton Road, Manchester, M20 2BB - or see the link below.
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