True Grit: Eight things you didn’t know about Peak District rock climbing

peak district climbing stoney middleton

The Peak District is world famous for the quality of the climbing, and being a stones throw from the major cities of Sheffield, Manchester and the Midlands makes access pretty straightforward. But here are a few things that you might not have known about Peak District rock climbing, deservedly one of the most popular of the UK’s climbing areas, writes James Thacker, IFMGA Mountain Guide

1. Gritstone is “god’s own rock”. Well so people say! Whether the big man upstairs climbs exclusively on “The Grit” or not is probably a wider discussion but the important thing is that wherever you based in the UK, the Peak District and gritstone in particular will elicit strong views. People either love it or hate it!


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2. There is more than just the grit. The Peak District is famous for it’s gritstone edges, but there is more to the area than the grit with the Limestone Dales giving equally enthralling climbing of a very different nature. Longer routes, some times polished, sometimes a little loose limestone is the “peak” equivalent of the mountain crags. All with just a few minutes walk in from the road.

3. Grit is best in the Winter. Because gritstone is permeable to water if often soaks up moisture giving it a sweaty and humid feel in warm temperatures. As a result people will often aim to climb the harder routes in the winter on cold frosty days when the friction is much better, allowing them to stick to the rock like velcro. Of course if you are not trying a super hard project you can use the conditions as an excuse…

4. You don’t need to climb on the grit when it’s wet. Regular visitors to Snowdonia will know that its essential to climb in the rain, while climbers from the Peak District know that we have a multitude of excellent cafés and pubs in which to shelter from the rain. Should the conditions improve nearly all the crags are roadside allowing a second attempt.

5. Nobody ever goes to Stoney Middleton. Rarely do you see people climbing at this once popular crag, apart from on a handful of new bolted routes. The critics will tell you about loose rock, polish, over grown classics, bendy pegs and stiff grades. All I would say in response is why is it always so well chalked?…

6. Gritstone is short for ‘Millstone Grit’, as this popular rock type was once quarried to make millstones many of which still appear at the base of the crags. Speak to a geologist however and then probably won’t have an idea what you are harping on about. Why? Because gritstone’s best Sunday name is Coarse Grained Feldsphatic Sandstone.

7. How many routes? Nobody really know how many routes there are in the Peak District, an even if we did the information would be out of date quickly. What is certain is that the existing life time supply of climbing and bouldering in the Peak District is being added to all the time.

8. Indoor Walls. The Peak District and surround cities are equally famous for a high density of indoor walls, allowing keen climbers to continue climbing in bad weather or after dark. Sheffield sports four major walls alone…

by James Thacker, IFMGA Mountain Guide – book your next adventure here.

Photo:James Thacker

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