Yorkshire is one of the UK's top destinations for rock climbing, well known for its contrasting rock types, gritstone and limestone. Local climber and guide Ben Barnard explains what's available.
There is more variety to the climbing in Yorkshire than might at first be expected: Single pitch and multi pitch; sport trad and bouldering; roadside and remote crags; routes for the expert and the beginner. When the weather is bad there are indoor walls, and even some great scrambles for those that seek them out.
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Ben Barnard took up climbing in his teens on family holidays to North Wales and the Yorkshire Dales. He has continued to spend his spare time on the crags and in the mountains of the UK and occasionally further afield. Living in Leeds, he has done a great deal of climbing in Yorkshire but also makes regular visits to the Lakes, the PeakDistrict, North Wales and the Highlands of Scotland.
Located on the Sugarloaf boulder beneath the main crag, you could easily walk past this route, but it is one of the best HVSs around. Powerful technical moves lead to an airy finish on good holds over a roof. Often soloed, but not by this author.
More delicate than many of Almscliff’s offerings and with just enough protection to not be too worrying. This route is always a favourite on our climbing courses, and is something of a rite of passage for new leaders on Yorkshire grit.
This is such a great place to climb that it almost doesn’t matter what route you’re on. If you’re good enough then choose one of the classic sport routes or multi pitch trad adventures in the main gorge. If like most of us mortals you are not, then Promises Promises at F6a is a very worthwhile climb inside the gorge.
A personal favourite with an exhilarating, committing upper section to test your slab padding, a little further above your gear than you might like.
This improbable mantelshelf problem is by no means the classic of Caley but there is something uniquely compelling about it – take a look and see what I mean. If you don’t agree then try Low Pebble Wall at the same grade just down the hill.
Best times to go:
Climbing is a year-round activity in Yorkshire.
Gritstone is often said to be at its best on winter days when the cool rock gives the best friction, but it can be equally good on dry days in summer.
Limestone is most often climbed in the summer months, but many of the crags are sheltered and quick drying enough to be good winter venues too. If it has been raining a lot then look for an exposed crag with little drainage. Some of these, such as Almscliff can dry within minutes of a shower on an otherwise dry day. If the hot sun has made the gritstone sweaty then find climbing in the shade, for example at Caley, or head to the limestone. If it’s warm and muggy then choose somewhere that will catch the breeze - perhaps one of the moorland edges. If it’s cold and windy then there are plenty of crags where trees or their aspect often provide shelter, such as Caley and Brimham.
There is little to be done, however, when the rain is set in – Kilnsey’s main overhang and the odd very overhanging boulder problem aside. On these days head to an indoor wall or take yourself out for a walk – perhaps a scramble up through Gordale Scar to pick out some of its famous lines on one of the few days when you might get the gorge to yourself.
Whatever the conditions or the time of year, Yorkshire is worth exploring: the crags and routes in this article are just one person’s suggestions; the rest of the picture is out there to be discovered.
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