Rock climbing in the Peak District

Boast some of the most popular and challenging routes you'll find, the Peak District is, without doubt, one of top rock climbing destinations in Europe.

Rock climbing in the Peak District

With miles and miles of golden gritstone edges, the Peak District National Park is one of the finest places in the world for single pitch rock climbing. Local climbing guide Richard Goodey describes what's on offer.

A great place to learn to climb as well as a place to hone your technique and push your limits, the Peak District really does have it all. The hard gritstone rock has outstanding friction and offers many cracks for placing protection. Most of the climbing is close to the road and at low elevation, making it a readily accessible and popular destination throughout the year.

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There are four prime climbing sites to be enjoyed – from the legendary Stanage Edge near Hathersage and Birchen Edge (a few miles northeast of Bakewell) to the lesser known Horse Shoe Quarry (south of Bakewell) and Burbage (near Stanage Edge).

Stanage Edge

Stanage Edge
The views from Stanedge Edge over miles of vibrant green hills and woodland makes the effort that much more rewarding.

A total of 4km of rock climbs at every grade! Does it get any better than this? I have been climbing here for over 20 years, and I have still barely scratched the surface. Each time I find new challenges. There are not many places that have such a variety of grades - no matter what your skill level or how confident you’re feeling on the day, you will have exactly the right climb for you to enjoy. It's a great place to improve your technique, as you can progress gently: due to the variety, there are very small steps between the grades.

Birchen Edge

Birchen Edge
Boasting mainly beginner and intermediate climbs, Birchen Edge is very popular with groups and families.

Another splendid place with a lot of variety, mostly at the easier and intermediate grades - popular with groups and beginners. It gets quite busy, though, in the summer and you might have to queue for your climb: just relax, don’t rush and enjoy chatting with other climbers and kicking back on the sandy slopes. There’s a monument to celebrate Nelson’s victory at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 at the top, so a lot of the routes have nautical names. There is no drainage from the moorland above,  so the climbs dry very quickly after wet weather. 

Horse Shoe Quarry

Horse shoe quarry
With a wide range of route grades, Horse Shoe Quarry is one of the most popular sports-climbing venues in the Peak District.

This tough sports climbing venue is crammed full of routes in the intermediate grades and higher. It's a steep and technical limestone crag that any good bolt clipping climber that crunches F6a and above will relish. There are a lot of routes and some can be a bit crumbly; in fact, one has even fallen down! But with a bit of careful route choice, it’s a worthy destination. Long, exposed climbs and crimpy moves.

Burbage

Burbage
Head to the Burbage valley to find some of the best lower grade bouldering in the area.

The locals' spot. Another fine gritstone edge where you’ll find locals hanging out long into the summer evenings; a great atmosphere and a top spot for soloing and bouldering on the short routes. If you have a few days spare, you can enjoy a really laid back and enjoyable holiday by basing yourself in Hathersage: choose from the Youth Hostel, a bunk barn or a luxurious hotel such as The George. Head to the climbers café and shop for your pre-climb cuppa and fry-up, or for real ale and fine meals at the Scotsman's Pack.

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES

1. Anatomy

Probably the best V. Diff in the world. At the lower grades it’s every climbers right of passage and has to be done if you're at Stanage. Incorporating a lot of various techniques, it is steep and committing and called anatomy for a reason. You use most of it! Wriggle and squirm your way to the top.

2. The Unconquerables

Choose from the left unconquerable or the right. The right hand side is a Joe Brown route put up in 1949 and goes at HVS 5a, a tough route up an exposed and overhanging buttress. Once you’ve conquered that do the left, a thuggish line with a tough and high but well protected crux that goes at E1 5b.

3. Main Wall at Horse Shoe Quarry

Long, techie, steep, exposed and run out – in a word, great!

4. Ash Tree Wall – Burbage

Spend a summer's evening at Burbage, climb the fun and beautifully positioned Ash Tree Wall, S4a and head back to Hathersage for last orders at the Little John.

5. Matterhorn Ridge - Winnats Pass

If you drive through Winnats Pass it is well worth the stop to climb Matterhorn Ridge. As you can tell by the name it looks just awesome! A good little mountaineering route requiring a bit of experience in rope work but is a fairly easy VD. Makes for great photos and is a sure to put a smile on your face.

WHEN TO VISIT

Best times to go:

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The best times to go are between March to October, but a lot of people climb here all year round. You can beat the crowds in the winter, and the gritstone has way more friction in the colder temperatures.

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