Rock Climbing

Looking to go rock climbing in the Peak District? If you are reading this then I’m sure the Peak District needs little introduction as Britain’s busiest national park. In the last fifty years the peak has become a “˜mecca’ for rock climbers due to the vast amount of accessible climbing available.

The first areas explored by the pioneers were the gritstone escarpments, areas that are still massively popular today. The “˜grit’ is a fairly unique rock climbing medium for which the area is now world famous due to the unusual friction properties of the rock. Areas such as Stanage, Burbage, Curbar and Froggatt edges have routes from the easiest classics to the modern test pieces.

Climbing in the Peak District

In the centre of the Peak District lies the white peak, characterised by its limestone geology. This area provides a different climbing experience, the rock being steeper and offering less friendly cracks. As a result many of the climbs were initially climbed with artificial aid before being climbed “˜free’ as standards improved. Today this legacy of natural and quarried crags leaves a variety of both traditional (trad) and bolt protected sport climbs many of which represent the upper end of the sport.

As a result the peak district has climbing to occupy the enthusiastic beginner through to the world-class athlete visiting from abroad.

When to visit?

The “˜Peak’ does have variable weather, however lying in the centre of the UK it seems less prone to the variations you are likely to experience on western coasts. More often the weather is good (i.e. climbable) than not.

For the serious climber keen to make the most of the “˜grits’ excellent friction properties the best part of the season is the autumn, winter and the spring. In fact the winters can be relatively mild in the peak, with snow disappearing quickly. On the more exposed crags the wind dries wet crags very quickly, allowing good climbing in between the showers for those keen to stick it out.

In the summer, the weather is frequently good. The limestone crags in the Dales of the white peak, are usually in good condition combined with the gritstone edges. During the height of the summer it’s often possible to visit the higher moorland crags to escape the heat.


The peak district is covered by a variety of guidebooks, which describe each area in detail. For first time visitors the BMC Publication “˜On Peak Rock’ is a good starting point. ISBN 0-903908-91-3.


Most crags in the peak district fall under access agreements defined in the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CROW), meaning that they are easily accessible.

However, from time to time some locations are closed for grouse shooting, land management etc. For up to date details check the BMC access database

How to start climbing

There are many ways to start rock climbing in the Peak District: your first experience could be bouldering, climbing with a friend, with a club, as part of an instructional course or through an indoor climbing wall.

Bouldering is an easy and relatively accessible way of starting to rock climb. Usually taking place on small outcrops or boulders with out ropes or specialist equipment. Recently the use of large crash pads has become universally accepted to prevent injury and erosion. See Bouldering section.

Traditionally the first step into climbing was with experienced friends, learning the skills practically as you go. This type of climbing apprenticeship is an ideal way to learn and get loads of climbing done. Sadly, this isn’t open to everybody, but there are some alternatives.

Some people prefer to learn as part of a large social group, in this case regional and national climbing clubs provide a unique opportunity. Most are supportive of novices and will offer a varied “˜meets’ diary of events in a variety of areas. The BMC provides a list of approved clubs and contact details.

Indoor climbing walls are another good way of starting climbing. Many offer brief introductory sessions to get you started with the fundamental techniques of belaying and leaving the ground! In this controlled environment it is quite easy to progress quickly, reading yourself for the move outside.

For many people an instructional course will be their preferred way of learning either from scratch or when making the transition from climbing indoors to real rock. The difference between these two environments is quite considerable and it’s often good to seek advice at this stage. Courses are provided in the peak district by local outdoor centres, local climbing walls and Mountaineering Instructors and Guides. For the Peak District instructor can be found via:

Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI)

British Mountain Guides

In addition, the BMC booklet: “˜New Climbers’ is a useful resource that is available free to members.

Rock Climbing Safely

“An important part of learning to climb is developing the art of balancing the skills you have available against the challenges provided by the climb. That the sport involves a level of risk is an integral part of the activity, so it is important for an individual’s enjoyment of climbing to identify a personally-acceptable level of risk”? Extract from BMC New Climbers Booklet.

The BMC Participation Statement: The BMC recognises that rock climbing in the Peak District and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.

Despite this statement and the obvious risks part of the satisfaction of climbing is acting sensibly, managing risk and trusting your companions. As a result rock climbing actually has a good safety record in comparison to the vast number of participants.

It’s definitely worthwhile:

“¢ Learning the skills of “˜first aid’.

“¢ Knowing how to seek help from the emergency services if you need it. In the peak district climbing accidents are often dealt with by local Mountain Rescue Teams.

“¢ Seriously consider wearing a helmet, they have saved more than a few people from more serious injury.

In the event of an accident requiring the assistance of Mountain Rescue:

Dial 999 and ask for “˜POLICE – MOUNTAIN RESCUE’

Note: All mountain rescue incidents in the Peak District area fall under the responsibility of Derbyshire Constabulary. If in any doubt request Derbyshire Police Operations Room.

Further Information from Edale Mountain Rescue Team

Bouldering in the Peak District

The following is an excerpt from Peak District: Bouldering by Rupert Davies & Jon Barton, Vertebrate Graphics.

The Peak District is one of the most developed climbing areas in the world. There are few, if any, other places that offer the same breadth and volume of easily accessible climbing in so many different styles in such a small geographical area.

Since Al Williams produced the last guide, Peak bouldering has come of age. All of the old desperates have been repeated, and the intense development of the last few years has opened up many new problems and areas. But despite all of the changes, one thing remains the same: pulling over the top of the perfect grit boulder problem, with your friends spotting you below, at the end of a crisp autumn day, the sinking sun turning the sky orange and the rock glowing amber, is the best feeling in the world.


Rock Climbing in the Peak District, bouldering and spotting are activities that carry a risk of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities need to be aware of, and accept, that these risks are present and they should be responsible for their own actions and involvement. Nobody involved in the production of this website accepts any responsibility for any errors it contains, nor are they liable for any injuries or damages that may arise as a result of its use.

Where to start bouldering

Without doubt the best beginners venue in the Peak is the boulders below Burbage South. Pleasant and low, in a lovely setting, with many, many easy problems, it really is a great place to start a bouldering career. Next, the top boulders at Cratcliffe are good. Again they are low, easy angled with great landings and there are some superb problems, but it’s not as extensive as Burbage South. While you are there, check out Robin Hood’s Stride. A trip to the Roaches is in order next, especially if there has been a spell of good weather. More low, user friendly boulders below the Lower Tier will test your smearing and slab climbing skills on rough rock with impeccable friction. After these areas it may be time to branch out a little. Try Stanage Plantation, Owler Tor, Newstones, Wimberry and Tody’s Playground at Froggatt.

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