Fancy sampling a sandbag? Not sure what we mean? Or how about something for the VS warriors? Well we've got it all here: Niall Grimes runs through the best of the new BMC select guidebook Peak District Grit. Buy it from the BMC Shop and get any other BMC guidebook half price!
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they will have to sidle down and compile a selected climbs guidebook to Peak Gritstone. One that takes all the best bits from the best crags in the country, one that shines a light onto the finest routes that climbers have ever enjoyed, that champions these routes and gives them to the public to see and love.
The new BMC select guide, Peak District Grit, does all this. It is the ultimate guide to Peak District and sets out to embrace the best climbs across the whole of this, the most beloved of all the climbing areas in the UK.
Escape from the Heat
What a novel concept, that one might actually plan one’s day in order to escape the heat in the UK! Well, let’s play along with the idea that this might actually happen. Those days where the temps soar into the high-teens, where those normally grippy gritty slopers turn into buttery blobs and the moorland shimmers from the optical confusion of hot air.
So, where do you go?
Here are my favorites. Ramshaw. The beauty of this sleeping dinosaur of grit is that it gets morning sun, so you can have a good lie in till 11 or so, then hit the shady roadside steepness after lunch. Otherwise an early start can give a long stroll along Kinder’s Northern Edges for the rarely climbed classics on Brothers’ Buttress and Jester Buttress; unforgettable. In the Chew Valley, Wimberry doesn’t see much sun, although you will be swapping the heat of the sun for a very different kind of burn (see Favorite Sandbags).
The wind, when it decides to blow, can be very annoying. It can drive people mad! So when the breezes pick up, where to head?
Get yourself down to Lawrencefield. Up on Millstone, the gusts can literally be unclipping gear from people’s harnesses while down in this sheltered hole you are basking in perfect connies. Gardom’s is another nearby choice. This extensive edge is characterized by having routes nestled among old woodland. Hear the air make its beautiful music amongst the oak leaves as you nuzzle into a sheltered bower. Similarly, Cratcliffe Tor has trees to comfort you and has the added benefit of being at a lower level. So go on, winds – blow your worst, see if we care!
Suicide Wall at the sheltered Cratcliffe Tor one of the best HVS routes on grit. Photo: Paul Evans
Away from it all
It’s okay. You’re antisocial. That’s fine. The thought of Stanage Popular, with all those happy people enjoying themselves makes your flesh creep. But you still want to climb outside, so where do you go?
Here’s a secret. The best rock on Stanage is at Crow Chin. And yet no one ever goes there? Isn’t that great. A whole bunch of great routes from Diff to HVS await the lone wolf. And similarly, Staffordshire’s Five Clouds lie a few hundred metres from the masses on The Roaches and again, have some of the best grit in the world. And the sun always seems to shine there. And lastly, Agden Rocher. Agden is kind of looked down upon by grit snobs for being of lesser quality rock, but that is just fake news put out by solitude-lovers. Truth is the routes are brilliant and it’s one of the nicest settings in The Peak.
Sandbags are among the best things in climbing. Sandbags – in case you are unfortunate enough not to know – are climbs whose grade may vary wildly, but the guidebook always gives the lowest possible grade for them. Is this a bad thing? Heck no! A sandbag allows space for experience. When two or more climbers come together, no one ever talks about accurately-graded routes; it is sandbags that elevate passions.
In that spirit, the new guidebook celebrates the sandbag, and has crafted several to perfection. One could point to anything on Hen Cloud or more particularly, Wimberry, the spiritual home of the sandbag, but let’s just settle for Sentinel Crack at Chatsworth (butch overhanging wide-as-you-like crack E2+), Chequers Crack at Froggatt (vicious finger-knacker HVS++), Wall Chimney at Burbage North (a vice-like chimney from which you might never escape VD+++) or The Vice at Stanage, perhaps the nation’s favorite sandbag (skin-ripping jamming E1++++).
There is something beautiful about crags that face west that east-facers cannot match. Sunset crags, crags that allow the day just gone to be reflected upon, places to find peace.
Gritstone crags of the Peak are blessed with these. But for me, three stand out: The Skyline of The Roaches, with views across the Cheshire plains and, in the right light, Snowdonia and its distant dreams; Dovestone Tor above the Derwent Valley, where the sheer distances you can see make me feel like I’m on the moon; Ravenstones in the Chew Valley where, despite the close-by urbanism, the moors have a growling sense of being untamed. The sun on your face and tiredness in your arms always bring out these feeling at these places.
WATCH: Respect the Rock: Peak District Bouldering at the Roaches
VS is one of the great grades, the gateway to harder, steeper climbing after the normally gentler grades of Severe and Hard Severe. It’s a grade to get stuck into.
Certain crags really rear up and gallop at VS. Black Rocks is one. There is half a dozen at the grade that will reward bold muscle – work after which you can really wear your VS badge. Along Froggatt and Curbar you can make your way and tackle the obvious king lines at the grade. If you start at Froggatt you will arrive at Curbar Gap sometime later, remembering the words of Johnny Cash as he described an abusive American penitentiary – “And I walked out a wiser, weaker man.” Finally, Stanage. The Queen of Grit, with its vast family at the grade, spawning the Stanage VS challenge, where people try to tick the grade in a day, a week or a year.
The book is available now from the BMC shop which is back in action.And to celebrate, not only are we offering BMC members 10% off the retail price, we also have a special offer of if you buy Peak District Grit you get ANY BMC guide half price just use the coupon code: GRZYN72M
BMC Member price £31.45 | Retail price £34.95
As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.
If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join