It was the day after Boxing Day, that weird ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of time between Christmas and New Year, where you can’t remember what day it is and it’s still acceptable to be in your pyjamas at three in the afternoon, surrounded by cheese and chutney. However this time, in an effort to jump start the new year, myself, my husband Joe and our friends Andy and Lucy decided to ditch the pyjamas (but not the cheese) and don a harness and some rock shoes for a few days climbing in the Peak District.
Unbelievably, even though I’ve been climbing for years, I have never been to the Peak District — something I realise now is an absolute travesty. For those of you like me who are not familiar with this area, let me introduce you. The Peak District National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Situated within a stone’s throw of both Sheffield and Manchester, it’s one of the UK’s busiest national parks and it’s easy to see why. It’s a veritable outdoor playground of superb climbing, great mountain biking, beautiful hiking and challenging trail running. Add to that a collection of picture perfect chocolate box villages with welcoming pubs and tea shops, piled high with amazing cakes and you’re onto a winner.
The nitty gritty
The rock here is gritstone and for the best climbing, ideally you need cold and dry weather. Too warm and the rock can get slimy. We were in luck weather wise, so we headed to Stanage Edge, the largest and most popular gritstone edge in the region — it stretches out for nearly three and a half miles. Dotted all the way along this face are route after route of great climbing, all graded between severe and the E’s — so something for everyone. The climbs aren’t long either, mostly single pitch of approximately ten metres — so you can get a lot done in a day.
Not having climbed on gritstone before, this was a new and very different style of climbing. Most of the holds are slopers, and for me at least there was nothing graceful about it — lots of puffing and grimacing! However if you learn to trust your feet and your hands, the rock is remarkably grippy and somehow you just stick. Then you have the cracks — hand jams, fist jams, knee jams, all the jams you can think of, except the tasty edible kind! Again I wasn’t used to this and it took me a while to figure out how to trust my position in the crack. I lost quite a lot of knuckle skin in the process, but eventually I got it and while the climbing was challenging — especially in the cold — it was really fun.
Where to stay
Being December we were on a limited budget and having made no reservations, we didn’t have a lot of choice. However, after a quick Google check while en route (thank you smart phones) we came across Thorpe Farm Bunkhouse. For the grand price of £15 a night you get a bunk, a fully-equipped kitchen and most importantly, hot showers and heating. If you don’t mind bedding down with a Daddy Longlegs or two, it’s a great find.
Where to refuel
The village of Hathersage is small, so don’t expect to find gastro cooking. What you will find though is a cosy pub or two, like The Little John Hotel that serve up hearty grub. The café that sits above Outside (an outdoor shop) is also a good pit stop for pre and post mugs of tea and bacon sarnies. Plus it’s above a gear shop full of goodies to lust and drool over.
What gear to take
This is a trad climbing area, so bring your rack ladies! Cams are a must for those nice cracks and a single 60m will be all you need for rope. My friend Lucy also brought a pair of crack gloves. Some people look down on these, but they gave her extra protection and confidence when going deep on the hand jams.
Kate is our new staff writer. If you haven’t met her yet, meet her here.