Malham Cove, North Yorkshire

© kevavery

M alham Cove is the jewel in the crown of Yorkshire's limestone crags. A huge amphitheatre of perfect rock which offers classic routes of all grades and styles in a beautiful setting. The climbing here can be as intimidating as it is rewarding and a route on its huge central walls may require several visits before a successful "redpoint".

It is not unusual when climbing here, to be a spectacle for the swarms of voyeuristic tourists and school field trips that regularly frequent this popular local landmark. Though if you wish to get away from it all then the solitude of the Right Wing or Upper Terrace will offer an altogether more tranquil experience. And whilst Malham is particularly famous for its modern sport climbs some of which are amongst the most challenging of anywhere in the world, the sectors on the periphery are home to some of the highest quality traditional routes in the county, if not the country!

Climbers enjoying the lower wall  © kevavery
Climbers enjoying the lower wall
© kevavery, Jun 2008

A Brief History:

Some of the easier traditional climbs such as Clubfoot and Swingover were first ascended by Allan Austin in the 1950s. At this time the huge central area was still the realm of the aid climber and many hand-drilled bolts were placed to gain progress up its sheer and seemingly blank walls. As things progressed, more difficult traditional routes were added to the Upper Terrace and Right Wing with the likes of Tony and Robin Barley, Pete Livesey and Ron Fawcett all having their say. It wasn't until the early 1980s that sport climbing really took off though with big names such as Fawcett, Leach and Dunne all making their mark. The bolts that were once used for aid were now accepted as being suitable for protecting the sheer walls for free climbing, thus opening up a whole new world of possibilities. Interestingly though, this ethic never really migrated (in any particular degree) to the Wings or Upper Terrace and the two disciplines were able to sit comfortably, side by side. More recently Steve McClure brought the crag firmly into the 21st century with his ascents of Rainshadow F9a and Overshadow F9a+, both of which rank on a world scale in terms of difficulty and quality and both of which have only seen repeats from Czech climber Adam Ondra.

The Climbing:

"No more polished now than when I did the first ascent"

- Mick Ryan comments on his route Consenting Adults

Approximately 280 climbs. Sport climbing and traditional routes (single and multi-pitch) varying from 10 to 60 metres in length. Grades from F6a+ to F9a+ and Severe to E7.

The sport climbs range from short, burly and technical to long and pumpy with everything in between. Although there are routes in the F6 grade they are not the best in terms of quality and to get the most out of climbing here you need to be climbing at least F7a. The best routes are in the F7a to F8c range and if you fit into this bracket then you'll be rewarded with some of the finest and most classic that the UK has to offer! Take strong fingers and clean footwork!

The traditional routes are fantastic and certainly should not be overshadowed by the more popular sport stuff. If you climb between VS and E5 then top-notch outings abound. Just head for the Right Wing or Upper Terrace and you will be rewarded with excellent lines, on amazing rock, in a stunning position! Most of the routes are single pitch affairs but some multi-pitch climbs do exist.

The Sectors:

  • Lower Wall (aka The Catwalk) Sport Routes, Grades F6a+ to F9a+ Traditional Routes, Grades E3 to E6
  • Upper Wall (Cadenza/Obsession Areas) Sport Routes, F7a to F9a Traditional Routes E1 to E5
  • Carnage Area/Right Wing Traditional Routes Severe to E7 *NOTE- some nesting restrictions. Check the BMC for up to date information regarding access.
  • Upper Terrace Traditional Routes VS to E5
  • Left Wing Traditional Routes Dif to E1

Guy Maddox seconding Pikedaw Wall, HVS 5a (Copyright Oliver Wright)

Route Suggestions:


Jordan Buys on Power Ranger (8b+) Malham.  © Alastair Lee -
Jordan Buys on Power Ranger (8b+) Malham.
Alastair Lee
© Alastair Lee -


Mark Hetherington on Consenting Adults F7a  © kevavery
Mark Hetherington on Consenting Adults F7a


When to Go

South facing. Climbing is possible all year round. A Sunny winter's day with a northerly wind can provide perfect sheltered conditions. Seepage can be a problem after heavy rainfall but the area around Consenting Adults is always dry as are many of the routes on the Upper Wall. Unless the rain is blowing in on a southerly wind, you can climb on these sectors when it is actually raining. The right wing gets wet but also dries quickly. If the sun is shining and the temperature above 17 degrees then expect things to be hot and greasy. The right wing receives shade in the morning and the area around New Dawn is generally in the shade by 2 pm.

How to Get There

The busy village of Malham can be reached within a 20 minute drive of Skipton. From Skipton follow the A65 in the direction of Settle and The Lakes and just as you enter the village of Gargrave take a right turn at the Malham signpost. Follow this to Airton and then Kirkby Malham before finally reaching Malham itself. If approaching from the north then turn off the A65 at Settle, drive into its town centre and take a left turn in the market square (towards Kirkby Malham.) Take a steep and winding road over the moor and once you reach Kirkby Malham, continue to the village of Malham itself. Parking is available in the National Park Visitor's Centre and there is limited free parking on the roadside. Please park responsibly! Malham Cove is situated a pleasant 10 minute walk up the road.

Where do I stay?

Accommodation Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

Options here include Camping; try Town Head Farm (Tel 01729 830287) located just on the outskirts of Malham Village and only 10 minutes walk to the cove itself, Malham YHA (Tel 0870 770 5946) in the centre of the village. There are also numerous hotels, bed and breakfasts and bunk barns in the vicinity. Call Skipton Tourist Information Office on 01756 792809 for more details of accommodation in the area. Useful websites include and

What gear do I need?

For the sport routes a 60 metre rope and 12 quickdraws should be adequate. If you are here for the traditional routes then take a full rack of cams and wires as well as double ropes.

Gear and Supplies

Gargrave has a Co-op for last minute food stops. Skipton has major supermarkets and a good selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants as well as a branch of Ultimate Outdoors for your gear and chalk needs. Settle has all you would expect of a large town and is a useful stopping place for those approaching from the north. Malham itself has a selection of pubs and cafes with The Old Barn being a good place for your pre-climb coffee and cakes and The Lister's Arms pub being the place to be for post-climb celebrations (or drowning your sorrows) with it's excellent beer selection including cask real ales and Belgian bottled beers. It also serves a good selection of traditional and more contemporary pub food.

Other Activities

The surrounding area offers a wealth of opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast as well as numerous historical and cultural attractions. The Yorkshire Dales site offers some useful information on other activities in the area.

Instructor/Guides Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

Local Weather: Check MetCheck for up to date weather details.

14 Apr, 2009
Isn't the article missing a link to the current YMC limestone guide? I've just sent in an update to the list of crags that it covers to add Malham (and as many others as I can remember)...
14 Apr, 2009
Such a shame they bolted Yosemite Wall :0(
14 Apr, 2009
Why do you say that, it was an aid route on tatty fixed gear that was freed using fixed gear, surely a few well placed bolts are better than that?
14 Apr, 2009
But what about the added danger of not knowing whether the gear will hold? I think a route that was aided once and then freed by clipping into the old aid gear should be left as it is. Climbing is not a SAFE sport and should not be made so. There should always be a few of these type of routes just to scare the sport climbers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! On grit the gear would be left as it is.
14 Apr, 2009
What's the point of a clip up unsafe gear? It's neither one thing ort the other, you may as well do a sport route iwth an imcompetent belayer or by not tying in properly if you want to intriduce artificial levels of danger just to 'scare the sport climbers'. Besides, most of the sport climbers you see at Malahm have a pretty decent grounding in scary stuff as well. Anyway, on this particular route its a non-issue because I believe the local parish council objected to unsightly tat on the cat walk, that's why the threads on New Dawn were removed.
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