/ Good beginner crags in the Peak

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L jrclimber - on 12 Jan 2018

Hi Guys, 

My Girlfriend and I will be heading up to the peak in April-May time and will be taking a prepare to lead course to learn to Trad climb. The hope is that after this course we can head out on our learn and get used to this new form of climbing. As we haven't got any experience trad climbing previous to this trip I think we'll be looking for some very easy routes to get used to placing gear (VDiff, HVD and maybe Sev) are there any crags which are particularly rich in easy routes and if so where can we find them, any particularly good easy routes that we should look out for?

We'll probably do some sport climbing while we're up there at the horseshoe quarry although I'm aware this isn't what the Peak is famous for.

Thanks in advance!

Martin Hore - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

If you don't mind going to a fairly short crag popular with groups then you could do a lot worse than Windgather. Loads of climbs at the grades you want, close together, generally with good protection and much more friendly than most gritstone (lots of incut holds rather than slopers). There's a scarcity of anchors at the top which will give you lots of chance to practice those new gear placing and belay building skills in a stress-free situation (ie you're at the top). It's my go-to crag now for the first day of our club beginners meets.  High Buttress Arete (D) is a must-do classic, but there are loads of similar routes at the crag.

However, if your course has taken you to the bigger venues (eg Stanage) you might perhaps find Windgather a little tame - don't discount it though.


HB1 - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

Remember that there's a world of difference between Windgather (an excellent starting-off-on-grit venue) and Horseshoe (even though you've probably whizzed up a few indoor 5+/6as)


SuperLee1985 - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

The peak is a pretty beginner friendly place. Pretty much wherever you go there will be plenty of stuff for you to have a go at.

If you have not done so already, get yourself a copy of eastern grit before you go.

Having said that, Burbage North and Birchen are both exceptionally good for beginners and have nice short walk-ins (Burbage in particular).

Froggatt has the classic Heather Wall (HVD) which is a superb beginner lead, as well as few other offerings (although the easier areas can be over-run with groups).

There's tons of stuff at Stanage although the easier routes near the popular end tend to be pretty polished so you'd be better off going to high neb/plantation. Given how big it is, it might be a bit trickier finding your way around and getting to the buttress you want compared to some of the other areas.

Martin Hore - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

Second thoughts from me. If you're starting off with a learn to lead course then the best people to ask for advice on venues to practice what you've learnt will probably be the instructor(s) on the course. They will know what stage you've reached and where would best suit you. Hope it all goes well - trad climbing is great!


Post edited at 11:29
Rog Wilko on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to Martin Hore:

Just one comment to add about Windgather - I can think of several routes there I wouldn't recommend to a novice leader as they are very poorly protected. If you look in the route pages for the crag on UKC you'll pick up which ones they are when you trawl through people's comments. 

As Martin says some of the routes have poor top anchor placements and that includes a lot of well used ones which are loose when given a kick.

Great venue for the OP's purposes though.

two_tapirs - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to Rog Wilko:

Head over to Stanage plantation and walk over to Away From It All area - some Mods and diffs there that are ideal for learning to place gear on on short routes that shouldn't get into your head. Not high stuff at all, maybe 8-10m.  It's also good for being able to talk to your second whilst you're getting comfy with building anchors.

Stanage Plantation

Wayne S - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

Windgather, Burbage North are good suggestions, so is Birchen though select carefully as some starts are disproportionately hard on a few routes there.  Worth noting that protecting grit in some cases can be reliant on cams.  Stanage and Froggatt have some great routes, but easier routes are just a bit more spread out.  Windgather , Burbage and Birchen are great venues but have a lot of good low grade routes, but not great routes (hopefully that makes sense!).  Worth remembering some easy routes can still have very poor gear, the promenade at Birchen,  monkey wall at Burbage and a small number of the face type climbs at Windgather are good examples.  

A bit of a walk between routes but Hollybush Crack, Crack and Cave, Mississippi Chimney and Heaven Crack at Stanage Popular are all good routes with good gear.

Enjoy your course and trip.


Post edited at 20:54
Mr S. Man - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

Most of the 3* Stanage beginner classics are 3* for a reason, always a good place to start. When I was a novice leader I found Burbage North and Birchens very friendly. Of the peak crags I went to early in my leading career, I'd probably leave Froggatt, Gardoms and Lawrencefield till you have more experience.

Baslow is quiet and has some good low grade routes but it can be fun setting up to bring up a second.

spenser - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

A bit of an odd suggestion would be Rivelin Edge, usually very quiet, a nice sun trap of a crag in winter and some good low grade routes with straightforward belays using trees.

Harborough Rocks is also good for this purpose but you will quickly outgrow it as a venue for roped trad climbing.

Grey area - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

If you want to practice without looking like a noob in front of everyone you could always go to castle naze, plenty of low grade climbs and usually pretty quiet.

Gordon Stainforth - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to spenser:

Harborough's good for a first day or evening.

SouthernSteve on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

Birchen (hard starts) but generally lots of gear and Burbage North

The top belays at Windgather can be 'thin'

spenser - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Yes, I didn't mean to give the impression that it wasn't good for people just starting out, more that it would probably feel a little disappointing as a venue for trad once they have more experience.

It's a pretty fab little crag for evening soloing though, the Oread MC has a tradition of going climbing after work 2 wednesdays before christmas every year, the usual venue of Black Rocks has now changed to Harborough which yields a much more conventional evening of climbing!

Gordon Stainforth - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to spenser:

Yes, Harboro definitely best suited as a first time venue. [PS. I used to be an active member of the Oread (or perhaps I was only a provisional member?) until I stopped climbing.]

spenser - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I'd seen your name mentioned in relation to the club, the provisional/ prospective member period used to be quite long so being an active and involved member of the club wouldn't have been incompatible with being a prospective member.

If I remember correctly you still live somewhere in the southern Peak, if you'd like to come along on one of our walks/ meets I'm sure you'd be more than welcome and may well see a couple of familiar faces.

Offwidth - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperLee1985:

I'd disagree with almost all of that. Burbage is usually too polished, Birchen has too many hard starts and Heather Wall is a classic jamming crack.  When will people learn there is a world of difference between crags with many lower grade routes and crags that are excellent for beginners leads. Popular End has many excellent routes where the polish is irrelevant (and where not, like Crack and Corner, they are not beginner's routes). Windgather is the best venue I know., Wharncliffe is almost as good. I'd advise avoiding anything with more than a star for learning the ropes as the polish will be less, and the hassle from others non existant. For a wilder experience some of the "Over the Moors" crags are fabulous... especially Dovestones Edge in the Chew valley.

Gordon Stainforth - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to spenser:

> If I remember correctly you still live somewhere in the southern Peak, if you'd like to come along on one of our walks/ meets I'm sure you'd be more than welcome and may well see a couple of familiar faces.

Yes, we're out walking most Sundays ... but I don't climb any more.


TobyA on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

Lots of good advice above, but one suggestion of something to invest in if you are coming to try Gritstone and that's a 240 cm sling. I bought one of the fatter nylon ones purely because it was a few quid cheaper than the skinny dynema ones BUT that turned out to be a blessing as you see skinny ones cut and abandoned in boulder-chokes, round chockstones etc. regularly. The fatter old school nylon rarely gets trapped that way. Anyway, on grit I use that big sling loads to build a belay at the top of routes, as so often a big boulder or flake will be the main part of your belay. You can get one for a bit more than a tenner, and it's money well spent.

Mark Kemball - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

VD / S seems a sensible grade to start with, but you need to be careful with some HVD, they can sometimes be ridiculously undergraded, particularly if you have an older guidebook!

two_tapirs - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Harborough's good for a first day or evening.

Low grades at Harborough can be quite polished in places.  Trust me, I've bricked it on them.

Gordon Stainforth - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to two_tapirs:

It's good for top-roping beginners ... in parts. Some is too hard. And also, good for experienced climbers to do so some quite high-ball soloing. Also v good for strenuous traversing.

teh_mark on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to jrclimber:

There are some very amenable routes at the Roaches too, on the Lower Tier and Skyline. Burbage North also has a lot to go at between mod-severe that's well-protected and not overly polished; it'y my go-to crag if I'm on my own and fancy soloing some easy routes. A leftfield suggestion from me would be Baslow - not much there but I found it good to kill a morning, and you'll quite possibly have the place to yourself.

I disagree with Birchen. Some routes have disproportionately hard starts, some routes are really quite polished, and some routes have both. Between that and the crowds I've never really got on with the place.


Blue Straggler - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

I am with you in spirit, regarding your reply. 

Lots of folk writing off Stanage when there is plenty to go at there albeit I must admit some of the lower grade is rounded with little pro apart from nests of cams which the OP might not have - you are just expected not to fall! So route selection is important. 

Wharncliffe would be a good call but for the fact that walking around the bottom of it is an absolute bind, that rubble field....

I think Burbage North is a good call, and just to throw in a curveball, CURBAR actually has a few nice Severes with good pro and satisfying steep moves. Not sure about sub-Severe Curbar though and it's probably not really a sensible suggestion. So I'll also throw in Dovestones Tor where I had a nice day climbing HVD and Severe in 2017

c9smith8 - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to Wayne S:

Have to agree with Stanage, did my first leads there, and having to find pro on some of those routes without hundreds of cams gives a quick learning curve! Also, almost all the routes have the easiest, bomber anchors I've come across. And the mass of climbers around give a great "help, what should I do?" resource.

Can recommend Hollybush crack, lots of good gear, and a thread before the "hardest" section for a confidence boost. 

Wayne S - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to Mr S. Man:

The list of Stanage Popular routes I put forward were selcted very carefull to pick only well protected routes.  Not sure just grabbing three star routes is a good guide however.  Flying Buttress is an awsome 3 star VD, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a route to learn to lead on as it’s bold initially, then polished, then knacky rounded grit at the top.

Unlike Offwidth I think Heather Wall at Froggatt is a pretty good suggestion, I wouldn’t say jamming is mandatory (old school values aside), and the gear is perfect. The problem lies thereafter, other than Nursury Slab, Trapeze, Slab Recess it’s slim pickings until HS and Green Gut, and Sunset Crack.

I think Windgather and Harborough, are really good options, but Stanage wins on pure class! 





Wayne S - on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to c9smith8:

Hollybush has to be a contender for best VD anywhere in my book!  I think it’s hard recommending easier routes something’s, as it’s easy to forget what starting out is like.

Offwidth - on 15 Jan 2018
In reply to Wayne S:

I've tried Heather Wall with beginners.  The start is pretty brutal if you can't jam, its a much better beginner lead if you bypass it. I think people learning to lead should be avoiding classics until they are OK with the basics. Two good reasons to avoid it. Hollybush Crack is in the same group in my view... a brilliant route but a poor beginner lead where you might be holding others up.

Gordon Stainforth - on 15 Jan 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

I could never understand why Heather "Wall" was ever given anything more than Diff, quite frankly. ... I mean it. It must be about the easiest jamming crack on the planet.

Wayne S - on 22:23 Mon
In reply to Offwidth:

Hi Offwidth, this is perhaps your cue to list some routes of your suggestion!  Well protected, no trick moves, no grit weirdness and good and worthwhile.  Oh, and more than one good route on any particular crag!  

RE Heather wall, we are talking learning to lead, not learning to climb!  I maintain most people starting out would avoid all jamming on HW anyway.  Just because the odd guide book bangs on about jamming it, it really isn’t obligatory :-p 


Gordon Stainforth - on 23:03 Mon
In reply to Wayne S:

In 1968 we came from Harrisons, with no ability to jam whatever. We just stuck our toes in the slab-angle crack and walked up it. Even then, with all our crap gear etc and non-sticky boots, it scarcely felt like a rock climb, it was so straightforward. 

Offwidth - on 08:59 Tue
In reply to Wayne S:

I'm aware of that: the bulging start of Heather Wall is still tough for a HVD unless the lead beginner is very strong or used to natural grit and jamming from seconding or tr. I taught hundreds of student beginners to lead on grit in their early days of climbing (also on snowdonia rhyolite) over nearly 20 years. Some well protected grit classics like HW caused more problems than I expected. Windgather, Wharncliffe and quarried grit routes worked much better as they could concentrate just on leading rather than dealing with inexperience on  technical areas like rounded holds and jamming. I acknowledge things have changed a bit and some people now spend years climbing and get very strong and technically able before trying their first trad lead. However, I'm sick to death of watching people dog classics as their friends encourage unethical early leads on inappropriate routes; especially at Birchen where gear placements have been trashed on some routes. If anything, this sort of bad practice seems to be increasing a little bit.

Post edited at 09:14
Offwidth - on 09:10 Tue
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

In the early 1990s, when I started teaching people to lead on grit, Heather Wall was a Severe as was a much better first lead at that grade, Black Hawk Hell Crack. There were hundreds of grit Diffs that were sandbag graded and harder than these routes. In the current modern view these two routes are HVD and the old sandbag Diffs now range from severe to VS in the latest guidebooks.

Post edited at 09:12
Rog Wilko on 09:58 Tue
In reply to Offwidth:

It would be quite easy for a novice leader with little grit experience to take quite a nasty ground fall from the start of H W. Shiny footholds which are also a bit sketchy IIRC coupled with a jamming crack which bulges quite a bit probably merits severe for an onsight whatever the rest of the route is like. It's all too easy for people who've soloed it dozens of times to tell the novice that it's overgraded and really only diff.

Andy Peak 1 - on 10:42 Tue
In reply to jrclimber:

Hi Welkom to climbing in the Peak, you will soon find your own way and what’s sensible for you to be climbing or not.

Go out wach others chat and learn, remember the only limits are the ones you set yourself and you can climb down as well as up 

Ther are also a few nice sport routes on garage buttres at Stoney Middleton just up the road from horseshoe,  you can call in and look at the trad ranging from Vs when you get good at placing gear.


Offwidth - on 15:58 Tue
In reply to Rog Wilko:

If you fall off any lower grade route you tend to hit something and this is often bad news. I know someone very experienced who badly sprained an ankle on a slip on Heaven Crack (which is nearly as steep as VD gets) and people who had bad sprains from slipping off the first polished foothold of routes or problems. An E6 leading friend of mine fell out of Swimmers Chimney  on an onsight attempt on Brightside!. I know a Guide who was sued by his client after begging to be allowed to lead a VD after numerous sessions and then falling and getting injured.  Unexpected falls happen and are a very bad idea for novices on lower grades and I prefer to leave a healthy safety margin if I'm 'teaching' leading; at least until I know they are OK on technique and gear placements at the sharp end ( if they are obvious liabilities on rock they wouldn't have been with me in the first place). Macho posturing about such caution is par for the course from some on UKC (but unusual for Gordon).

Post edited at 16:00
Wayne S - on 21:42 Tue
In reply to Offwidth:

All routes are dangerous if you fall at the wrong time, wrong place or with the wrong gear.  But that’s hardly a reason to dissuade people from climbing.  I don’t see HW as tricky at HVD, but then we each have our preferred style.  It has gear before you even leave the ground and more than you could carry thereafter, so struggling to understand the ground fall potentially mentioned by Rog!!!?

The thread is about a good starter crag, and this has lead onto suggested routes.  I took the time to list out worthwhile but at the same time well protected routes at Stanage in good faith.  I think I put forward  some good safe suggestions.  

It’s easy to poke at other suggestions, I accept you don’t concur with my list.  So put those years to good use and suggest your own set of first leads.


Darren Jackson - on 22:29 Tue
In reply to Offwidth:

>...  Macho posturing about such caution is par for the course from some on UKC (but unusual for Gordon).

Stop being such a plonker... Gordon can speak for himself, but I suspect that macho posturing wasn't part of it.

P. S. I'll keep my thoughts about recommending Crack and Corner, at the Roaches, as a suitable beginner leader route to myself then? 


Post edited at 22:31
In reply to jrclimber:

Windgather or castle naze for grit.

Harborough rocks or maybe Brassington for limestone. 

A day on each rocktype over the wkend? 

Offwidth - on 13:43 Fri
In reply to Darren Jackson:

One of my favourite books is Gordon's youthful epic, due to messing up as a beginner, in Norway. As you know, he is a pal.  This is pertinant to Wayne's points.... I actually support climbers facing adventure and see reducing risk in climbing to 'an absolute mimimum' as oxymoronic.. we must all make up our minds what we are prepared to face (and then deal with any mistakes that increase risk) but its tough for beginners to judge that properly (or respond ideally to any mistakes). Some climbers I know very much had an 'improve fast or get hurt' approach when they started particular climbing games.. takes a strong stomach to watch and I do wonder how many others with a similar approach did get badly hurt and stopped climbing.

Where I might differ from Wayne is I'd prefer beginners to modify risk until they have their systems sussed out (and if they don't,  at least be lucky to survive and if possible as a bonus write an account as good as Fiva). I think if someone is teaching trad leading, its best to reduce risk further still as that makes learning basic leading skills more efficient and with less potential regret or even potential liability. I also advise avoiding classics as you lose that buzz of facing the best routes when you know what quality is, don't add damage to such routes if you fall and dog (as I witness way too often and with terrible consequencies at Birchen) and add unhelpfully to queues with resultant hassle. Hence, I really do fail to see many people gaining from HW as a beginner's lead route.  It's either too hard, or all over once you get started and being a classic tick might get you in an argument if you hog and dog.

On the request for my suggestions.. we have lots of route information on Offwidth, if people want our experiences of most lower grade grit in the Peak and I've already given good crags above (Stanage Popular in spring being great on most lower grade well protected routes below 2 stars, now we have cleared out all the sandbags in The BMC and Rockfax guides).




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