BMC Peak Limestone South Review

Peak Limestone South Cover  © BMC
Throughout much of 2017 Peak Limestone South was the talk of the town (well…Sheffield and the UKC Forums…): "when is it coming out?", "will it arrive in time for Christmas"? As with a great many guides the answer is "later than you expect" and "no", but when it does arrive it is almost always worth the wait. The timing could be said to be perfect too, as winter has finally gone and spring is here (and along with it sun and sport).

Peak Limestone South covers a vast area too, from the Manifold Valley in the West to Pleasley Vale in the East, then the wondrously named Nuda's Tartan in the North to Dovedale in the South. Not only does it span a large geographic area, but it spans a wide range of styles too with trad, sport, and bouldering available. In terms of aesthetics it's a similar state of affairs, with crags like High Tor being on a par with the best that Britain can offer nestled amongst the pages of some of our fine Isle's most unfortunately named crags (Turkey Dip Rocks being a personal favourite). The joy of this blend is that this is a guide that will appeal to both local and visitor alike.

Anyhow, to break things up I'm going to follow suit with the review I did of Peak Limestone North Guide and break it down into three categories: inform, educate, and entertain.

The author having been both informed, educated, and entertained by the fixed gear on Wall of Straws, Dovedale  © Duncan Campbell
The author having been both informed, educated, and entertained by the fixed gear on Wall of Straws, Dovedale
© Duncan Campbell


Lest we forget, a guidebook's primary function is to guide us towards areas, then up routes, and this is something that Peak Limestone South succeeds in doing from the moment you open its pages. The Crag Beta Pages at the beginning of the guide give a good breakdown of crag quality, conditions, the style of climbing available (plus a breakdown of the quantity within each grade band), and finally the best season to climb there. As a first time visitor this is an invaluable resource, as it tells you a lot of things that it would ordinarily take years to find out. If that weren't enough each crag has its own introduction with further details on aspect, sunshine, season, conditions, and 'best for'. In short, you're not lacking on detail!

Just to give you a bit of an idea behind the star system, here's a quick breakdown of a few familiar and less familiar names:

Five Star: High Tor, Wildcat, Beeston Tor
Four Star: Willersley, Reynard's Arch, Tissington Spires, Dovedale Church
Three Star: Pic Tor, Masson Lees, Pleasley Vale, Lorry Park Quarry, Intake Quarry
Two Star: Cawdor Quarry, Lime Kiln Quarry, Royston Grange, Boardwalk Cave
One Star: Bend Tor, Nuda's Tartan, Ossam's Crag, House of Commons

Peak Limestone South Sample Page  © BMC
Easter Island upgraded to E2 and given 3 stars, an interesting choice for a crap route


Within Peak Limestone North the most educational feature was the historical sections on each area's developments. Whilst there are a few of these within Peak Limestone South, what really deserves a special mention - not least because I made such a big deal about its absence in my reviews of Lancashire Rock and Peak Limestone North - is that this volume has the complete first ascent list for both North and South areas. What's all the more important is that this is no ordinary first ascent list, as it covers ALL first ascents and is crammed full of anecdotes and notes that give each of the routes involved that bit of extra colour.

Whilst I'm not sure it necessarily fits under 'educate' (my self-imposed system is getting the better of me), one thing that the great many action shots and topos do is give you a good impression of what each of the crags is are like. Having thumbed through this guide almost constantly since it arrived, one thing that keeps striking me as I flick through is how many routes and crags I was unaware of and that I really should make the effort to go to: Wildcat, Slaley Brook Quarry, The P, Long Tor Quarry (just to name a few). Each have images associated with them that make you wish to go there. A striking example of this is Lorry Park Quarry (second only to Turkey Dip Rocks in terms of unappealingly named quarries), which is brought to life through the archive image of the first ascents in the 80s to modern day activist Jon Clark throughout the early 2000s to present day. Incidentally, Lorry Park Quarry should be on anyone's list operating in the high 6s/low-mid 7s, don't let the name put you off!


Urrm, ok - I really have come unstuck here. Retrospectively I should have abandoned the whole BBC inspired adage when I finished writing the Peak Limestone North review, but here we are.

I guess the final word on entertainment comes from the routes themselves, many of which have seen a bit of an overhaul in recent months courtesy of local activist Gary Gibson, who has given Beeston Tor and Ravens Tor (Dovedale) a good seeing to.

Peak Limestone South Sample Page  © BMC
Thors Cave: a hidden gem brought to light and undoubtedly one of the weirdest places to climb in the Peak


Peak Limestone South has a whole lot of climbing between its covers. Due to the breadth and range of venues and styles there really is something for everyone too, from the visitor wishing to climb athlete premier venues all the way through to the local in search of the deepest darkest quarry. The addition of first ascent information in the current volume is great to see, and overall it really does justice to the BMC's definitive guidebook collection.

What the BMC say:

Peak Limestone South Cover  © BMC
Peak Limestone South, the latest definitive guidebook from the BMC, is out now! This volume shines its light on the magnificent trad and sport climbs in the Matlock area: sizzling runouts on High Tor; mid-grade classics on Wildcat Crags; shady pleasures at Willersley Castle; Brassington's Dolomitic mini-crags; a lazy lifetime of Dovedale gems; the manyfold joys of the Manifold Valley; Beeston's pocketed symphonies; reclusive sport in the Wirksworth hinterland.

Some facts:

  • 64 crags
  • 2000 climbs ( = total guess x 1.3)
  • Best crags: High Tor, Willersley, Wildcat, Beeston Tor, Thor's Cave, Tissington Spires, Ilam Rock, Ravens Tor
  • Best crags you won't know: Shining Cliff, The P, Upper Tor, Roystone Grange, Pike Crag, Drabber Tor
  • Best quarries: Long Tor Quarry, Lorry Park Quarry, Masson Lees, Intake Quarry, Blue Yonder
  • Best bouldering: The P, Shining Cliff, Miner's Ten, Rheinstor, Boardwalk Cave, Harborough Rocks
  • The best crag that shouldn't be in there: Pleasley Vale
  • 453 pages, A5
  • Contains full First Ascent details for both Peak Limestone North and Peak Limestone South

For more information visit BMC

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25 Apr, 2018

Brilliant guide, made our first quick passing foray to 'The P' on Monday after getting the guide. I remember dismissing the choss around the corner from Pic Tor as completely useless in around 1980! How times change, brill bouldering wall esp. if you like polished limestone sit starts (which I do). 

The BMC have really set the bar high with the Peak Limestone series, although I wish Shining Cliff (also in Matlock Bath) had been kept a secret. Girding our loins now to clip the bolts in the seductive quarries above the big Sainsburys. The guide really has a wide variety of venues!

The only minor downside is the inclusion of 80 odd pages of first ascents and index to the whole of the Limestone area. This really needs to be online now as a reference resource, rather than lugging it around. Minor niggle only.

I guess it's a shame this wasn't split originally, hence it's larger/longer than it might have been. Still, 'lugg around' could be a bit of an overstatement - I doubt there's a single crag in the guide that has more than a 10 minute approach and 90% of them are single pitch anyway. 

n.b. re-reading the above I'm aware this could come across as a major response to a minor niggle, so apologies if it comes across that way - I haven't drunk my coffee yet this morning...

25 Apr, 2018

Are you entirely sure about that?

25 Apr, 2018

The reason there are 80 pages of FA details rather than 40 is because a majority of the guidebook committee decided to remove FA details from Peak Limestone North. Putting that sort of information online is the same as dumping it in the bin and detracts from the overall quality of the book. The addition of the info is,m as Rob says, something that adds substance, context and interest to the book. The BMC Peak Area made a big fuss about this decision and so the history went back in, with none of the predicted detriment to the book.

Lugging an extra 30grams around is undoubtedly a challenge, so maybe reframe it as "extra training"...

25 Apr, 2018

I do not like the references to routes that say 'overgrown and unclimbable. They should not be climbed or cleaned', when there are details of quarries that have no right of access. Years ago the National Trust decimated the trees in Dovedale, and now we are being asked not to clean some routes.  

I know Gary Gibson consulted widely before tidying up a lot of routes in the area, but where did the request to abandon these 'overgrown' routes originate. 

I have, in the past, done some of these 'overgrown' routes, and it does seem rather hypocritical to to ask you not to do these routes whilst positively encouraging you to trespass into banned quarries.  

 I have stuck my nose into, and climbed in, most if not all of these quarries, usually only once, and do not find them particularly attractive places, even if very convenient.

Also places like Roystone Grange and Manystones quarry were climbed on, but not recorded many years ago and I wonder how much effort was put into talking to some of the pioneers of climbing in this area.

John Gresty





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