REVIEW: BMC Peak Limestone North Guidebook

The author's elbows engaging in their salute to the pump gods of Peak Limestone, 153 kb
The author's elbows engaging in their salute to the pump gods of Peak Limestone
© Guy VG

There are a few things that, much like the BBC, a guidebook should do: inform, educate and - in my opinion - entertain. Maybe I spend too much time with my head nestled into climbing guides (it’s normal to have one by the bedside and on top of the toilet, isn't it?), but I want something more than a book that tells me where the routes go and how to find them…

Having moved to the Peak over two and a half years ago ‘the Lime’ has played a large part in my life, far larger than I might have expected. It’s a funny old medium, frequently polished, often loose, always hard (irrespective of the grade), and dusty (what’s with that?); yet despite all these oddities it is a strangely endearing medium to climb upon. Each route and each area are steeped in climbing history, making the experience of climbing there all the more memorable and whilst the routes may not match the grandeur of a Welsh sea-cliff or a Lakeland mountain crag they pack in an equally memorably experience. Peak Lime is a medium that you love to hate and somehow, even though you can't understand why, you always end up going back for more.


Since my original purchase of the guide it’s pages have kicked me into action and got me to visit a number of crags I’d never been to before: Central Buttress, Moat Buttress, Cupid’s Buttress, and the Cornice down Water-cum-Jolly; the perfect slabs, walls, and organ pipe tufa features at Staden; the rural bouldering spot at Conies Dale; Ravendale, with its multi-pitch delights in the evening sun; the esoteric wonder of Matterhorn Ridge; and, last but certainly not least, Horseshoe Quarry - the crag so many love to hate…

Windy Ledge, Stoney Middleton, 231 kb
Windy Ledge, Stoney Middleton
Rupert Davies close to explosion on Nemesis, 208 kb
Rupert Davies close to explosion on Nemesis

But with a guide such as this it's not just the new crags/areas it opens your eyes to, its the routes at the existing areas you’ve visited but never really noticed. This guide uncovers those routes well, with it’s large topos and different angles it unearths some routes that, quite frankly, I’d never even heard of!! It is also the first printed guidebook to include Stoney West, which was developed more thoroughly a few years back by Gary Gibson and has a great selection of mid-grade sport routes that are worth investigating.

Maybe I’m in a sad minority, but when looking through a new guide one of the first things I look at is…and I’m sorry to say this…grade changes/anomalies. Within this guide there are a few that will keep forum traffic and pub chat going for a few years: most notably Medusa and Scoop Wall at Stoney Middleton. For former received a rather unlikely downgrade and the latter received an equally unlikely upgrade. Whether or not I agree with either, the Scoop Wall upgrade did generate one of the best climbing films I have seen for some time - showing that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t all take things quite so seriously. Jokes aside though, Medusa is really bloody hard - be warned!

The move up to A5 format/size has allowed larger topos to be used throughout. Walk-ins throughout the Peak are infrequently long and the routes are very rarely multi-pitch, so the additional weight isn’t a problem. Maps and diagrams are of a minimalist style as a result exceptionally clear and easy to use, this is a great benefit to very complex areas such as Water-cum-Jolly and Chee Dale where there are multiple access points and crags on both sides of the river, it’s easy to get lost/confused - hopefully you’re less likely to with this guide!


The historical sections of the guidebook are stunning, with accurately written histories, interesting accounts, and some superb photography (both portrait and action) throughout the ages. However, for me one great disappointment was the absence of first ascent information - for reasons of size this was omitted and included within a PDF download. I am a guidebook fanatic, but I am a guidebook fanatic without a printer, hence have this information on my computer but no hard copy - printing out would be a hassle and taking it to the crag as a separate volume would be inconvenient and annoying. Furthermore, to people visiting the area for the first time first ascent information is actually quite valuable as the first ascentionist often says a lot about the route you’re about to get on. Whether it was Livesey, Fawcett, Proctor, Moon, Moffatt, or McClure their name beside a first ascent says alot about the character and style of the route you are about to get on. Whilst I understand the reasons for their absence, I think as a definitive guidebook it was an error, as it excludes much of the information that makes them such an invaluable resource.

Chee Dale Historical, 168 kb
Chee Dale Historical
Water cum Jolly Historical - Peak Limestone North , 173 kb
Water cum Jolly Historical - Peak Limestone North

Stoney Middleton Title Page, 168 kb
Stoney Middleton Title Page


The guidebook is filled with a selection of stunning action shots, both old and new. Each crag has a real showpiece that inspires you to go there, with Ian Parnell’s shot of Steve McClure on Windhover at Stoney being a particularly good example (see image above). Besides this, contributions from Adam Long, Tim Glasby, Alex Messenger, Mike Hutton, Paul Evans and Chris Lockyer (just to name a few) really stand out. 

BMC Guidebook Editor Niall Grimes (aka. Grimer)'s humour comes through on countless occasions and the introductions to many of the crags are particularly enjoyable, none more so than with Stoney Middleton:

"Stoney is a brilliant crag with brilliant routes, much malalinged by those who judge books by their scruffy, dusty, polished covers."

That said this guide is very much a team effort, with Gary Gibson and Ian Carr heading a large team of volunteers who offered countless hours of their own time to produce this fine work. Let's hope that the success of this guidebook will encourage them to head south over the coming months in order to produce the next edition of Peak Limestone South soon!

What the BMC say:

BMC Peak Limestone North , 220 kb
A guide to the trad climbing, sport climbing and bouldering on the northern limestone crags of the Peak District. Stoney Middleton, Horseshoe Quarry, Chee Dale, Water-cum-Jolly, Raven Tor, Harpur Hill and many more.

The dales, ridges, caves and quarries of the White Peak have a great spectrum of climbing styles and levels of difficulty. Airy trad leads high above the valley at Stoney Middleton; technical, vertical sport climbing on Horseshoe Quarry's classic walls; savage lakeside bouldering on Rubicon; out-of-the-way grade sevens on Water-cum-Jolly’s Moat Buttress and Cornice; history-heavy pumpfests battling up Raven Tor’s mighty walls; getting groovy on Chee Tor, ferny-but-flawless Extremes; going for one more redpoint in the evening light on Two Tier Buttress; power-draining undercutting in the shady cool intensity of Chee Dale's Cornice; bridging big space as the ravens circle close on a Ravensdale VS; rattling off a dozen leads in three hours at Harpur Hill; drenched in the late sun of an August evening on Smalldale's fantastic Main Wall.

CLICK HERE to buy a copy from the BMC Shop

Rob Greenwood at the top of Matterhorn Ridge, 92 kb
The author after enjoying an esoteric and atmospheric outing up Mattternhorn Ridge
About the Author:

Rob Greenwood is the Advertising Manager at

He's a passionate climber, yoga addict and eater of vegetarian food. He has done more UK trad routes than he's had roast dinners (and that's got nothing to do with the vegetarianism).

Aside from UK trad, he's dabbled with alpine climbing, Scottish winter, Himalayan climbing and more recently Peak limestone sport climbing.

He keeps an occasional blog about his adventures here: Rob Greenwood Climbing

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