Where to climb in the Peak District when it rains

If you come down to the Peak today you’re in for a big surprise... it’s raining!

Don’t be put off; there are loads of options for climbing whether indoors or out. I climb all year round and have hardly been to a wall in the last year! After years of getting out there I've managed to get a feel for what's likely to be in condition on any given day, so to help you out here's a few tips. If you fancy a bit of a drive, the southern end of the Peak District can be worth a look. There's a lot of steep, quick-drying limestone down there, on generally good, pockety holds, but in this article I've concentrated mainly on the northern Peak District area, as it's closest to home and work for me, and extremely popular for locals and visitors alike.

"If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain" - Dolly Parton

Rainbow over Burbage South. Photo © Rob Turnbull

Firstly here are a few very quick drying crags if it’s just stopped raining:

Stanage Popular End

The most famous of all grit crags, it's popular for good reason, and in unsettled weather it's not a bad bet as it's is one of the quickest to dry, so long as there's a breeze! Stop for a brew in Robin Hood's Cave if it does start to rain, it'll be dry before you know it.

Sometimes, the best light occurs just after a storm.

Simon Kimber soloing Ellis' Eliminate. Photo © Dennis Bergmann

Stoney Middleton

Who says you can’t polish a turd? My favorite crag has sections that stay dry in the rain and often it has dried as soon as it stopped raining, as does the nearby bolted Horseshoe Quarry.


Yes, it’s hard, but the clean, exposed rock dries in seconds and often (being that tiny bit further south) gets slightly different weather to Hathersage. The same can be said for the end of Froggatt (Chequers Buttress), which is basically Curbar anyway.

Dennis Bergmann pulling into Elder Crack, Curbar Edge

The Burbage Valley

It’s always worth trying somewhere at Burbage because there are crags facing every direction, so if you’re hoping to get wind or sun, or avoid wind or sun there, is always somewhere to try. Also sometimes the rain comes down so sideways it blows straight over the crag; this happens a lot at Burbage West in particular. Plus, Higgar Tor is so steep you can climb on it in almost any weather, until you get to that heinous slopey top-out that is!

But it’s actually raining now! Here are a few crags to try if it's raining at the time.

Raven Tor (Miller's Dale)

THE Tor. The best hard sport crag in the Peak can be treated as an indoor wall most of the summer. Stays dry in full on downpours but be aware; it can seep in winter. The routes are hard (the warm up is 7b+) but don’t be put off: go down there, pick a route and don’t be ashamed to fall off every move, that’s what everyone does. Work on it and it will come. Also there is a ton of bouldering that will get you super strong.

Rubicon (Water-cum-Jolly)

A 2 minute approach will take you to a lovely spot by the river with lots of bouldering and traversing which again, can remain dry in heavy rain until the whole place floods or seeps!

Minus Ten (Stoney Middleton)

The original eliminate wall! Much less steep than the previous 2 options but it’s got more polish than Pledge. You can make your own problems up or follow the (strict) guidebook but it is a great training area and you will learn faith in friction! If you're after bolted routes, there's a handful on Garage Buttress that stay dry in the rain, although you may want to bring your belayer up to the ledge so they don't get a soaking. And should it absolutely shell it down, there's spooky caves to explore.

Bell Hagg

One for the connoisseur. We love it. Grit’s answer to Minus Ten is Burglar Buttress; a short steep lump with a huge capping roof that keeps it (nearly) dry all the time. Low level bouldering and traversing is the name of the game but unlike its limestone competitors it is littered with jugs. Start eliminating holds and there are some very hard problems to be had!

New Mills Torr (The "other" Tor)

Ok it’s a bit far from Hathersage but it’s ace. Trad, bouldering, sport, flood lit, all on grit and all under one roof! Confused? It is an odd place, but take a look in the Over the Moors guide to see what I'm talking about. The "other" Tor is steep quarried grit with great trad. It has trees capping most routes and a viaduct (!!) over the main wall keeping it very dry. The starts are steep making for great bouldering and someone has bolted the viaduct pillars to create the only sport climbing on grit. As if this wasn’t enough they've put up flood lights, so come rain or darkness, there’s no excuse!

Conditions can be a fickle thing, it takes many years of climbing on wet rock to learn where to go at any given time to get the best out of a bad day. Jon Fullwood wrote a great article on the Nectar Climbing blog that you may find useful, or, if you're visiting, you could just pop into the shop and chat to someone in the Rock Room for advice. We've also got a webcam, pointing towards Millstone, if you want live weather updates. It's a bit grainy (even though Dad's just cleaned the lens) but it gives you some idea of what the weather is doing before you head out.

Of course you could just climb anywhere anyway! Just occasionally, it’s adventurous and character building to get the waterproofs on and climb on in the rain. Not to mention a valuable skill to have if you have any alpine aspirations. Obviously lower your grade (a lot!), pick well protected routes and have fun! Or simply go aid climbing, an art that it is useful to know about!

If none of these take your fancy, and you're ready to admit defeat, then head to Hathersage to check out the Best Climbing Shop in the World Ever, before hitting one of the Sheffield climbing walls.

By James Turnbull

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James Turnbull
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Classic curry

Warning – if you don’t want fairly explicit beta on a Tremadog classic, stop reading now.

I stare up at the finger crack. It glares back at me. Both of us are a little exposed and potentially off-route, but only one of us is intimidated by the situation. Politely and with the barest tremor of outright fear in my voice, I call down to my second/wife (not second wife, I’m fairly sure) and query whether I might have inadvertently strayed onto an E5. Her voice comes floating back up from the comfortable belay spot – “gain the ledge and ascend the thin crack above”. Bugger. I’m in the right place. Mindful of the presence of my father-in-law on the same belay ledge below, I restrict myself to a few muttered profanities about the likelihood of this actually being 4b climbing. Whose idea was it to climb Christmas Curry anyway?

Our morning’s climbing at Tremadog had already gone fairly spectacularly wrong. We made the short slog up to Craig Y Gesail, then left Hannah’s dad and his climbing partner to the lovely looking Bramble Buttress, having spotted a promising-looking VS called Princess further to the right. The start was a touch vegetated, but undeterred I geared up and headed skywards. What followed could best be summed up as “might be off route – carry on anyway – definitely off route – unlikely traverse to attempt to regain route – awkward belay in a gorse bush – no idea where the route goes – traverse again – no idea where we are now – time to retreat… via an incredibly awkward abseil down a steep hillside full of brambles”. Hot, scratched, bruised and with our tails firmly between our legs, we decided stopping for lunch was the only sensible solution.


We're where again? | Hananh watches Phil disappearing into Christmas Curry 

Refueled and ready to go, I was fairly insistent that we left this particular crag behind and went somewhere else to try and do some actual climbing. Christmas Curry had been on my hit list for a while and the Micah Eliminate finish looked like it would add a little spice. Off to Bwlch y Moch we traipsed, (although with no attempt to pronounce it correctly) and after a brief diversion to the wrong bit of the crag, we arrived at the bottom of the route. Two and a half nice pitches later and here I am, the crack and I still eyeballing each other.

Having established that I am unfortunately in the right place, I slot a small nut into a very poor placement, purely for my own peace of mind and taking care not to tug it into place too hard in case it falls out (come on, we’ve all done it). I take a deep breath and look up at the crack once more. Come on, I did Three Pebble Slab the other day, why am I finding this so scary? Then, like one of those magic eye pictures you’ve been staring at for fifteen minutes, handholds and footholds suddenly materialise. It’s still intimidating but at least I can be fairly sure I’m not going to fall off instantly. I grasp the sidepull that’s appeared from nowhere and set off. Oh look, positive handholds and good footholds everywhere. Who would have thought it? The steep bit is over almost immediately and in a much more positive frame of mind I skip merrily towards the arête like a hyperactive squirrel, lobbing a cam in a crack on the way past and mentally chastising myself for being such a massive coward.

Disappointingly, hiding behind the arête and waiting for just this moment is a small put powerful gale force wind, which blows my recently-acquired confidence straight out to sea. Suddenly I wish I’d taken a little more time placing some gear that would, y’know, actually be of any use in a fall. Gibbering like an idiot and keeping as many body parts in contact with the arête as possible, I scramble upwards on reassuringly excellent holds and top out. Phew. Whilst waiting for the hyperventilation to calm itself down, I set up a belay and call to Hannah to start climbing. Sadly there’s no easy way to look down the route in order to make sure she’s just as terrified as I was so I sit back and relax (whilst keeping the rope tight of course, dear). As my heartbeat slowly returns to normal, as so often happens in these situations, the route segues swiftly in my head from “well, that’ll keep me up at night” to “awesome, let’s do it again”.

Eventually Hannah’s helmet appears over the top of the crag, she looks up at me and utters the sweetest words any climber can ever hear: “Crikey, I’m glad it was your lead. Pub?”

By Phil Parker
Web Customer Service

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Phil Parker
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MONDAY, JULY 6, 2015

Subservient Elephant

I have never climbed in the Rhinogs area of North Wales before and I have certainly never heard of Foel Penolau and Craig Galch, the two crags we climbed on. Foel Penolau is on the 2000’ contour line high above Llyn Trawsfynydd with commanding views towards Tremadog Bay and the Lleyn Peninsula. A series of short routes that pack a punch like ‘Do the Monkey’ E2 5c are well worth the effort on a good day.


However the stand-out route was on Craig Galch overlooking the Dwyryd estuary. ‘Subservient Elephant’ is a Mark Reeves /Leo Holding creation first climbed in 1998; it is given an unconfirmed E1 5b and 3 stars. Steve and myself can confirm that it is an outrageous E1 and definitely worth 3 stars. It has wild, ‘heart-in-your-mouth’ positions, just enough gear and holds that appear just when you really need them. On this occasion we gave it an extra star because as we topped out there was a peregrine falcon calmly watching us from a perch only 10m away.

As good as selective guidebooks are, you could well be missing out on some brilliant routes unless you consult some of the older, less fashionable definitive guides. Meirionnydd (The Climbers’ Club, 2002) is such an example because ‘Subservient Elephant’ appears nowhere else.

MONDAY, JULY 6, 2015
By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
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