Sandwiched between a giant mat on my back and a heavy rucksack on my front, I carefully maneuvered along a narrow footpath. Holding the guide book beyond my rucksack I scrutinised the pictorial map. It looked fairly simple. Yet, for some reason we couldn’t make head or tail of it.
Surrounded by trees there were no landmarks to spot. It was obvious we were in the forest. Which section of forest was not clear.
I was pretty content just to be hiking through lush woodland. For me the hike was probably going to be the most enjoyable part of the day. So walking a bit further than required didn’t bother me.
We were in the Peak District and trying to find some rocks to climb. It felt like a trick treasure hunt. With the prize being a terrifying forfeit. One where you were required to push all boundaries and leave your comfort zone well and truly behind.
Winding round the corner we glimpsed impressive rocks to our left.
‘That must be it!’ I exclaimed.
‘Hmm not too sure’, Jonathan remarked not trusting my intuition.
We walked on and eventually came to a path leading up a hill. According to the guide book we needed to find ‘a steep approach’ to the boulders.
This path, it turned out was the one we needed. Lucky because our energy levels were diminishing. Clambering up the last stretch, trying not to fall over with all our gear, we mounted the top.
There in front of us was a menacing wall of gritstone otherwise referred to as Joe’s Slab. This towering boulder had routes up it suitable for advanced climbers (not us). However, from here our book advised us to walk on and find some more manageable beginner friendly climbs.
But first, it was time for lunch. We unclipped our mats, transforming them into sofas and collapsed in a heap.
The views away from the rocks were spectacular. Green hills rolled on for miles. Neatly formed fields were separated with dry stone walls. While, random splodges of trees covered patches of the landscape.
Munching on our hummus sandwiches we confirmed that we had made the right decision. That morning it was raining. So we thought we would drive to Awesome walls in Sheffield, to spend the day indoor climbing. However, as soon as we set off in the car the rain clouds vanished and the skies became slightly clearer.
We quickly set the sat nav to a climbing spot on route to Sheffield called Froggat to see if it looked dry enough to climb outside. Our guide book gave us the coordinates needed for parking nearby (GPS 53.27956, -1.63102). When we pulled up on the roadside just before a pub called the Chequers Inn, the sun put in a small appearance.
So there we were sat on the top of a hill enjoying lunch with no sign of rain.
Keen to get climbing, we chucked our lunch boxes back in our rucksack and legged it to Pinnacle Boulders to tackle our first bolder problem.
This gritstone boulder had cracks and ledges to hold onto, so didn’t look too hard.
Feeling brave, I said I would go first. The guide book – Peak Bouldering by Adrian Berry and Alan James gives you routes you can take to reach the top of the boulders and rates them with a level of difficulty. V B (beginner) being the easiest, followed by V0-, V0+ and then V1 – V17.
We placed the mats tactically under the first V 0 route and I reached for the start which looked to be two indents in the rock. Lifting my feet off the floor and slowly moving to the next hold I panicked. There was nowhere for me to hold onto if I proceeded and my feet certainly weren’t stable. I jumped down (from not very high at all).
Feeling deflated I spotted while Jonathan conquered his first climb. It is important as the spotter (person on the ground) to always be alert and move the mats to the spot directly beneath the climber, so should they fall they’d have a soft landing.
‘Look this is what happens if you fall,’ Jonathan tried to reassure me as he fell back onto the mat from where I gave up.
‘Oh did I miss that fall?’ an onlooker jested.
‘No, he was just showing me how safe it is to fall and how I shouldn’t be scared,’ I replied.
‘Ah, that is what he is saying anyway!’ the man joked.
I tried a few times, not getting very far at all, until I found a route which was more manageable.
I completed my first VB for the day and decided to do it three more times to gain confidence. This helped a lot. By the third time, I mounted the top with ease and then found the safe route down the other side smoothly.
With lots of these boulder problems once you ‘top out’ (clamber over the top of the boulder there is usually a safe route down the other side. If there isn’t you need to downclimb the way you went up.
After this route, Jonathan completed a few more and I tried a V 0 which I somehow managed to complete too.
We then started to feel some drops of rain so grabbed our stuff and headed to the car. This was again the right decision as the rain got heavier and heavier as we descended back down the hill.
Thankfully on the way back we figured out the quickest way without getting lost. On the last stretch back we ended up legging it to the car drenched by the rain.
The drive home was through sheets of rain and flashes of lightning. When we arrived back at Litton (where we are staying) the rain had cleared and the sun came back out. It just shows how temperamental the weather can be in the Peak District!
Best to be flexible with plans, prepared with waterproofs and always have a couple of rainy day activity options.
What do you like doing in the Peak District?