At the moment, many of us are wondering when we’ll next be able to climb given that gyms are going to be closed for a while longer. Realistically, everyone’s next chance to get out bouldering will be outdoors, but for beginners or those with little experience outside this can be a daunting step to take.
We’ve put together a guide to some of the best bouldering spots for beginners in the Peak District to help you take this step and find somewhere suitable for your level and style! A relatively short distance from many major cities including Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Stoke and Nottingham, the Peak District is conveniently located and offers some of the best and most famous bouldering in the UK.
Once you’ve picked a spot, you’ll want to get your hands on a decent guidebook and a bouldering pad or two, but other than that all you’ll need is what you usually take to your local gym and some warmer clothes! Bouldering outdoors is a great way to progress in the sport and is guaranteed to offer a totally different experience to gym climbing - see below for our top destinations to get started.
Cratcliffe & Robin Hood Stride
Although often seen as two separate locations, Cratcliffe and Robin Hood's Stride are within a short walk of each other and therefore offer a huge amount of variety of bouldering in a very compact location. Both areas are around a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest parking, and are very scenic with plenty of shade for a picnic. Located near Matlock, it is best suited to access from those living in Sheffield or Chesterfield, but the drive isn’t too far from Derby or Nottingham either.
Both locations have their own easy and intermediate circuits which feature mainly slab and vertical problems, making it perfect for a beginner boulderer. The quality of problem is generally great, although the rock at Cratcliffe can get a little green at times, especially the problems closer to the trees.
These locations are also a great option for beginners who are going for their first outdoor bouldering session with more experienced friends, as there are plenty of classic harder problems here such as Jerry’s Traverse and T Crack, so there really is something for everyone.
Not far from the Burbage area, Higgar Tor offers highly varied bouldering within a very compact location. The jumble of boulders means that there are loads of problems to have a go at, but the landings are rarely flat so you’ll definitely want to go with a couple of pads and spotters.
There are easy and intermediate circuits here which should suit many styles of climbing. Many of the easier problems are on the eastern side of the tor, and given the high nature of some of these the area is perhaps a little more suited to intermediates. That being said, there’s still plenty for beginners to try out, especially when accompanied by more experienced friends. Ultimately, the area is a great option for a day out in the Eastern Peak without having to battle the crowds of busier areas.
Image: UK Climbing
Possibly one of the most iconic bouldering areas in the UK, Stanage Plantation is well-known for its fearsome classics like Careless Torque, Brad Pit and The Joker. Despite this, it remains a very established spot for easier problems, although these tend to be more on the intermediate end of the scale.
Most of the bouldering sits just below the imposing Stanage Edge, and its very close proximity to Sheffield make it a hugely popular spot, so it will be busy in good conditions. There is a 26 problem easy circuit spread out across the area, but there is a fair bit of walking involved and some of the problems are a little high, so take care! While this is perhaps not the most beginner friendly area on our list, it is worth the trip purely to climb on some of the best rock in the Peak.
For climbers living on the western side of the Peak District, The Roaches offers the best and most varied bouldering in Staffordshire. The area is broadly split into the Upper Tier and Lower Tier boulders, with the Upper Tier offering some of the best-known problems. There are easy circuits at both tiers, and there is a bit more variety than some of the other beginner-friendly locations in the Peak in that you’re not limited to mainly slabs.
The approach to the main boulders is never more than around 15 minutes, but the area can get very busy in good conditions so you may have to park a little further away. There is also a great variety of harder problems for more experienced climbers to go at, so The Roaches is a great destination for a group of climbers of differing abilities.
Burbage South Valley
Among the wider Burbage climbing area, the South Valley is absolutely the most beginner-friendly, with perhaps the most easy blocs in the smallest area out of the whole Peak District. All of the main boulders are within a short walk of each other and are situated in a rough circle, making them perfect for the easy and intermediate circuits located there.
Most of the climbing is on slabs or verts, and the holds are mostly rounded, meaning that the area is much more suited to cool conditions when friction is higher. Most of the landings are fairly flat and there aren’t too many highballs, so the number of beginner climbs is much higher than most locations.
The approach from the closest parking is around 20 minutes, but the area is nonetheless always busy in good conditions. This certainly isn’t a bad thing for most beginners as it means more people to learn from. The final benefit is the proximity of the lovely Fox House pub to the main parking spot!
One of the lesser-known spots on our list, Wimberry is located far from the highly popular venues of the Eastern Peak yet is still a well-developed area with easy access and a large number of beginner intermediate problems. Situated not far off the A635 coming out of Manchester, the spot is ideal for newer boulderers near the Northern Peak who want to find quality problems without travelling too far.
Wimberry has both easy and intermediate problem circuits with 25 and 23 climbs respectively, each of which should offer plenty to those who are relatively new to outdoor bouldering. The landings are generally flat and the blocs a good height, so you won’t need to haul a load of huge pads out with you - a couple to cover the landing area will do fine.
While there are a good variety of climbs, many of the easier problems are more on the slabby side of things, which generally means you’ll be prioritising technique over strength, and you’ll want to avoid overly downturned climbing shoes.
Cover image: beyondtheedge.co.uk