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Yorkshire bouldering: A biased appraisal

Posted on January 27 2015

Overshadowed by its headline grabbing southern neighbour the Peak District, the climbing in Yorkshire has always had a hint of mystery and intrigue about it. Living in Sheffield it can often be hard to realise that there is any climbing outside the Peak. Its one of the few places in the world where a publican can stay relaxed despite overhearing the words ‘rock’ and ‘crack’ in their establishment. Unfortunately for the Peak and the whole Sheffield ‘scene’ there’s a big fat elephant standing in the middle of it. What no one will admit to, is that if you like bouldering your far better off taking a drive up the A1M than hanging out in the Peak talking about snowballing.

The thing that makes Yorkshire special (aside form being God’s own county) is the volume of bouldering in relatively small areas. There is a lot of grit bouldering in the Peak but it can be pretty spread out. A day at Burbage south can easily end at Burbage north or even west with a long walk back to the car. By comparison the likes of Caley, Almscliff, and Brimham are veritable Fontainebleaus, with problems of all grades seemingly everywhere you look. The second, albeit slightly/very contentious point of consideration is that there is an argument that the lines in Yorkshire are simply better. I have heard it argued that the nature and size of the rock in Yorkshire lends itself better to bouldering, but before you smash your computer screen in disgust, lets leave it there, and simply say theres an easy way to find out.


A raised bastion of rock pushed up in the middle of the Wharfedale valley north of Leeds, you could be forgiven for thinking this is an old fortress from a distance. Given its position it catches every breath of wind coming up the valley, drying it, but also making it prudent to climb with half an eye on your pad lest it decide to visit the sheep in the neighbouring field. The scientific data may be lacking but people who spend a bit of time here will witness Almscliff’s unique micro climate. It can be throwing it down everywhere else but the clouds part above the cliff as if God himself is giving you his blessing to climb. The climbing is varied but unusually for grit much of it is on good holds in overhanging terrain.

Highlights include:

  • Matterhorn Ridge: 4+
  • The Crucifix: 5
  • Morrell’s wall: 6a
  • Flying arete: 6a+
  • Pebble wall: 6c
  • Syrett’s Roof: 6c
  • Deamon wall roof: 7a+
  • Crusis: 7b
  • The Keel: 7c


Standing at the top of Caley crag you can easily see across to the island like Almscliff protruding from the Wharfedale valley. Caley splits neatly into two, the aptly named ‘roadside’ and slightly further away ‘Claey crag’. Roadside is home to some of the most famous routes and boulders in the country (Ben’s grove 7b, High Fidelity 8b, blockbuster 7b-c) and sits sheltered in the lee of the south side of the valley. Caley crag is further along the same hill hidden in the forest. The forest is both the areas blessing and its curse. The grey tinge to the rock, excellent climbing and occasional deer could leave you thinking you’ve stubbled onto a British Fontainebleau until the winter rolls round, and all the holds turn green.

Highlights roadside:

  • Forked Lightening Crack: 6b
  • New Jerusalem :7a (soft?)
  • Bens Goove: 7b
  • Secret Seventh 7b+
  • Zoo york: 8a
  • Highlights Caley crag:
  • Mister Smooth: 6a
  • The Pinch: 6b+
  • Flapjack traverse: 7a
  • Unamed 7a+ on the ‘Horn’
  • Scary Canary: 7b+


Equally as popular with tourists as climbers, Brimham has the potential to be one of the best bouldering areas in the U.K. The volume of rock and the crazy configurations that make up the skyline, ensure varied and interesting climbing. Unfortunately the 50 acre site had until 2012 (when YMC Yorkshire Gritstone Vol 1 was printed) taken a lifetime of local knowledge to navigate. (There are some specific bouldering guides which cover the area but you would not be the first to tear one to pieces in frustration). It can get busy especially with all the tourists on nice days and weekends so if you don’t like an audience, sneak off to one of the many outlying areas. The other downside to the area is the expensive national trust parking. I have heard it rumoured that they cant actually legally enforce a parking fine but if you don’t want to find out there are a few spots on the road. Take care not to block it as it is narrow.

  • The Pommel: 6b
  • Acme Wall: 6c
  • Arthur: 6c+
  • Whiskey Galore: 7a
  • The Anchor: 7a+
  • Shinbone Alley: 7a+
  • Fantasy Leauge: 7a+
  • Harvey: 7b
  • Happy days: 7b
  • The Titfield Thunderbolt: 7b+
  • Pinky: 8a

Thomas King 

Bespoke Ski Holidays | Custom Ski Holidays Descent Travel

Overhang Ltd


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