There is no doubt that climbing has catapulted into the mainstream in recent years. The once quiet and fairly anonymous sport has rapidly become one of the fastest growing phenomenons in the extreme activity sphere. Indoor climbing gyms have sprung up in pretty much every big city in the country and thousands of people are finding their feet on these plastic holds every day. though, after a while nature comes calling. Climbing is, at its heart, an outdoor sport and for most people, the lure of real rock is impossible to ignore. Inevitably then, these scramblers make their way outside and start tackling some of the best rock faces our country has to offer. So, what are these faces and where can you find them? Keep reading this blog to find out more!
Why is climbing so popular?
You may well be thinking, why has climbing become so popular? In truth, it’s all a bit of a mystery really. Naturally, there has always been a certain air of intrigue around the whole subculture. Who, in their right mind, would climb hundreds of metres in the air with only a rope to save them? This is of course the question that most sceptics ask and it’s hardly surprising really. The answer though is quite simple. Because it’s there. Since the birth of humanity, we have always been a curious and adventurous bunch, always striving to find out what’s on the other side of that hill. So, when it’s stripped back to its bare bones, climbing is essentially just that. Curiosity and adventure.
Touching The Void
The secret behind the sport’s recent rise to popularity in the UK is, however, slightly more tangible. The 1988 book ‘Touching The Void’ tells the story of two young and ambitious British climbers as they attempt to summit the notorious west face of the Peruvian mountain Siula Grande. Until the book’s protagonists, Simon Yates and Joe Simpson attempted the climb there had never been a successful summit of the mountain via this route. The pair climb the west face successfully however on their route down they get into severe trouble and Simon Yates (unwittingly to him) cuts Joe Simpson loose from their safety rope causing him to plummet hundreds of feet down into a snow crevasse.
The remarkable part of the ‘Touching The Voids’ story is, by some miracle, Joe Simpson survives the fall and finds his way out of the crevasse. With a broken leg and several other severe injuries, the British climber crawls for days on end until finally, at the brink of death, his climbing partner Simon finds him metres away from the base camp at the foot of the mountain. The pair are both extracted from the mountain safely and after several operations and a year or so recovery, both Simon and Joe continue their climbing career.
Ever since the book’s release this miraculous story has inspired many in the UK and in fact the world to take up climbing. Now, after several more successful climbing books and films, the pastime is one of the most popular extreme sports in the world. So, where can you get your adrenaline fix right here in the UK?
The different disciplines of climbing
Before we dive into the best places which the UK has to offer it might be useful to discuss the different forms of climbing so you can understand what it is that you are looking for. Climbing, like many sports, has evolved over the years and with this evolution, multiple different disciplines within the umbrella of climbing have evolved. Naturally, there are a whole host of different climbing forms so we’ll just discuss the most popular today.
Traditional climbing or Trad for which it is known among the climbing community is a form of rock climbing where the climber must place all of the necessary equipment to scale the rock. This means as the climber ascends the face they place equipment in cracks and edges of the rock and attach a carabiner to these items. The climber can then clip their rope into this carabiner and ensure that they are safe. To many, this is the purest form of rock climbing as it leaves no trace.
Sport climbing is a discipline of climbing which relies on metal bolts being drilled into the rock to form a line (or route) up the face. Bolting is a hotly debated subject amongst climbers as many see this as unethical and a blot on the landscape. In the UK for example bolting is frowned upon in every instance and if a route cannot be climbed using traditional gear often this means it is never climbed. However, in America, the general view is if a route is not possible to climb Trad then you may bolt the line.
Due to the lack of self-placed protection, sport climbing has built up the reputation as the most athletic form of climbing and many of the hardest routes in the world feature large dynamic moves.
Finally, we have bouldering. This form of climbing features no ropes at all and climbers tackle smaller routes from which a fall would not usually cause serious injury. Usually, these climbs require you to ‘top out’ which essentially means the climber must stand on the top of the rock to consider the route complete.
Dartmoor National Park
Situated in the English county of Devon, Dartmoor National Park is unquestionably beautiful. After all, its rough hillsides and wild landscapes are the stuff of legend. Dartmoor is one of the UK’s many granite-rich areas and its hillsides feature a myriad of tall rock faces and formations. To the climber, granite is a highly respected stone and its coarse nature means those who have tackled difficult climbs on granite walls are given a huge amount of respect in the community.
The region is also known among the climbing community as one of the best locations in the country to practise outdoor climbing. The beauty of Dartmoor when it comes to climbing is it has something for every level of climber and every discipline of climbing as well. There are hillsides littered with exponential boulder problems such as Combeshead Tor for example. This is one of the best bouldering locations in the country and features the iconic Cuckoo Rock.
If you’re after more than just bouldering though there are also a myriad of brilliant Trad routes throughout the area for you to have a go at. It should be noted though that Dartmoor is extremely vulnerable to poor weather conditions and as such you should aim to visit this area in the summer months when you’re less likely to get caught out by the climber’s worst enemy. Rain!
The Peak District National Park
Situated in the northwest of England the Peak District National Park is one of the most popular climbing locations in the country. Famous for its gritstone the area hosts some of the most iconic climbing locations in the world. Stanage crag for example is known across the globe for its gritstone routes and some of the hardest crack-climbing routes on the globe. The routes in the Peak District range in difficulty and many climbers will find a few slabs of rock which feature climbs within their ability.
The Lake District National Park
The Lake District to many has the finest examples of outdoor climbing in the UK. The region hosts a myriad of incredible climbs and some jaw-dropping ascents of England’s tallest mountain Scafell Pike. Though there is also a range of brilliant climbs in lower altitude areas. What’s more, the Lake District is commonly considered one of the UK’s finest rock climbing destinations because of the range of rock which can be found in the area. So, climbers can experience a variety of different conditions and climbing styles.
The Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands really are iconic, not just to the climbing community but to the entire world. Their danger and mystery have inspired writers and storytellers for hundreds of years and ever since the birth of modern climbing the sports leading individuals have travelled here to test their skills. Ben Nevis is the UK’s tallest mountain and there are plenty of rock faces around the peak which provide incredible climbing for a range of competence levels. Though the rock is coarse and sometimes challenging to get to grips with, some of the routes in this area really are outstanding.
Honister Slate climbing
Here at Honister Slate, we have a variety of climbing experiences for all ability ranges so there’s something for everyone. What’s more, you’ll have the opportunity to climb in one of the most famous locations for the sport in the world. So, what are you waiting for? Contact us today and book your climbing experience!