Well we headed for the Peak District this morning with the goal of climbing at Smalldale Quarry. This little sort of boutique sports crag is a well-known haven for all climbers with a varied range of routes from 5+ through to high 7’s on the main wall. David was super excited as he always is about venturing into the vertical and I was just excited to be going climbing in the Peak. This legendary and hallowed bastion of British climbing is one that I had been told by many of my more experienced climbing mates back home.
Driving through the Peak is a beautiful experience. The free stone walls that line the properties and mark pastural lands across the hills are simply wondrous and the multi-coloured greenery through the area is truly special. I had always heard the English countryside was pretty but this is an understatement. I now understand why the Brits choose this bucolic life.
Weaving through the narrow roads avoiding cyclists and walkers on the way into the valley was an exciting adventure unto itself. There was a road race on and we had to be seriously careful passing as the road wasn’t just narrow but also a little rough around the edges.
We took one final turn left and stopped at a set of very large gates. This was Smalldale Quarry. We walked into the crag across the quarry. There were trucks and cars and equipment that was all no longer in use and just simply left to rust in the weather. Reaching a grassy patch just below the cliff line David stated how wet it was and that he had never seen it like this in the time he had been coming here.
Hopping over the barbed wire fence and continuing through the heath and bush was a slippery experience and the ground at the base of the crag was absolutely saturated. We decided to at least do a route or two since we were there. I started up a route called “Upminster Kid” 6b and within five metres had pulled off some large rocks that hit the deck very near Karine who was belaying and our friend Nick. Nick commented in her usual fashion “Oh that looks like fun climbing indeed!”
As I moved up and got to the white rock described in the guide, I pulled on the large jug and it moved considerable. This was it for me……I backed off and said “this rock is absolutely shite David!” he responded with “British rock is shite Craig!” We laughed and tried another route called “More Chattery Teeth” 6b. Suer fun and minimal loose rock. With this done we headed to Horseshoe Quarry and the sunlight.
We arrived at Horseshoe and it was a little warmer there in the sun, but the rock looked solid and there were a lot of people around. Warmed up on “Rotund Rooley” 6b and fell off it just before the last bolt. Karine gave me a great catch as always and I finished the route. Fell off it again the next shot and laughed as the falls were a good head clearer.
Nick’s daughter Rosie red-pointed it and cleaned the route after we had finished with it. Karine and I moved on to do “Pale Rider” 6a and another 5+ I cant remember the name of right now, but hand jamming is still a very uncomfortable thing for me. I was shitting myself for the last 6 metres. Karine however cruised it by comparison to me and we then called it a day.
Satisfied and tired we went to the Fox House Pub (or something like that) and I even had a good old Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz with it. Enjoyed our first weekend here in “The North”. Its really nice to be here with “good humans” and the weather is currently spectacular……….Keeping our fingers crossed.
We have started training again and feeling positive about our time here…………..much thanks to David and Nick for their hospitality and for just simply being “good humans” 🙂