Climbing in North East England
By Steve Crowe June 2004
The guide Climbing in North East England covers the North York Moors and surrounding areas of Colsterdale, Swaledale, Teesdale and Weardale and the South Tyne Valley oh and Filey.
The area consists of many accessible sandstone outcrops, some prominent limestone cliffs and further west, nestling In the more remote East Pennines, are many quick drying gritstone edges. It is an accessible and diverse area that can be enjoyed on pleasant days at any time of the year. The North York Moors has much to offer the
visitor besides the climbing, with ruined abbeys, rolling hills and the busy resorts of Whitby and Scarborough as well as quieter sandy beaches along the coast.
By far the best crag in the area must be the proud and bold north facing sandstone cliff, Raven's Scar overlooking Great Broughton. Most popular are the Wainstones and the friendly south facing sandstone outcrops that line the head of Scugdale. The new kid on the block is the gritstone edge Goldsborough in Baldersdale near Bowes. Certainly the most remote but still well worth the effort of seeking out is Healhaugh which situated in an exposed position on Reeth High Moor upon the shoulder of Great Pinseat. Perhaps the most famous of all the crags in the area however must be Whitestonecliffe, this prominent limestone escarpment which easily seen from the A19. Nearby hidden in the trees but just below the road is perhaps the most accessible crag in the area, Peak Scar.
Whether you have only a few hours to spare or prefer to while away a quiet day in remote solitude and whatever the weather brings there is always somewhere suitable to visit in the area. Listed here are a few tasters of what the area has to offer.
OS Sheet 94 NGR NZ 516 004
Approach: 5 minutes
Aspect: South Facing
Directions: From the A19 trunk road follow the A172 to the picture postcard village of Swainby where there are two excellent pubs that serve meals, but that's for later. Continue up the narrow winding road up into Scugdale with care, as there have been many incidents involving climbers and agricultural vehicles! Park with consideration in the small lay-by below the crag on the left just before Scudale Hall Nursery.
Intro: This is the most popular climbing venue on the North York Moors with over 250 recorded climbs on an escarpment that stretches over a mile near the head of this quite valley. This south facing outcrop is quick drying and can be enjoyed throughout the year. The first rocks encountered Scots Crag which is the popular end.
Barkers Crags just to the east however have many exciting climbs that ought not to be overlooked. Generally the short routes are climbed solo above reasonable landings but care should be taken as holds do occasionally break. A short rope and small rack would be prudent.
Warm Up: There Is plenty of choice for a warm-up on the many user friendly climbs at every grade. Zoot Route (VD) Is a little route with a big feel about it. Once the fingers are warm test yourself on the short but popular Pingers (VS 5a).
Highlight: Its not easy picking out one climb above all the others but Zeta Wall (VS 4c) Is a must do climb. A hard start leads to better protection higher up. The best finish is not obvious. Jacks Delight (VS 4b), as one of the higher routes at Scugdale, is slightly easier than Zeta Wall but much bolder. Do both!
Don't Miss! Alcove Cracks (S) The superb crack in the centre of Amphitheatre Buttress. Tippling Wall (HVS 5a) Technically interesting above a good landing. The Pulpit (E1 5b) Pumpy moves lead to a powerful top out. Snatch Arete (E2 5c) A rope may prove useful as this has a bold finish. New Dimensions (E3 6a) The start is technically difficult, the finish bold and awkward.
OS Sheet 93 NGR 566 037
Approach: 20 minutes
Directions: From Great Broughton drive up to the car park at Hasty Bank. From here follow the Cleveland Way, westwards to the top of the crag or follow the forest track below the escarpment until the crag comes into view. A small path leads over the stile
and up to the centre of the crag.
Intro: Raven's Scar is the finest sandstone outcrop on the North York Moors and despite appearances the climbs are generally clean and enjoyable. The crag is at its best in late spring and on mid summer evenings. When the crag turns golden it is time to head to the Jet Miners in Great Broughton of a pint of their finest ale!
Warm-Up: Airlift (S 4a) offers open and exciting climbing and catches the morning sun. Italian Connection (E1 5b) has just enough protection where it is needed and the exposure provides a good warm up for your head. Otherwise some interesting problems can be worked out on the overhanging wall below Apache Roof.
Highlight: The classic test piece Satchmo (E2 5c) vies with the harder Stratagem (E4 6b) for choice as for the highlight of the crag. Satchmo tackles the well protected corner with some powerful lay backing high up just as the energy levels may be depleted!
Don't Miss! Stratagem (E4 6b) some think is should be given ES but the powerful moves are well protected. Watch out for a nesting fulmar that hides in back of the ledge below the crux.
Fever Pitch (E2 5b) bold but the holds are good.
Stardust (E1 5b) A good exercise in finger-locking.
Grooves-ology (VS 5a) More testing than it looks.
Harlots Groove (VS 4c) Interesting climbing throughout.
Forest Face (HS 4b) An exceptional line crossing some exposed territory.
OS Sheet 93 NGR 559 036
Approach: 30 minutes
Aspect: South West
Directions: Situated 10 minutes further along the path beyond Raven's Scar and clearly visible from the pub car park (The Jet Miners) in Great Broughton is
the famous landmark of Wainstones Needle.
Intro: This well situated crag offers outstanding views across the plains below and in contrast, the industrial landscape of Teesside well in the distance.
The crags offer testing climbs at all grades and are quick drying, however strong winds could be unbearable so choose a calm day or head to the more sheltered Raven's Scar.
Warm-Up: Wainstones Needle (M) is a must, as is Wolf and Ledge (D). There is extensive and well established bouldering on the rocks below the crag to get the muscles well warmed up but don't get too carried away.
Highlight: Concave Wall (HVS 5b) though many think E1 is more appropriate so take care!
Don't Miss! The two classic E4s couldn't be more different. Psycho Syndicate (E4 6b) remains an outstanding test piece while Lemming Slab (E4 5c) is climbed in the head as much as with your arms.
West Sphinx Direct (E3 5b) is a similar proposition.
Ali Baba (E2 5c) has some testing moves before the first protection is reached.
Ling Buttress (HS 4b) is an enjoyable climb.
Sphinx Nose Traverse (S) is another on the must do list and a great climb to end the day on.
OS Sheet 92 NGR 954 176
Approach: 5 minutes
Directions: Drive up Baldersdale from Cotherstone (near Bowes) and the crag will come into view high up on the left. Take care not to block access to farm vehicles when parking. A public right of way leads up to the crag.
Intro: Situated high up on open moor land above Baldersdale.The crag is qu1ck drying but exposed to strong winds. The climbing is generally soloing and
bouldenng rather than routes.
Warm-Up: Try everything on the first wall encountered on the south side of the crag. Ravock Chimney (Font 2+) is harder than it appears. Flake and Crack (Font 3) should not be missed. Cotherstone Reiver (Font 5) is too scary for some, whereas Old Moss (Font 5+) may prove too technical for others! Hubris (Font 6a+), just round the corner is also a must try.
Highlight: Fiddler on the Roof (E1 5c) this classic of the crag justifies bringing your rope to the crag. Sneaky footwork should help you get through the steep roof section in the centre of Thornbird Buttress.
Don't Miss! Put your ropes away and get your head into gear for the following solos on Thin Wall Buttress. Fiddlers ArÍte (Font 5) and Fiddler Direct (Font 5+). The
former has a hard start and the latter a bold finish. Thin Wall Special (Font 6a) follows the fine blind crack. Jumping Jack Flash (Font 6a+) Watch for that big swing! And if that was too easy for you try adding the low level traverse from Fiddlers ArÍte to finish up Jumping Jack Flash (Font 7a), or try the crimpers delight Beth's Traverse (Font 7b+).
OS Sheet 93 NGR 610 138
Approach: 40 minutes
Directions: Situated on the edge of the moors overlooking Guisborough, the ancient capital of North Yorkshire.
lntro: Although the crag is easily spotted above the town, finding the best parking spot is more difficult and a street map is more useful than an OS Land ranger map! Once on the right path the walk in is either long and steady or short and steep!
Warm-Up: North West Route (VD)
Highcliffe Crack (S) Two prominent lines that are conveniently situated directly above the gearing up boulder and make for a great warm up.
Highlight: Scarecrow Crack (E1 5b) is a straightforward test of your corner crack climbing skills and may prove tough for a wall trained climber. Should you pass the first test and reach the ledge then the bold slabby crux is your final examination. Don't forget to glance left as you pass the traverse the line of Stargazer as this could be
your next test!
Don't Miss! Magic in the Air (E6 6b) The bold arÍte and finest line on the crag is usually climbed with a high side runner in Stargazer. Moonflower Superdirect (E5 6b) The first pitch is a bold solo however you will want your rope on for the top pitch.
Stargazer (E3 5c) A great wall climb. Flange Crack (E2 5c) Hugh Banners test piece for the early1970s is worth seeking out. Wombat (E1 5b) Steep and sustained climbing. Holden's Watt (HVS 5a) Short but not to be under estimated. Queer Street (HVS 4c) An awesome line.
Healheugh (aka Crag Willas)
OS Sheet 92 NGR 974 013
Approach: 20 minutes
Aspect: South West
Directions: Situated in a remote position in the head of Swaledale the nearby village Reeth makes a good landmark and the 18th century inn, the Kings Head has great food and ales. From Reeth drive up Arkengarthdale and park up at the popular picnic spot at Surrender Bridge. From here a gated track leads to the ruined lead mine of Old Gang Smelt Mills from where the old flue can be followed directly to the crag. Be sure to call the gamekeeper Paul Simpson on 01748 884483 to check that no shooting is taking place prior to your visit.
Intro: In the valley below are the ruins of Old Gang Smelt Mills ruined flue is still clearly visible running up the hill side to the crag. This was the largest smelting complex in Yorkshire. Smelting took place on the site from 1797 until 1907. Many of the climbs here are short and are generally soloed however there is ample protection on most of the climbs.
Warm-Up: There is also a terrific bouldering circuit at the west end of the crag that makes for a fantastic warm up.
Highlight: The most outstanding route on the crag unfortunately also happens to be the hardest. Blood Red Streets (E6 6b) is also the boldest. That said there is so much good climbing on the crag there are plenty of other good lines to tackle.
Don't Miss! Lucky Strike (HS 4b) Interesting climbing throughout.
Toil Arete (HVS Sa) A very photogenic line.
Peace in the Valley (E1 5c) A bold solo.
Ukerty Puck's Crooked Stook (E2 5b) A memorable and unprotectable slab climb.
Nikki (E2 5c) Powerful but well protected where its needed.
OS Sheet 94 NGR 527 884
Approach: 1 minute
Directions: Situated near Helmsley below a minor road between Boltby and Hawnby in the North York Moors.
lntro: This north facing limestone crag is formed in a steep sided wooded gorge where nettles can be a problem in high summer. The path below the crag is often muddy, nevertheless the crag is quick drying and the climbing is relatively steep and
athletic but generally well protected. The landowner requests that climbers only visit the crag in small parties. No instructional groups are allowed. Climbers are required not to abseil and must walk back down.
Warm-Up: One of the first climbs to be recorded on the crag in 1961 is the prominent crack line of Jordu (S) which makes for a popular warm up. Moanin (HS 4b) tackles some impressive territory to the left, more impressive is the fact the first ascent was climbed solo when Terry Sullivan's climbing partner failed to turn up.
Highlight: Frensi (VS 4c) is the best by far of thirty new routes recorded on the crag by Terry Sullivan and Vic Tosh in 1961, tackling steep bulges and roofs up the highest and most impressive section of the crag.
Don't Miss! Crackers (E1 5b) Very Exposed.
Fifi (HVS 5a) Bold.
Cosmonaut (VS 4c) Great wall climbing.
Dat Der (VS 4c) Another fantastic climb.
Murton Cave (D) almost a caving experience, head torch advisable!
OS Sheet 100 NGR 508 836
Approach: 10 minutes
Directions: Follow the A 170 from the A19 and the crag is situated in a prominent position at the top of Sutton Bank.
Intro: This is the largest and most prominent crag in the area. t comprises of steep and friable limestone making all the climbs a serious undertaking. It is usual to abseil in and climb back out so it is unsuitable for novices. Love it or hate it you can't ignore it. Some of the most memorable climbs in the area are found here. This is a SSSI so please check for bird restrictions before visiting the crag.
Warm-Up: Frigg (HS 4b) is a good warm up for what is to come later in the day.
Highlight: The Night Watch (VS 4b) was included in the list of top 100 limestone climbs in the UK.
Don't Miss! Countdown Direct and Central Crack are both terrific value at (HVS Sa)
A great family day out. Entertaining soloing on Sandstone pinnacles, and an ideal situation for a picnic with a young family. More details here.
Sheltered on windy days. The scene of a lot of new development recently. More details here.
A unique venue! Bolted climbing but with top outs and belaying on the top (take a couple of 12mm nuts and hangers for the belays in case they have been stolen- again). The crag is so steep in places that it is perhaps better for the stronger climber to second the routes! More details here.
A small crag with a delicate access situation but well worth a visit and can easily be combined with Goldsborough. More details here.
Captain Cooks Crags and Park Nab