Climbing along the Pennine Way

Another crag conundrum – where to climb in a heatwave during the barmy busyness of a lockdown-loosened Bank Holiday / half-term week. Helen and I found two solutions at either end of the week, at distant points along the Pennine Way.

Bank Holiday Monday and the crowds are out in force on Kinder, but they soon dissipate as we head off rightwards from the Pennine Way at the top of William Clough and skirt across to Mill Hill Buttress.

Despite this crag being only 8.5km from home as the crow flies (we’d walked past it a few times on extended lock-down wanders from the doorstep) we’d never climbed here in 30 years in the area. That’s how escoteric it is, and of course we had the place to ourselves.

To be honest, that’s probably one more visit per 30 years than we needed – we weren’t super impressed. Pioneer Crack was a scrattly wide VDiff, the adjacent Kilkenny Rib was a complete sandbag at HVS, and Inside Left was meh at best. Here’s me trying on Helen’s hat and looking unimpressed.

But it is a gobsmackingly gorgeous spot on a sunny day.

The other end of the week saw us at the other end of the Pennines. We’d started our climbing careers working through the beginner-climber’s bible, Classic Rock, but somehow never got around to doing Red Pencil Direct on Penyghent (I guess having meanwhile graduated to ticking Hard Rock and Extreme Rock we’ve been waiting for our dotage!) Anyway, the chance for a change of scene and a high-up mountain crag had us heading for Yorkshire.

Penyghent is, of course, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and about 80 miles farther along the Pennine Way (we could have walked!)

Another fabulous day, with the cotton grass swaying in a gentle breeze.

The crag on Penyghent is a geological anomaly: a 100ft gritstone cliff perched atop a 2,000ft limestone hill. You can just about make out a climber in red topping out on the route in the photo below:

The crag is just a couple of hundred metres from the summit and a gentle hour’s walk from the parking at Dale Head (though there’s a bit of a wrinkle to observe the negotiated access route).

Timing our arrival at the crag to coincide with the sun coming around onto its westerly aspect, we find that “great minds think alike” and Guy and Joe from Birmingham are just racking up at the start of the route. No worries – time for a leisurely butty stop and a bit of socially distanced chat. Here are a couple of shots of Guy.

The guys are soon up and off, so it’s our turn. Somewhat blocky rock at the base leads to more solid and sustained territory with a tricky move to enter a lay back crack. The Direct joggles rightwards beneath a significant overhang to finish fairly straightforwardly up a broken corner.

Here’s a picture taken by Guy showing Helen in the final corner

Well worth 3* for the outlook and location even if the climbing isn’t quite up to other uber-classics of a similar grade in The Peak like Pedestal Route at The Roaches.

A cursory look at the guide suggests another couple of 3* routes amongst 20 or so on offer. However, these are both just variant finishes to Red Pencil Climb. One of the other starred routes is now lying at the base of the crag, after a major rock fall, and the general stability of the rock on others didn’t look too inviting, so we decided to quit whilst we were ahead.

“Grand day!” as Wallace and Grommet would say.

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