A Day Out on’t Moors – Peak Scar and Whitestone Cliffe

I’ve already confessed to being a “ticker” (insert puerile if you want to judge me!) and I’m getting towards the end of Chris Craggs’ 100 Best Routes on Limestone. Most of the remaining routes are either oddities or too hard. A spare day and a tolerant partner (thanks Jim!) offered the chance to do a couple of the former on a day-trip to the North Yorks Moors.

After the trans-Pennine blast to Thirsk, Peak Scar was the first stop on our agenda. You pull up at a seemingly random muddy scrape by the side of the road, in the middle of a wood, with no evidence of a crag in sight. You’re actually parked on top of it (with 60s you could potentially belay from the bumper). The approach path skirts the fence on its eastern end (don’t be confused by the numerous stiles – these are for exiting from the top of the crag; and don’t be tempted to ab in – it’s strictly forbidden).

The path drops down and circles back under the crag, taking you into a Tolkien-inspired landscape

… and 5mins from the car you are at the foot of the first routes.

It’s limestone Jim, but not as we know it! (how did UKC know I’d be going there with Jim?) It’s a little soft and shallow

… they could have added “… and nettly”!

We battle our way to the foot of our objective, Jam with Sam, VS 4b, and the upwards view is hardly inspiring…

Giant Jenga blocks seemingly held together by a gloopy paste in defiance of gravity. As I pulled gingerly on a jammed microwave-sized chockstone leading through the first roof I found myself cursing my single-minded focus on a random list in a 30 year old book. As height was gained, the buttery texture of some of the lower holds gave way to dryer rock as I left the moist dell below me.

Pulling up onto a halfway ledge almost felt like climbing rather than caving, and the forbidding upper corner even had a hint of polish to accompany the promised jams.

Type 2 fun, perhaps, but you are rewarded with a gorgeous view of bucolic loveliness from the top. It’s not a crag I’ll be rushing back to, though there are more attractive, solid-looking lines, some of which get 3*s as opposed to the measly (and barely merited) single star of the route that Mr Craggs had selected. Not even the best route on Peak Scar, let alone one of the top hundred in the country, but he does confess that it was his first ever VS and who am I to deny that there’s a place for sentiment.

Spurning the attractions of further Peak Scar routes, we head back over Sutton Bank to the palatial visitor centre parking area which is the approach to Whitestone Cliffe. Rest assured – they’re not all here for the climbing! They’re here for the “Finest View In England”:

Hrmm – that might be a slightly Yorkshire-centric assessment. A few hundred metres further along the Cleveland Way you catch sight of Whitestone Cliffe, which turns out to be more a creamy yellow – somewhat reminiscent of Wendsleydale…

The similarities with cheese don’t stop there – Allegedly the “Cliffe” was formed by a huge landslip early in the 18th century – UKC’s reassuring description is: Can be loose on both a small and a large scale. Unperturbed, we set off down for the plumb line of The Night Watch, VS 4b, rapping in to avoid the slippery gully. The route takes the striking corner / chimney at the right of the photo below:

Here’s the view from below – steep!

Whilst the rock might need treating with a little care, the climbing is absolutely excellent – surprising holds and gear-placements abound where the softer matrix has worn away to reveal chunky square-cut rocks and threads, and the depths of the chimney can be sensibly avoided by more elegant bridging. Such fun! The classic corner crack with a truly epic feel to it. Probably the best single pitch VS in the country… might be more hyperbole, but it’s somewhere in the reckoning, and well worth seeking out.

A couple of routes to the left, Countdown Direct, HVS 5a, is another 3* contender, and also good value for the stars and the grade. A 30m effort of jamming with bomber gear and fine exposure,

capped by a glorious romp through a vertical heather garden so you feel you’ve really earned the HVS tick!

Say what you like about allowing your cragging plans to be determined by random lists in coffee table books – if it hadn’t been for my ticking habit, I’d never have bothered visiting for these routes, and my climbing CV would have been less rich for the want of the experience. Thanks Chris!

Whitestone Cliffe set above Gormire Lake and the Vale of York – look closely and you’ll see an alarming giant wasp dwarfing Jim standing at the top of Countdown Direct. Fear not – Jim is further away than the wasp 😉

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