Peak Bouldering

Peak Bouldering

Neil Bentley cruising “The Deliverance” B9 Stanage Boulders

I received a number of excellent photographs (some on this page) from Paul Forster which inspired me to do this page. (A big thankyou Paul!, thanks Richard too)
Images are optimised here but some are also hyperlinked for larger high quality pictures (50-100K) just click to see.

You can see some of Paul’s route climbing in the Photographs section of this site.

Bouldering is a major part of the climbing scene in the Peak District and many areas are very well developed and documented. This is because of the increased activity in “hard climbing” on gritstone and the recognition that bouldering lends itself to perfect training for desperate rock climbs. The increased activity has spawned specific bouldering guides, lots of magazine coverage and even the production of videos which has in turn spawned more bouldering! All some people do is boulder and in a way it is a sport in itself; a big plus for many people is that it is relatively safe compared to route climbing.

What is Bouldering? Have a look in the about climbing section of this site!Where to go

Most crags in the Peak have areas where people boulder. The most popular venues are probably Stanage (plantation boulders), the Burbage valley and Robin Hoods Stride (Cratcliffe).The majority of bouldering in the Peak District is very well documented in the excellent “Peak Bouldering” guide by Allen Williams and Alan James in the Rockfax series of guides. If you are keen I suggest you get your hands on a copy. This guidebook followed the earlier “Bouldering in the Peak District” by Allen Williams. The Rockfax guide is really excellent and is very well thought out and lucidly illustrated……… everything a guide should be. It costs £14.95 and is available in most proper outdoor shops.

What equipment is required?

This is the beauty and attraction of bouldering for many. All that is required for a bouldering session is a pair of rock boots and a chalk bag. The climbing is clean and pure in style no ropes or gear to place because all problems are essentially solos. Becoming increasingly popular are padded “bouldering mats” which are placed on the ground below problems to make it more comfortable to jump of from a reasonable height and provide protection in the event of an unexpected fall. I think that these mats are a great idea and will also help prevent erosion at the bottom of popular problems. Regarding chalk; many problems are very obvious because of the use of chalk, so please use it sparingly; chalk will wash away with rainfall but does look “ugly”.

The Grading System

Richard Bingham hanging mad slopers on “The Keel” B10/11 Almscliffe

This may be new or confusing to some people but is really as simple as it gets. Basically the grading system is an open ended system starting from B0 rising to B14. The grade just specifies how hard it is to complete a problem it loosely relates to the technical difficulty but it takes into account how sustained a problem might be, just like the UK grading system or French grading system (see UK grading section of this site) e.g a B5 problem might be one hard move or alternatively a series of quite hard moves, the end result being of similar overall difficulty. Below is a table of how various countries bouldering grading systems approximately relate to each other:

UK BoulderingB0B1B2B3B4B5B6B7B8B9B10B11B12B13B14
UK Technical<4c5a5b5c6a6a/b6b6b/6c6c6c/7a7a/6c7a7a/b7b/a7b
Fontainbleau      7a7a+7b7b+7c7c+8a8a+8b
A group activity spotting at Cratclifffe middle boulders B7 problem 5 in Rockfax

Boulder or Bolder?

Some problems are half-way between routes and bouldering and are referred to as “extended boulder problems” or “micro routes” and more care has to be taken as appropriate the use of a mat is a matter of personal ethic on these routes. I have seen mats used on short climbs, but realistically the ascensionist can’t really claim the full E grade “tick” if applicable because the route is protected, where the line is drawn is another thing because traditionally many rocky landings have been protected with rucksacks, etc.


Avid gritstone boulderers insist that the best conditions are dry with sub zero temperatures! The friction is better. Paul has taken this to extremes and the pictures below show him and his mates climbing with head torches in the very early morning. These are some words he sent me regarding one of the photos “B9 soft on the Gardoms Edge 3am in the morning perfect conditions about -9deg, best conditions ever”. That must be why I can’t climb B9!
I used to think (when I started climbing) that this conditions thing was exaggerated and although most people don’t go to Paul’s extremes, there is great truth that rock does change with the temperature and humidity and things are noticeably better when it is cold. This is true for limestone as well as gritstone.

A moan about bouldering

Bouldering is immensely popular in the Peak District and this popularity causes several problems. The increased number of people cause problems with litter and erosion. Please take your litter and bits of carpet, etc. home with you, and if you see it, other peoples rubbish. Erosion is a big problem, landings around the more popular problems are denuded of grass and quickly wear away to produce holes. Not only are these bad to fall into but will never really recover. Luckily, bouldering mats/pads are now commonplace (over the last couple of years or so) and I think that this will help a little. Please respect these areas and bear this in mind. Be as kind as possible to the crag environment.

More Photos

Below are very small thumbnailed images click on them to see the full size image. More bouldering pictures (generally me doing easier stuff!) can bee seen on the bouldering Photographs page. Thanks again Paul.

Going for it!
Hew on a B5 at Robin Hood’s Stride, Cratcliffe
A hard looking B7 problem
Hew on a B5 at Robin Hoods Stride
Paul on “Piss” B9 Higger Tor East
Paul on Jerrys Arete B7
Tom at Burbage Bridge B6
Adam on Early Doors B9 at Curbar