Roche Abbey Climbing
Situation and Character
Although it is not in the Peak, it is my local crag and information is not easily available regarding the climbs and grades, so here is a little. If anyone is really interested I can supply more info, just e-mail me. Roche Abbey consists of a series of small SW facing buttresses 3 Km SE of Maltby, some 18 Km E of Sheffield. The rocks are situated in a delightful valley close to the ruins of Roche Abbey a twelfth century Cistercian monastery.
The rock is sound, unusual, good quality pocketed magnesian limestone. The buttresses are generally small (up to 13m in height) but their action packed nature and pleasant setting makes them well worth a visit. Natural protection is fairly sparse and most parties tend to solo or top rope the routes. A lot of Roche Abbey is steep and sheltered and the rocks are often dry after heavy rain. Roche Abbey is generally dry when the Peak isn’t.
The rocks lie just SW of the A634 Maltby to Blyth road. The Abbey is signposted from J1 of the M18 motorway. The sign posted road off the A634 soon leads to a cobbled track and to a car park for the Abbey visitors. This can get congested at weekends.
The valley, including the monastery is owned by the Earl of Scarborough, although the Abbey site itself is managed by English Heritage. Access is not officially allowed and if you are asked to leave (unlikely) please do so without fuss.
Dangerous Dave has been asked to leave by Lord Scarborough himself who is a decent bloke but appears to be worried about the consequences of someone falling and being injured and his liability. I brought the matter to the attention of the BMC access officer but have had no feedback. Good behavior of climbers is essential due to the proximity and amount of tourists and their children. Please take all litter home.
Contrary to one “guidebook” produced by Maltby School’s Mr. Davenport (which was mainly directly plagiarised from a previous guide without acknowledgement) there is NO climbing in any areas near the Abbey itself i.e. right of Beef Buttress across the road towards the Abbey.
NOTE: An electronic gate has been placed at the head of the main entrance this gate opens at 6am and closes at 6.30pm. If you are climbing outside of this time you will have to park off the premises… be warned!
I won’t dwell on this suffice to say that RA has been climbed on for many years information coming from various sources such as Briggs, Parkes, Binks, Stokes and more recently, Falko Rech and Roger Edwards who produced a simple guidebook. (This information is based upon that book).
Protection is provided on some routes by old in-situ pegs. These should not be removed or added to. There are no bolts and we don’t want any here, it’s not that sort of place. The inclusion of routes in the guide does not give anyone the right to climb on them. Some of the bouldering here is covered in the first edition of “Bouldering in the Peak District”.
The main buttresses from right to left start with Beef Buttress (above the cobbled track), Car Park (above the car park!), Farmyard, Pothole, Abbey (closest to the track) and Gypsy Lane (great bouldering see bouldering pages).
These climbs represent those which I deem to be the best at Roche Abbey and are described adequately enough to allow you to find them. With each buttress I indicate the number of routes and other information of interest. All climbs are described right to left i.e. going away from the monastery ruins towards the West.
This is the first crag seen from the cobbled track and the largest at Roche Abbey with the hardest routes. The buttress is steep and is apparently named after the primary physiological characteristic observable amongst its regular visitors. The path to this buttress is 8m below the end of the cobblestone track. (12 main routes)
1. Habitus, 13m, E1 6a . 4m left of the right end of the buttress takes the leftward slanting crack (crux) and direct above.
2. Kicking the Habit, 13m, E2 6a. 3m left of Habitus. Start on the right wall of a small cave and climb up to reach the overhanging roof. Climb over this passing an old spike runner, crux, and directly up the wall passing a peg runner.
3. The Abbey Habit, 13m, E2 5c. Start on the left wall of the cave and climb the roof crack leftwards to a ledge. Continue up the left trending crack (pegs and wedges).
4. Bad Habits, 13m, E3 6a. Start at a large block 3m right of the path top cave making a difficult start off a ground level boulder. Continue up past a peg at 5m and reach the base of the overhanging crack, peg, climb this left to the top. A direct finish at similar grade is possible.
5. Worse Habits, 13m, E3 6a. Start 2m right of the path top cave. Climb the right side of a triangular ledge, peg. Step right onto the main wall, peg. Continue up and make a long reach left, crux, to pass right of the top peg in the next route.
6. Dirty habits, 13m, E3 6a. Climb the left side of the triangular undercut ledge, step left to the crack above the cave to reach a peg. Stretch right, crux, and climb the steep wall past another peg.
Car Park Buttress
Situated 20m left of Beef Buttress accessible from Beef or via a path upwards from the car park. The main line is a large crack in the centre of the buttress taken by Evensong. 19 routes plus variations. One of the best buttresses at Roche Abbey.
1. Bell Ringer, 12m, HVS 5a. Start 1m left of the point where the path from Beef Buttress emerges. Climb through a rectangular cut out in the lower wall and to a large overhang. Take this via a “post box slot”, spectacular holds above the overhang and short wall to finish.
2. Campanologist, 13m, HVS 5b. Start 7m right of the large crack of Evensong and just right of a small crack that reaches the ground. Climb directly between the lower bulges, peg, and directly over the upper one,peg.
3. Evensong, 13m, VS 4c. Classic type climbing up the crack and steep groove above.
4. Vows of Celibacy, 10m, E2 5c Start 2m left of Evensong and climb directly to the left side of the flat roof.. Climb this with difficulty to a right hand exit.
5. Cold water treatment, 13m, E2 5c. 4m left of Evensong climb direct to a peg at 6m and direct above.
6. Penitence, 13m, E3 5c. 2m left climb to a peg and direct above. Great moves excellent climbing.
7. Silent Prayer, 13m, E3 5c. Start 2m right of the left arete past some ancient ironware passing a small inverted corner,crux.
The next buttress is up and left and is Farmyard Buttress containing 4 routes to HVS and is rather poor.
Penitence: E3 5c Superb action packed climbing, here rocking up to the break off the flake
100m left of the car park above the grassy meadow contains 8 routes from easy to E1 5b the best being :-
The Font, 8m, HVS 5a. The overhang just right of the cave taken on massive jugs direct to a Yew tree.
30m left again, the closest buttress to the track contains 9 routes. A second rope may be useful if you are top roping as the trees are some way back.
1. Holy Grail 12m, E1 5b. Start 4m left of the arete, below a peg runner at 5m. Climb the wall with difficult moves when passing to the right of the peg. Finish direct.
2. The Quest 12m, E3 6a. Start just left of a hole at 2m and climb the faint crack line with difficult moves to clip a peg runner. Climb leftwards to the top and to a tree stump.
3. The Arete, 12m, E2 5c. Follow the arete direct …. imaginative name, good climb.
4. Golden Chalice 12m, E2 5c. Start on the left a little way up the gully, reach a hole and move right, crux, to a hidden peg. Finish up the arete.
5. The Crack. 12m, E2 5c. Climb the testing crack to its end and make a hard move to gain the wall above and finish direct with care. Such imagination…
Gypsy Lane Buttress
30m down the track lies Gypsy Buttress, the buttress is 20m long and only 7m high. The rock continuously overhangs and generally stays dry even in rain. All the activity here is bouldering and in my opinion is some of the best limestone bouldering around. Some problems on this wall were documented in a published book “Bouldering in the Peak District” By Allen Williams available in the climbing shops. The best way to find out about the best problems is to ask one of the regulars climbing here. A great place for training. See the Roche Abbey bouldering page for a comprehensive guide!
Other Climbing in the Area
There are buttresses across the valley but these tend to remain a little green and damp because of their NE facing aspect but may be worthy of exploration for the enthusiast. These are located above the water treatment works up the valley on the other side of the road from the Gypsy Lane buttress about 500m away. Also down the valley near the village of Stone there is a bridleway skirting the other side of the valley. Shadowing the bridleway is an amazing wave of wildly overhanging limestone. This needs cleaning up a bit and only really talented climbers need apply!
There is climbing at Anston Stones Wood near the village of South Anston (10 Kms S of Maltby) adjacent to a railway line near the A57 I’ve never really done a lot of climbing here and never found anyone climbing here to get more info off but have heard it mentioned, even in climbing magazines. If anyone has further info let me know!