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Climbing with Confidence: The Adventure Service's Guide To Accessible Outdoor Climbing

Updated: Apr 24

Do you ever find yourself, at the bottom of a big rock, wall or building, thinking “I’d love to go up there” or “ I wonder what it’s like at the top” or even “I want to spend the next hour of my life, attached to a rope, climbing to the top of that rockface”. Well if you do, you’re in good company here.

Climbing, along with caving, are two of our most favoured activities here at The Adventure Service. We couldn’t be better placed either, as all three of our sites give us great access to the Peak District and all of it’s wonderful and world-renowned climbing spots.

A young adult rock climbing at Burbage North in the Peak District. Sunny day with a few clouds. The Adventurer is about half way up the climb and turning round, looking at the camera
One of the Adventurers heading up a route at Burbage North

The Origins of Climbing

Climbing dates way, way back to early tribes in areas such as Nepal, where historians have found burial sites that are only accessible by scaling vertical cliffs. However, climbing as we know it now, is said to have been born in the Peak District and neighbouring Lake District.

The two who are often credited with starting the craze in the UK are Jim Puttrell and Walter Parry Haskett-Smith.

Jim Puttrell was infamously know for scaling Wharncliffe Crags in the Peak District, all the way back in 1885. Apparently, Puttrell scaled the wall out of the sheer enjoyment and went on to complete over 150 first assents of numerous walls in the Peak District. Known nationwide for his love of climbing and caving, as well as his dedication to the Peak District, we’re sure that Mr Puttrell would’ve love to come out on session with us!

Thanks to where our sites are situated, we can follow in the footsteps of Puttrell and use the Peak District as our playground. What makes matters even better, is that the Peak District is often to referred to as the home of climbing in the UK, so we are truly blessed to be in a such great locations which allow us quick and easy access.

Why Do We Go Climbing?

Climbing is one of the worlds most adventurous and daring sports. It’s easy to progress and we have an abundance of climbing routes at our disposal.

Climbing is also a fantastically accessible sport. It allows people to challenge themselves regardless of what wall they attempt to conquer. Moreover, climbing allows for different ability levels to really thrive at the same location. For instance, a 20 foot route that we find in the Peak District provides the whole group with a different set of challenges. For some, just getting into the harness and climbing the first two or three moves can be a wonderful achievement. Whilst for others, getting to the top and safely navigating their way back down the wall can be a great achievement too. Climbing really is one of our most accessible sessions here at The Adventure Service and we can’t wait for it to get warmer, so we can hit the gritstone once again.

An Adventurer rock climbing in the Peak District at Harborough Rocks. The climber is about half way up the wall and facing away from the camera in a red t shirt and blue trousers
An Adventurer scaling a wall at Harborough Rocks

What does a climbing Day Look Like?

As with every other activity we've covered so far, the way the day is structed is pretty similar. However, here’s a bit of break down about what you can expect when you head out for a day on the rockface with us:

9:00am: Adventurers arrive from 9 o’clock to have breakfast and a warm drink, before getting ready to hop in the bus and head off to their gritstone wall of choice.

9:45am: By 9:45am we make sure that we are heading out into the Peak District to the chosen climbing spot for that day. There are a few factors that determined where will we go, which include the weather, difficulty, how busy we expect it be and the time of year.

10:30 - 11:00am: Depending on which site the instructor has chosen for that days climbing, the Adventurers will arrive at their location between 10:30 and 11:00am. Due to the location of all three of our sites, we have fantastic access to the Peak District. However when we are picking our location for the day, we ensure that we stick to our one hour bus policy.

11:00am - 12:00pm: This time will normally be set aside to make the route safe and ready for the Adventurers to climb. This involves rigging the route with ropes, ensuring that everyone has a correctly fitting harness and helmets are on. To make sure that our Adventurers arrive in the correct clothing and footwear, it’s important to read out kit list before joining us for the day.

12:00pm - 12:30pm: Once the Adventurers have been given their safety equipment and the route is ready to be climbed, we will have a quick stop for lunch to refuel, before we get down to climbing in the afternoon. Sometimes we manage to get a few climbs in before lunching. It all just depends on how long it has taken us to get to our climbing spot and to get set up.

12:30pm - 2:30/3:00pm: For the rest of the afternoon we climb, climb, climb!

3:00pm - 4:00pm - Depending on which centre we have travelled from, will depend on what time we leave our climbing location. However, we always ensure that we are back at the centre for 3:30pm to go through support plans and to be ready for pick up at 4:00pm.

A young male in a green coat, with a orange climbing helmet abseiling down a route that has just reached the summit of a rock face
An Adventurer abseiling down after reaching the summit of his climb

What about the risks involved

Everything we do here at The Adventure Service naturally carries some element of risk. Whether that is learning to light fires down at our Bushcraft site, craft sessions that involve tool work or climbing 20 foot rock faces. All have associated risks, but we have qualified instructors who ensure the safety of the group and themselves, when they head out into the wilderness.

How Do We Stay Safe?

  1. Helmets - People may often questions why climbers who scale the worlds largest faces are wearing helmets. Well, it isn’t necessarily to save them if they fall (though this can help from lesser heights), but to save them from what may fall from above. We ensure that all of our Adventurers and staff are wearing a correctly fitted helmet before heading anywhere near the rockface.

  2. Harness - Another vital bit of equipment for our climbing trips is our three way harness. The harness is the point at which we attach the rope, with a figure 8 knot, to make sure that if we were to fall, the rope will catch up. The harnesses that we use at The Adventure Service are approved by the UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation), so we can be sure they’ll do their job to keep us safe.

  3. Rope - Climbing without ropes is extremely dangerous. There are some very experienced rock climbers in the world, who will attempt to solo climb (climbing without ropes) but every time we head out to the crag, we ensure that we have packed sufficient rope for the rock face we are going to tackle.

  4. Belay Device - Another essential piece of kit that our instructor carries with them, when they head out into the Peaks for a climbing trip, is their belay device. The belay device acts as a brake for the rope, so if a fall were to happen, the belay device (and instructor using it) can save the person falling from hitting the ground, by using the belay device to cause friction on the rope, which in turn causes the rope to stop moving.

  5. First Aid Kit - A must in all of our Instructors kit bags. We don’t leave the centre without it.

Indoor Vs Outdoor

Whatever the weather, we make sure that our groups are in the great outdoors and experiencing all that mother nature has to offer. However, climbing is quite a weather permitting sport. Rain makes it particularly dangerous to go climbing outside and so does frost, recent rockfall in the area or situations where there is low visibility, as this can make it difficult to get to the rockface itself. So, sometimes we have the best intentions to go climbing outside, but it doesn't always come to fruition.

However, we do ensure that our Adventurer’s get a taste of climbing at least once in the year, when we go on our short break to Champion House. Fortunately at Champion House, they have a huge indoor climbing wall. This means that we can climb no matter the weather. It isn’t quite the same experience, but indoor climbing poses different challenges to overcome, compared to those that are faced outside. Some much prefer it, whilst others are always keener to get outside.

However, indoor climbing isn’t something we do in the Day Service, as we want to ensure that the Adventurer’s are spending their time outside. Therefore, if a climbing trip is cancelled for whatever reason, the lead instructor for the group always has another session plan up their sleeve, to make sure that the group is spending their time outside.

Champion House's indoor climbing wall in the Peak District. An Adventurer with a blue jumper, white climbing helmet and harness is stood at the bottom of the indoor wall, waiting to climb
An Adventurer at the bottom of the indoor wall at Champion House

Places we like to go

Some of the places where we love to climb the most, include Bamford Edge, Stannage Edge and Burbage North. These spots are easier enough to provide challenge for those who have never climbed before, or for that that have been on the rock face frequently:

Bamford Edge - Situated above the picturesque Derwent Valley is Bamford Edge. Bamford provides a series of different gritstone routes that vary both in their level of difficulty and size. Bamford Edge is best climbed on a low wind day, due to exposed walk to get to the rockface.

Stannage Edge - Known as Brittan’s most popular crag (a steep or rugged cliff or rock face) Stannage Edge provides some of the best climbing in the UK. With stunning views of Hope Valley, it provides the perfect location for a variety of climbing abilities to challenge themselves.

Burbage North - Burbage North is the less well known of the three crags mentioned but no less beautiful or challenging. With over 100 climbable routes, Burbage is ever present in the climbing calendar.

Bamford Edge in the Peak District on an overcast day
The infamous Bamford Edge credit: something of freedom

What’s the weather saying?

Unfortunately, as we have mentioned above, climbing is really a fair weather sport. In the wet, the rocks become slippery and it makes it unsafe to climb. Therefore, we make sure that we monitor the weather closely before heading out to the crag. This tends to mean that we don’t climb so much during the winter months but look to get as many sessions in, over the spring and summer months, as we can.

What do Adventurers do when they aren’t climbing?

Given the way climbing works, there sometimes may be some standing around. We do try to avoid this as much as possible. However, due to the structure of a climbing sessions, it may require some Adventurers to be stationary for a short time. Nevertheless, during this time the support worker will often work with the Adventurers on how to remain safe, helping the Adventurer who is climbing the wall with their foot and hand placements and making sure they are ready to climb, once their turn comes around.


Sounds great - but how is climbing accessible?

As with all of the activities we under take here at The Adventure Service, climbing is accessible for all. It’s a sport that can be easily adapted to suit the ability of the climber. Given the way we structure our groups too, it means that it will be challenging for all involved.

Will I need to go out and buy loads of expensive equipment?

No, all the equipment is provided for all of the activities we do. Simply make sure that you are kitted out, ready for whatever the weather may throw at us (by following out kit list) and we will provide the rest. No need to go and buy expensive belays or big ropes, we have all that covered.

Are You Ready To Scale Some Rockfaces With Us?

So, in a nutshell, that’s all you’ll need to know before you come on a climbing trip with us in the Peak District. Whether we’re heading to Bamford Edge or Burbage North or somewhere new, you’re now much the wiser on what to expect.

We can’t wait to help more Adventurers achieve their potential through adventure and if you’re interested in joining us on our journey, fill out the form on our homepage to receive your free taster session at any of our three sites.

See you out there!


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