A Taste of the
Peak District, Derbyshire climbing, Birchen Edge Gritstone Crag …
A lot of climbers seem to call it Birchen's Edge which geographically does not exist! I guess the errant "s" arises from the proximity of Gardom's Edge, which definitely has an "s". The grades range from Moderate to E4, although most E graders are too snobby to visit (except when no-one is looking). With the three ships boulders and Nelson's Monument at the top of the main part of the crag, the routes are named with a nautical theme, many of them relating to Lord Nelson.
Highlights - The Promenade (Diff) is a popular beginners route, as is Trafalgar Crack (V Diff). Moving up the grades, Powder Monkey Parade (S) has an interesting start, as does Captainís Prerogative (HS), whilst the next-door route Captain's Bunk (1 star HS) has an interesting start and also, if you are short, to get onto 'The Bunk'. Sail Buttress (VS) and Topsail (VS but feels easier - with its brilliant pull over the roof protected by a bomber thread, good practice for the Tody's Wall move at Froggatt) are popular and worthwhile routes. Crows Nest (VS) has it all, a thrutchy starting crack followed by an exposed undercut slab whilst Nelsonís slab (HVS) has a hard pull to begin with. For a bit of peace and quiet, head for the last buttress on the crag - Kismet buttress.
At the right hand end of the Crow's Nest sector you will find 6 Emma climbs, 5 of which were named presumably after Nelson's mistress Emma Hamilton. The other Emma climb is called Emma Royd, wonder if that was her maiden name? Emma nursed Nelson back to health after he lost his arm and eye, becoming his mistress. Her husband William Hamilton did not really seem to mind and Emma bore a son to Nelson. After William Hamilton died, Nelson and Emma lived together as husband and wife. After his death, Nelson will entrusted her care to the nation, but the nation ignored that, so she headed over to Calais where she died as an alcoholic. There's loads more to the story ...
Pictured left is the Emmas area, the climb with the rope is Emma's Temptation, graded V Diff. One of the world's most polished footholds stops a few people before they have started but a bit of a bob from the foothold and stuffing your hand in an alligators mouth of a crack does the trick! The top has good holds but feels quite steep. The old Chatsworth guide book for Birchen seems to indicate that the writers feel the start is tough for a V Diff (bet it's easy if you are tall though!)
Emma's Delusion (S) gets a guide book star. Why? Its horrible trying to exit right getting out of the cavey bit (or at least in my opinion anyway). I much prefer the route that leaves the cave to the left via a steep crack (Deluded - VS)
Moving along the crag towards the Monument area, you have Nelson's slab (VS but top end). The start is awkward but then you can enjoy the slab. To the right of the slab, you have Sail Buttress poking out. The eponymous climb is graded VS and is featured in Classic Rock. I find the start awkward and the move back left onto the easier top slab a little harrowing. I have never done Sail Chimney - I leave that to the JW Puttrell fans!!
The Monument area is home to the fabulous Orpheus wall (HVS
top end). A lot of people are stopped by the start and others then stopped
by the sequence to reach the upper slab. Peaches is to the
right and is a 3 star E4. moving further right you reach the promenade area,
with a couple of easy routes. The next significant route is the classic Powder
Monkey Parade, graded Severe but it feels harder than that to me! See what
you think. Then of course you have the Trafalgar Wall area, Camperdown
Crawl (VS), certainly my favourite in this section. To paraphrase the well-known
football comment "it is a climb of two halves" (well one third and two thirds
really!), the all too short fabulous and well protected finger crack to start
and the poorly protected slab above. I wish that crack went on forever!
There are a few easier routes on Stoker's Wall, but be warned, there is not much protection on them so if you are just getting into leading, you will need a steady head. The belays are tricky too. The big undercut block where the access path meets Birchen Edge is Copenhagen wall and there are some other worthwhile routes hereabouts and further to the right but hey, I'm fed up with typing now so you will have to find out about those for yourself!!
Disclaimer (probably not necessary but just in case ...: This is not a guide, it is for general information and personal opinion only - just to give you a flavour of the place if you are not familiar with it; we can accept no responsibility for your actions should you visit Birchen Edge and try any of the climbs mentioned. You decide for yourself whether to climb them or not and must assume responsibility for your own safety.
- Self catering accommodation near Baslow, ideal for Birchen Edge and Gardom's Edge
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