GetOutside Champion: Emma Brennand
Dr. Emma Brennand is a journalist, photographer & documentary filmmaker with a passion for wildlife conservation and outdoor education.
Start your climbing experience in one of the most picturesque national parks in Britain – The Peak District.
Rock climbing is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the Peak District with an estimated 10,000 recorded climbs across the National Park. While it’s not for the faint-hearted, it’s also not just for the experienced with plenty of chances for beginners to have a go at some of the most spectacular rocks in the country.
Rock climbing is one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK. It was first undertaken in the Peak District as early as the 1890’s. Nowadays, the rocks within the Peak District are some of the most popular in the country and every weekend thousands of climbers ascend and descend. Rock climbing is the act of using your hands and feet to climb a rock-face, using ropes and harnesses for support and safety.
Climbing is suitable for anyone with a good level of fitness in order to be able to tackle the physical challenge. In particular, it’s suited to young people as working alongside others teaches trust, co-operation, personal resilience, self-esteem, confidence and balance so gives a great variety of educational experiences.
If you’re not sure if rock climbing is for you a great way to find out is to have a go at an indoor climbing wall. This will give you the climbing experience and show you how to control your arms and legs before you then add in the challenge of the outdoor environment which you will face on the rocks.
In the Peak District there are a number of rock-climbing schools where tutors will be able to teach you all you need to know to tackle the rocks safely. Lessons will include instruction on technique and safety skills from a qualified person with the opportunity to learn about the climbing equipment and essential rope and safety techniques. You’ll then get to choose the grade of climbing and abseiling to suit your ability. It’s not all theory though, you will get plenty of hands-on experience.
Don’t forget that you can learn a lot by watching others and the Peak District is one of the most popular places for world-class climbers to train so keep your eyes peeled for those showing some skill!
As stated above, there are thousands of potential climbs within the Peak District but the most well-known are Stanage Edge, near Sheffield, and the Roaches in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Both are internationally recognised for the challenge they offer and climbers come from all over the world to tackle the rockface.
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to seek advice from a rock climbing school who can advise you on the most suitable climb for your skills and experience and for the weather conditions on the day.
To a beginner, rock climbing can seem to have its own secret code so to give you a head-start on your rock climbing adventure, here’s some of the most common words you will hear:
Crag - A steep rugged mass of rock projecting upward or outward. In rock climbing, crag refers to a cliff or group of cliffs which is or may be suitable for climbing.
Belay - Belayingrefers to a variety of techniques climbers use to exert tension on a climbing rope so that a falling climber does not fall very far.
Beta - Beta is climbing jargon that designates information about a climb. In rock climbing this may include information about a climb's difficulty, crux, style, length, quality of rock, ease to protect, required equipment, and specific information about hand or foot holds.
The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) provides up-to-date information on crags, along with the latest news on seasonal access and restrictions.
Remember, always climb with others and make sure someone back at home knows where you are and how long you expect to be.