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Discover the Dark Peak's hidden scrambles with a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of Scrambles in the Dark Peak
3 Mar 2014
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
1st Published
16 Mar 2012
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Scrambles in the Dark Peak

Easy summer scrambles and winter climbs

by Terry Sleaford, Tom Corker
Published by Cicerone Press

A handy guidebook to scrambling in the Dark Peak and Roaches areas of the Peak District. Year-round graded scrambling routes for all abilities, including classics such as Wilderness Gully East and Wildboar Clough. 41 scrambles with link routes, variants and extensions, from scrambly walks to difficult rock climbs and winter ascents grade 1-3.

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Update notes relating to the approach of Route 15 - Lawrence Edge No.1

Start/Finish - SK 082 993
Grade and rating - 1 (summer and winter)
Ascent - 50m


Approach: As for Route 14, but after leaving the quarry track and walking uphill a little, work over to the right until the flat area below Lawrence Edge and behind the quarry workings comes into view.
At the left (eastern) end of the crag are two shallow gully lines set close together that rise up the hillside towards a line of rock buttresses. They contain little in the way of continuous rock and prove disappointing when climbed. Further left is another, deeper, gully with more continuous rock sections. The route takes this line. Follow a vague path through the grass and heather (some hidden rocks underfoot) to the bottom of the gully.

Route: Where the gully steepens, clamber over blocks and water-washed rock steps eventually arriving at a steep, undercut wall. This can be avoided by taking to steep grass on the right or by circling around and upwards on the slope to the left. Straightforward and enjoyable scrambling on clean rock leads from here to the top.

A) As for Route 14 to Shining Clough or Wildboar Clough.
B) Descend the hillside to the east of Lawrence Edge and contour round for an ascent of Deer Knowl (Route 14).


The Peak District has been an important area for walkers and climbers for over 100 years with many well-established footpaths. Less well-known are the opportunities for hands-on ascents, up gullies, brooks and cloughs, where scramblers can keep fit and hone their skills year-round.

This guidebook to scrambles in the Dark Peak and Roaches describes over 40 winter and summer routes, with plenty of links and extensions to make up longer, more challenging days on the moors. It is aimed at the more adventurous walker who might wish to add a little more ‘spice’ to their outings, and also those with some rock-climbing experience who may be looking for something away from the mainstream crags while retaining some element of ‘hands-on’ contact with the rock.

Routes are graded for difficulty and range from scrambly walks to more difficult rock climbs. Easy routes are suitable for walkers with good fitness and navigation skills, while harder routes are for experienced rock climbers.

  • illustrated with large-scale OS map extracts
  • includes routes in Chew Valley, near Crowden, on Bleaklow and Kinder Scout and in the Roaches
  • with advice on equipment, conditions, grades and access and conservation restrictions
  • Seasons
    3 winter-only routes; all others possible at any time of year but heavy rain and higher than usual water levels will affect some scrambles
  • Centres
    Most scrambles in this guidebook are within easy reach of Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. Local centres could be Edale, Crowden, Hayfield, Greenfield.
  • Difficulty
    Routes are graded 1-3 in order of increasing difficulty (from ‘scrambly’ walks to moderate/difficult rock climbs). Easy scrambles are suitable for adventurous walkers with good fitness and navigation skills, harder routes require some rock climbing experience. In winter conditions, Scottish winter grades 1-2/3 apply and crampons and ice axes will be needed.
  • Must See
    Kinder Downfall and the ravine; Ashop Clough and its gullies; Bleaklow via Ashton Clough; Torside Gully; Wildboar Clough; the Wilderness Gullies – all are good scrambles at any time of year. Mam Tor and Back Tor gully, with the Castleton Skyline walk, are winter classics.


Scrambling in the Dark Peak
Warnings and Precautions
About the Routes
1 Rimmon Pit Clough/Trinnacle/Holme Clough
2 Alderman's Rocks
3 Dovestone Quarry Central Gully
4 Charnel Clough
5 Wilderness Gully West
6 Wilderness Gully East
7 Wilderness Gully Far East
8 Wilderness Gully Far Far East
9 Wilderness Gully Far Far Far East
10 Chew Brook
11 Oaken Clough
12 Coombes Clough
13 Shining Clough
14 Deer Knowl
15 Lawrence Edge No 1
16 Lawrence Edge No 2
17 Wildboar Clough
18 Torside Clough
19 Torside Gully
20 Yellowslacks Brook/Dowstone Clough
21 Ashton Clough
22 Alport Castles Tower
23 Alport Castles Gully
24 Blackden Brook
25 Fair Brook
26 Fair Brook Gully
27 Nether Red Brook
28 Upper Red Brook
29 Far Upper Red Brook
30 Square Chimney Exit
31 Kinder Downfall Climb
32 Arpeggio Gully
33 Red Brook
34 Crowden Clough
35 Grindsbrook Clough
36 Ringing Roger
37 Back Tor Gully
38 Mam Tor Gully
39 Elbow Ridge
40 Roaches Lower and Upper Tier Ridges
41 Chrome Hill/Parkhouse Hill
Appendix A Index of Routes
Appendix B Further Reading
Appendix C Useful Contacts


The Peak District was designated the UK's first National Park in 1951 and covers an area of more than 1400 square kilometres. It forms the southern end of the Pennines and has long been a magnet for outdoor types, being within easy reach of Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby. It is estimated that over ten million visitors a year come to the Park for a variety of reasons, one of the main ones being to walk through the limestone dales in the south (the White Peak) or on the more rugged gritstone moorland in the north (the Dark Peak).

Walking has always been popular here and there are footpaths criss-crossing the whole area but, while visitors to the Dark Peak moors make full use of these to reach their goals, not everyone will be aware of the possibilities that exist to add a little more interest and excitement to their day out. At first glance, opportunities for the more adventurous to get ‘hands on’ with the rock appear limited to the climbers' crags, but well-known scrambles do exist (Wildboar Clough and the Wilderness Gullies, for example). On closer acquaintance many other opportunities present themselves and by linking some of these together, with a moorland walk in between, it is possible to extend the joys of the hands-on experience into a longer day.

The aim of this guidebook is to highlight and gather together these alternative routes in the hope that others will derive as much pleasure from them as we have over the years. It should certainly provide food for thought for anyone looking for a change from the well-trodden paths that lead onto the tops. Such readers will find these routes truly rewarding. On a good day, in dry sunny weather, the careful placing of hands and feet on clean, water-washed gritstone, while climbing through unique scenery, takes a lot of beating.

At the same time, under good winter conditions of ice and snow, most of the routes can offer the same uplifting experience and a straightforward ascent. Some routes, however, are more serious outings in winter and the general warnings given below and more specifically in the route descriptions should be heeded.

Sample Route

Rimmon Pit Clough–Trinnacle–Holme Clough
Start/FinishLay-by on A635 on Wessenden Moor, SE 051 063
Total Ascent200–225m
Grade and rating1 (summer and winter) *

Easy-angled scrambling on interesting sections of gritstone bedrock, which is delightful to scramble over in dry conditions. This route takes in two contrasting cloughs and there is a superb photo opportunity on top of a tall rock pinnacle known as The Trinnacle. Holme Clough contains a beautiful little waterfall pitch above a pool. The whole route could be followed in the reverse direction, but is more enjoyable as described.


Park at the large lay-by on the north side of the A635. This is marked on the map and is where the old alternative Pennine Way path from Black Hill to Marsden crosses the A635. Walk westwards from the car park for a few hundred metres to a locked gate on the south side of the road. A track leads from here down to the ruins of Rimmon Cottage (SE 044 058) where only the walls remain of what today might be called a ‘development opportunity’.


Just past the cottage drop down into Rimmon Pit Clough. Follow the line of the main watercourse downstream, keeping to the rock as far as possible (the line taken will vary with prevailing conditions). Lower down, the walls of the clough get higher and begin to close in. A succession of small rock pitches and pools lead to the junction with Holme Clough (SE 041 052). Continue downwards to the junction with Birchen Clough (SE 038 050), negotiating this fairly shattered area mainly towards the true left bank. The climbers' crag of Raven Stones looms above on the valley rim opposite. Turn left into Birchen Clough and scramble over large rocks, if conditions allow, or take to the path on the left bank, to reach a large waterfall (this can provide an easy ice pitch after a period of freezing weather). Ascend, mostly on the right, into the upper stream channel. Look for a shallow, rocky, water-worn trough running through the grass up which you can clamber to reach the valley rim at the left-hand (eastern) end of Raven Stones. Now pick up a path and walk westwards along the edge to find The Trinnacle, a spectacular three-pronged pinnacle that provides a great photographic opportunity (the chimney that splits the middle of the longest side is graded ‘Moderate’ in the rock-climbers' guide).

The Trinnacle at Raven Stones with Greenfield Reservoir in the background

Picture taken, retrace the route eastwards to where the steepness of the slope eases off and pick up a vague path leading diagonally down to the streambed in Birchen Clough. Nearby on the opposite bank is another shallow and rocky, water-worn trough. Ascend this to reach the moor above (Middle Edge Moss) and then head north, aiming for the start of Holme Clough near to the waterfall marked on the map (SE 042 052). A steep, rocky, descent leads towards this picturesque waterfall and its pool and the scrambling starts with a short pitch up the left side of the fall. Continue to work up the clough, keeping to the rock as much as possible, until forced out onto a vague path on the left bank.

Options from here are either to head northwest across open moorland back to the upper reaches of Rimmon Pit Clough and ascend this to return to the car park (1), or to continue to follow Holme Clough until, as it begins to narrow, some slabby rocks on the left bank provide an easy scramble to reach the moor above (2). From here, head north over open moorland to return to the car park on the A635 (or, further, continue eastwards to intercept the path that runs northwest from Black Hill back towards the car park [3]).


From the bottom of Rimmon Pit Clough, at the junction with Birchen Clough, walk down the valley on good paths past Greenfield, Yeoman Hey and Dove Stone Reservoirs, to pick up the track (at SE 020 031) leading to Chew Reservoir. This is Chew Road and further along it there is a choice of routes to gain the moorland above.

Link A

Ascend Charnel Clough (Route 4). From the top of Charnel Clough, take the path that leads north along the edge of the moor to Dean Rocks (SE 027 039), then Ashway Rocks (SE 029 048) and onwards to Raven Stones (SE 036 048) and the Trinnacle. Return to the A635 car park by ascending Rimmon Pit Clough or by following Holme Clough and the continuations as described in Route 1.

Link B

Any of the Wilderness Gullies (Routes 5–9). From the top of these routes follow the path along the valley rim eastwards to Chew Reservoir and pick up the path leading west along the edge of the moor to the top of Charnel Clough. Continue from here as in Link A.


Front Cover Route 1: Link B Route 1: Link A Route 1: Rimmon Pit Clough–Trinnacle–Holme Clough The large slab on the Upper Tier Ridge on The Roaches skyline (Route 40) A satisfied walk back down Chew Road with Wilderness Gully East on right of centre (Route 6) Climbing the slab out of Holme Clough (Route 1) Not normally a broad sandy footpath, this is the dry bed of the River Kinder en route to Kinder Downfall (Route 34) The Trinnacle at Raven Stones with Greenfield Reservoir in the background Grade 2/3 route at Alderman’s Rocks

The Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer OL1 (Dark Peak) map covers all the routes except for The Roaches and Chrome and Parkhouse Hills, when the OL24 (White Peak) map will be needed. Please note that place names highlighted in the route descriptions refer to these 1:25,000 maps, sections of which are reproduced in each route. Many of the footpaths mentioned in the text are not shown on the OS maps and can be fairly indistinct in some cases, especially where described as a ‘vague path’ or ‘sheep track’. At other times it will be a case of ‘find the best way’. Where given, National Grid references are quoted to six digits only (eg SK 123 456), close enough to enable the feature to be found on the map.

As anyone who has become ‘misplaced’ on the moors of the Dark Peak knows, it is very easy to get lost in poor visibility. So before this happens, check that you've got the right map and a compass with you and, more importantly, that you know how to use them.

Climbing the slab out of Holme Clough (Route 1)

Further Reading

Baker, Ernest A Moors, Crags and Caves of the High Peak and Neighbourhood (Heywood, (London 1903; 2nd facsimile edition, Halsgrove 2002)

Brown, Joe The Hard Years (Gollancz, London 1967)

Byne, Eric and Sutton, Geoffrey High Peak (Secker & Warburg, London 1966)

Collier, Ron (with Roni Wilkinson) Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks Vol 1 (Wharncliffe Books, Barnsley, 2nd revised edition 1995)

Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks Vol 2 (Wharncliffe Books, Barnsley, 2nd revised edition 1992)

Milburn, Geoff (Ed) Peak District Climbs: Fourth Series Vol 6, Moorland Gritstone Chew Valley (BMC, 2001)

Peak District Climbs, Fifth Series Vol 2, Moorland Gritstone Kinder and Bleaklow (BMC, 1990)

Monkhouse, Patrick On foot in the Peak (Maclehose & Co, London 1932)

Rothman, Benny The 1932 Kinder Trespass (Willow Publishing, Altrincham 1982)

Smith, Roland ‘Forgive us our Trespassers’ (contained in The Seven Blunders of the Peak Brian Robinson [Ed]) (Scarthin Books, Cromford 1994)

Stainforth, Gordon The Peak Past and Present (Constable, London 1998)

Hen Cloud from The Roaches Scrambling around at The Roaches Towards the top of Charnel Clough The big rock pitch Another opportunity spotted Gritstone walls About halfway up the gully Blockier Wilderness Gully West In Charnel Clough In Wilderness Gully West Wilderness Gully Far Far East Wilderness Gully West A final look at the scramble In Charnel Clough Nearing the top of Wilderness Gully West Wilderness Gully East Wilderness Gully East Wilderness Gully West Looking back down Wilderness Gully West

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'A good little guide covering some of the hidden gems in the Dark Peak. The guide is well laid out with the scrambles categorised in to the relevant geographical locations. Where there are several scrambles close by, the guide includes possible link ups which you can do to make it a fll day out on the hill. Alternatively, the route maps include a nice walk to and from the scramble.'

Chris Guest, Mountain Rescue Magazine, April 2013

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