A chat with the authors of Scrambles in the Dark Peak

Scrambles in the Dark Peak is the result of many years climbing and walking in the Peak District. Author Terry Sleaford describes the guide's collaborative creation.

An advance copy of the forthcoming Cicerone guidebook Scrambles in the Dark Peak landed on my desk. There are many guidebooks to the Peak District, covering everything from gentle stroll to long-distance walks, family cycle paths to mountain biking trails, climbing rocks to descending cave systems. This new guidebook (we believe) was the first to focus specifically to Scrambling in the Peak District, and the Dark Peak in particular.

I caught up with one the authors Terry Sleaford:

The book is the result of many years spent climbing and walking with Tom Corker in the Peak District. We’d climbed together all over the Peak District, Wales, Lakes and Scotland, including winter climbing, but as we got older we began turning to the routes in the scrambles guides to Snowdonia and the Lakes.

Trinnacle at Raven Stones
Trinnacle at Raven Stones

Tom often tells me that I alerted him (in the late eighties or early nineties) to other possibilities in the Peak District by showing him an article about a winter ascent of Charnel Clough in one of the outdoor magazines (I forget which).

This led to him looking for other winter possibilities in the Peak District. Then, of course, it became clear that these things needn’t necessarily be limited to the winter months.

Over the next few years Tom, sometimes by himself (as he lived on the ‘doorstep’ so to speak) but also with me or other friends, investigated the possibilities and this led to a ‘collection’ of routes that we’ve repeated in all weather conditions.

Over the last six or seven years things really began to take off, with Tom and I (sometimes alone, often together) visiting less popular areas in search of likely routes. Sometimes, while we stopped for a coffee and a bite to eat, we’d fantasise about putting these ‘adventures’ down in writing, thinking up crazy titles and formats in which to do this.

Then, in the summer of 2010, Tom got a little more serious and asked what I really thought about a book. My first reaction was to say that a book would probably bring an end to the quiet and solitary enjoyment of the routes we’d been doing for the past few years, because once people were aware of the possibilities then, obviously, the likelihood of having the routes to ourselves would be lessened.

Scrambles in the Dark Peak
Large slab on the Upper Tier Ridge

Nevertheless, once Tom had drafted a couple of route descriptions and asked my thoughts I realised that I would have to get involved. After all, our friendship spanned more than thirty years and the contents of any potential book had been experienced together, plus several of the routes were my discoveries from solo excursions.

So Tom gradually worked up sections of a draft manuscript (typed up by his wife Claire) which I then tidied up and added to, converting it into the latest Cicerone format. Tom was away and out of contact during this time and there were a few occasions when I had to drive out and confirm notes on access or route approaches, or to get more photographs with my son in tow.

One of these trips actually led to the discovery of three more routes, in an area we’d not visited before, one of which now ranks high on our list. Although only a handful of the routes would stand up against scrambles in the Lakes or Wales (mainly due to their relatively short length) what we have discovered is that each repeat ascent can be a unique experience depending on the time of year and weather.

In winter, routes provide good sport and the chance to hone winter climbing skills in a relatively safe and not too remote environment. As Tom says, it’s all about having fun!

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