resize The Roaches for feature photo

Climbing The Roaches in the Peak District, UK

The wind carved cliffs of the high plateau on the edge of Sheffield in the Peak District offer some of the best gritstone climbing in the country. The crags face south-west and are at an altitude of 450m. The routes can be up to 30m long.

We have written before about climbing at Stanage Edge and bouldering at Stanage Edge so today we are going to concentrate on The Roaches with Hen Cloud and Ramshaw Rocks  in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The Roaches are an important and iconic climbing area near Leek, Staffordshire which have been popular since the beginning of the 20th Century, despite the difficulties to access them… the local landowner had armed gamekeepers controlling the area. However,with multiple routes on gritstone crags in an area of about 390 hectares, it was inevitable that the region would always attract climbers. After World War II, access became easier and a number of routes were established.

Things have changed a bit since those early days – The Roaches are now so popular that you may have to queue to climb routes such as Perverted Staircase, Demon Wall, Snap, Crackle and Andy Popp, Valkyrie (VS 4c), or The Swan (E3 5c), to name just a few. The reason being that this popular region has something for everyone with routes rated from E1 up to E7 – E8 is ‘extremely severe’.

The Valkyrie at The Roaches, Peak District Climbing, on gritstone crags

Valkyrie – The Roaches

And Valkyrie from a different angle… gives a whole different perspective, doesn’t it?

Climbing the Valkyrie, a gritstone crag at The Roaches

Climbers on Valkyrie

(Postscript: I have been advised that this route is not strictly correct. “Valkyrie topo is wrong it goes round the corner onto the face not up the crack just short of the arête – this is where the direct goes.” So if you’re heading out that way, make sure you know where the right route is.)

Other classics to choose from are Pedestal Route (HVD), Black and Tans (S), Saul’s Crack (HVS 5a), The Sloth (HVS 5a), Wombat (E2 5c), Gypfast (E4 5c) and Paralogism (E7 6c). Some are multi-pitch. Slab and crystal lovers will love the unique collection of desperate routes, the hardest of which is Doug (E8 6c)

Sloth on Upper Tier, The Roaches, Peak District, UK

Sloth, Upper Tier, The Roaches

The Roaches consist of two edges, a Lower and Upper tier, with a set of rock-steps connecting them. Artificial aids are frequently used in popular climbing zones, but not on gritstone and not at The Roaches, instead the lead climber uses anchors which are removed by the second climber.

The further you go from the main edge, the more the crowds thin out, particularly the further left you go. The Skyline is well worth a visit with excellent micro-routes on superb rock.  There are some quality bouldering areas too including Doxey’s Pool and the miniaturesque Very, Very Far Skyline.

Built into the rocks of Lower Tier is “The best located climbing hut in the Universe – probably” ! – the Don Whillans Hut, otherwise known as Rockhall, or Rock, Cottage. It is tiny and primitive and was once the gamekeeper’s cottage, but has now been converted into a climbing hut.

Rock Cottage at The Roaches, Peak District, Staffordshire, UK

Rockhall Cottage, The Roaches

Hen Cloud is an impressive solitary edge which rises steeply from the ground below. Over 100 routes, from E4 to difficult, with some reaching over 30m (100 feet) in length. There are some very difficult walls for which a top rope is highly recommended as bolts are strongly discouraged here. Although it is south-west facing it is very exposed so come prepared. the views are magnificent.

Hen Cloud, The Roaches, Peak District, UK

Hen Cloud, Peak District

Ramshaw Rocks lies between Leek and Buxton. The serrated skyline of Ramshaw Rocks lies at an angle to the Roaches with the single impressive outcrop of Hen Cloud in between. The most recognised rock here is the Winking Eye. It looks like a face, but they say you must watch the ‘eye’ and wait for it to wink at you! It’s a great crag for the grit lover. Almost 150 routes in all grades up to 15m long. There is plenty here for everyone, including good bouldering.

Ramshaw Rocks at The Roaches, Peak District, UK

Ramshaw Rocks, Peak District

photo courtesy of

Remember to take your bouldering mat when you visit this region as there is plenty on offer.


2 Responses to “Climbing The Roaches in the Peak District, UK”

  1. g h
    2013 | 11 June at 16:23 #

    Valkyrie topo is wrong it goes round the corner onto the face not up the crack just short of the arête – this is where the direct goes. If you got the line from the original Rockfax book it is also wrong.

    • lolajones
      2013 | 14 June at 16:29 #

      Thanks g h. I like to be corrected if my information is wrong. Much appreciated. I’ll edit it.

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