Jim Hilliard on Touch at Hen Cloud Photo: John Coefield
There is a lot of very good problems in the Peak, many of which are subject to perhaps a little too much attention: celebrities stalked by our pads and dreams. It’s stunning that new problems are still cleaned and climbed in such a well developed and heavily visited area, but each year development continues, and quality lines are unearthed and added to the circuits. This winter was no exception and the forthcoming Peak District Bouldering guidebook will feature many lines that were only climbed for the first time in the last six months, some of which were 'last great problems.'
I’ve had a crack at compiling a list of the five best new (well, ‘new’ for me) problems I’ve climbed while working on the new guide. It’s hard to narrow it down to just five as there’s a lot of bangers out there, but I’ve had a go anyway. I’ll confess the list is biased towards stuff off the beaten track, but I do tend to derive greater enjoyment from going to new places and trying new things. Hopefully the new guide will do more than simply reiterate the approach information for exhausted classics such as Crescent Arête and West Side Story, but instead inspire you to go to new places and try new things. I hope this list too stirs your curiosity.
One of the first research sessions for the new guide was over in Staffordshire at and around The Roaches. We headed to Hen Cloud first on a tip-off from Adam that Simon Nadin’s old school route Touch over the back of the Cloud was actually a really cool highball boulder problem. And it is. E4 6c in old money, it’s a great highball 7a with pads. The tricky bit is passing a very sloping break about halfway, and the top-out looks horrendous, but thankfully it isn’t – holds arrive just where you need them. A great piece of climbing and a Staffs must-do. See the photo above.
2 Brad’s Arête – The Presence of Absence, Stanton Moor
Knocking on for two years ago local area devotee John Bradbury unearthed yet more problems on the enigmatic Stanton Moor. The so-called Secret Boulders now help this fragmented circuit hang together a little better, filling the void along the edge between the classic Spare Rib (aka Brutal Arête) and the Cat (aka King) Stone. The pick of the bunch is this arête, a cool technical sequence at a good height on very good rock. Don’t let the snappy name put you off, this is a cool problem.
3 Old King Cascade, Froggatt
OK, I confess, I actually only did this one the other day. A pistol prow, jutting out beside the babbling brook of Brookside Buttress, down in the Froggatt woods. Squeezy climbing – never too desperate – to a crux move to a good notch on the final arête (spotters needed). Thanks to Robin Mueller and Dawid Skoczylas for the first ascent. If you’re operating at 7b+/c you must check out Jamie Lillieman's Les Grands Doigts around the corner too. We’ve included about 30 problems in the Froggatt woods circuit. Some will need a clean, but some are cleaning up already thanks to coverage in the BMC’s Froggatt guide. Let’s hope they stay that way.
Andy Banks on Swingers Party, Bradley Edge Photo: John Coefield
4 Swingers Party, Bradley Edge
Bradley Edge isn’t a great crag (understatement), but this is a great problem. On a recce mission to check out the area with Andy Banks we saw this roof and dismissed it as an 8b project, and then happily went about climbing and recording the other stuff. On the way out we decided to have a play: 30 minutes later Swingers Party was climbed, first by Andy, then myself. Slopey slapping along the lip of a roof, aided by one of the most unlikely holds ever (see the photo above – it slopes the wrong way!). One of the best problems I climbed anywhere last year.
5 Made in Sheffield, Houndkirk Tor
This was one of the last problems we added to the guide. I’m so glad we did: it’s probably the best mid-grade roof problem in the Peak. And by ‘roof’, I mean not just a span to a lip and a haul around: this has proper roof climbing. There’s not really anything else at this bit of Houndkirk, but the stretch of crag further west has a good circuit up to the mid 6’s, including the must-do Friends & Relations. Here’s a low quality video of Made in Sheffield, filmed on my squawkbox: