Salewa x Webtogs | Climbing ‘God’s Own Rock’ In The Peak District

Salewa x Webtogs | Climbing ‘God’s Own Rock’ In The Peak District

Salewa x Webtogs | Climbing ‘God’s Own Rock’ In The Peak District

Words and Pictures by Jazz Noble

Nestled between heather-laden hillsides and glorious gritstone edges, you’ll find Hathersage, an age-old village in the Dark Peak region of the Peak District. Incidentally, this is where Salewa invited us for a spot of outdoor climbing on – what’s otherwise known as – God’s Own Rock.

Without getting too technical, Gritstone is a unique type of rock composed of a hard, coarse-grained sandstone. It’s a sedimentary rock that began its life on the floors of river deltas over 300 million years ago. Now, however, you’ll recognise it in the uniquely textured boulders and crags throughout the north of England and beyond.

And, whilst the Peak District is famous for a huge array of attractions including Mam Tor, Kinder Scout, and the mighty Bakewell Tart; it’s this world-renowned type of rock that draws in climbing fanatics from far and wide. Indeed, it’s why we all jumped at the opportunity to try out this iconic style of climbing just a few weeks ago.

Under the trusty supervision of Salewa-supported instructors, we headed to Burbage North to try our hand at top roping in the eastern end of Hope Valley.

The first thing Katie and Paul (our climbing instructors) made clear to us was the difference in how Gritstone feels from the likes of Limestone or Granite, and of course, from the structures of an indoor climbing gym.

Paul likens it to sandpaper and, well; he’s not half-wrong. It’s rough, hardy, and subtly spiked; most definitely made of tough stuff. In fact, it’s this rough surface and consequent friction that provides climbers with the trust to both stand on and grip the most precarious of features in the rock.

Interestingly, this type of gritstone was actually used in grindstones to sharpen blades and other metals in years gone by. If, then, it’s tough enough to sharpen a knife; surely it’s strong enough to hold my body weight? Thankfully, I was correct.

We began on some ‘easier’ routes to warm up, paying close attention to the grippy connection between the rock and the rubber of our climbing shoes. Knowing when to trust this connection, I’m told, is crucial.

As a relative newbie to the world of outdoor climbing, I was fascinated. I scrambled up to the top of the crag to get a sense of the height, and to see where Katie was securing the anchor. There seemed to be a two-fold system in place here: one side of the rope was wrapped around a boulder, whilst the other strand utilised a trad climbing nut. Though baffling at first, I was beginning to see how this system could hold a hell of a lot of force.       

Now warmed up, we moved onto harder climbs further down into the Burbage Valley. While some areas on the Grit appear solid, with more visible grooves and holds, other areas have weathered into cracks and gaps, both horizontal and vertical. When horizontal, securing your foot in the crack seems pretty intuitive. Vertical cracks, on the other hand, are a whole different ball game.

To climb these, I had to use a climbing technique called ‘jamming’. If you didn’t already know, this involves jamming (or stuffing) your hands, feet, and limbs more generally, into cracks in the rock. Once securely positioned and locked into place, you then push off and effectively use your body part as a hold on the rock.

Thankfully, amongst climbing experts, it doesn’t feel as odd as it sounds. You start getting used to the sensations and feel quite powerful using your body in this rugged way. In the end, I was even quite proud of the Grit rash I acquired – a natural hazard of this way of life.

I almost forget, too, that Salewa are climbing pioneers after all. Including some of the first ultralight outdoor clothing, the sub 33 carabiner, the adjustable crampon, and the first ever tubular ice screw; it feels only right to climb with a brand that invented products that have forever changed the face of the outdoor world.

And where better to do it than in England and Wales’ first ever national park. With grazing cows in the distance, luscious green vegetation extending for miles, and that all-familiar threat of the clouds darkening ahead; it’s no wonder people travel from all over for this uniquely British Gritstone experience.

On the final few climbs, we used the last of our energies torquing our limbs on some slabs and smaller, but more technical, cracks. Weirdly, it’s just when your body is tiring that you want to push your hardest. And so; we smeared, we jammed, and we made the most of these historic rocks.

It’s a funny thing, convincing your brain to put its faith in climbing ropes, carabiners, nuts, cams, and what have you. Once you see it all up close though, it begins to make a lot more sense. From the choice of gear and where to place it, to your precise weight distribution, your specific foot placements, and even the skill involved in tying a secure knot; there’s a whole world beyond what meets the eye. And it’s pretty damn fun.

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