Peak District Chee Dale Clwyd Limestone S.Wales Sandstone S.Wales Limestone The Gower Ban-Y-Gor

Cowdale

“Gary Gibson returned to the crag Chris Jackson drove past. Actually he drove past it twice: the second time was to check whether Gary had found the same crag.”—Mike Browell 1984

Well its nice to get compliments from the magazines especially when the information is so well researched. It has to be said that original impressions can be misleading and due to its situation in what appears to be a dank little valley linking the A6 with Cowdale village, the parking area for Staden Quarry, this little cliff appears somewhat inconsequential. Closer inspection reveals quite the opposite and when the wind is cool and the cliff has dried out its bulging walls offer some of the best overhanging climbing around.

The history of the cliff revolves around Gary Gibson’s obsession to pepper the face with enough routes to spell out the lyrics of a favourite song (e-mail me with your guesses). This initially involved using the occasional piece of in-situ gear with threads, pegs and the occasional bolt. The future however warranted a change in direction with the majority of the equipment rotting and in need of renewal. With a certain line begging to be climbed and a reappraisal of the situation, the existing routes were completely rebolted and a number of excellent new routes added to make the place a viable proposition.

Relative popularity followed and a helping hand was given by Paul Ingham with the cliffs hardest route and a major test-piece for the future.

What’s the climbing like?

Steep is the word, sometimes very. The whole cliff leans backwards and the operative word is powerful with the odd roof thrown in for good measure. Belayers neck can be a problem here.

When should I go there?

The bulging walls usually dry out towards the end of April and then the spring months provide an ideal visiting time. Seepage can return to the cliff in a long period of rain but usually once dry it remains dry. The time to avoid is humid weather when the small dale gives a moist environment both for the cliff and the midges. It gets very little sunshine and a cool breeze helps.

Character:

The main attraction here is the crags 'uphill nature'. The place bristles with overhangs and bulges and should not be underestimated on first appearance. All of the routes are strenuous and sustained and it has been nicknamed Craig-Y-Biceps by its most active suitor: a term that describes it very appropriately. Footwork is not a major necessity here.

A note on weather conditions
In the summer months and during any humid weather the place can get very sticky and some of the holds rather slimy. The best times to climb are certainly first thing in a morning or ideally a pleasant sunny evening with a breeze blowing.

Approaches

Could not be easier. Take the A6 out of Buxton and in 2 miles, on a left-hand horseshoe bend, take the first right signposted for Cow Dale. The crag is situated on the left-hand side of this road in 400yards. Alternatively, when approaching from the Bakewell direction, the left-hand turn is situated 1 mile from the car park at the foot of Topley Pike (entrance to Deep Dale).

Note: When parking for access to the crag it is better to park on the hillside above the crag and walk back down (2 minutes) rather than park below the cliff and risk blocking the narrow road.