This major section of one of the most important Peak crags currently has only one topo.
At its highest point the crag reaches 40 metres whilst on the righthand end the routes are short, extended boulder problems. The contrasting styles of climbing provide long stamina routes like Indecent Exposure, Body Machine and The Prow, to boulder problem routes like Pump Up the Power, Weedkiller and Out of My Tree. The thing most lacking is good warm up routes and bouldering, fingerboards or even Sardine and Tin Of are used for this.
It's popularity unfortunately means many of the easier lines, and some of the harder ones, are now very polished. The rock quality varies but some sections are shattered and holds often break, sometimes making the routes harder. Although the list of routes here seems quite long bear in mind that many of the routes listed are often variations, extentions or link ups of other routes.
Despite the difficulty of the routes here, its ease of access and the number of routes and boulder problems mean Ravens Tor is nevertheless a popular crag. You can climb here in a range of conditions including the pouring rain. Some sections seep and take a long time to dry out but other sections remain dry for most of the year. In the warmer months the main problem is the full sun. The crag gets shade all morning so some people opt for an early start at that time of the year.
The history of Ravens Tor has been almost that of an outdoor climbing wall. Before the invention of modern indoor walls climbers from Sheffield and Manchester Raven Tor as a place to train. In the winter months remained dry and you could even climb on much of it while it was raining. People would do laps routes and then link them into other routes. It has also been the cutting edge of climbing. If one were to list all the possible variations and link ups possible a very complicated topo would emerge, almost like a young child’s scrawl on a blackboard.
For the sake of clarity and brevity some of the topos synthesize the main lines into single pitches that seem to make most sense. Before the advent of sport climbing almost all routes went to the top of a crag for the simple fact that climbers usually had to get back down and there were no lower offs. With bolts came chains to simply lower back down. In France routes didn't necessarily go to the top of the crag any more. Sometimes good climbing could be found below a blank roof. At other times the upper half might be too easy to bother with. To the French as long as routes ended at a natural stopping place—easy ground, a rest or a big jug—a bolt belay could be placed there to mark the end of a climb. Many routes at Raven Tor follow this tradition.
This guide is not intended to be definitive. It's simply one interpretation of the climbing at Raven Tor. The routes are described in their fullest longest version but intermediate lower offs are marked and the lower grade to these points is given. No guide to Raven Tor has included every link up, variation or minor route at Raven Tor. This guide has been intentionally sparce. Feel free to climb where you want. If you want to link Weedkiller into the first pitch of Rooster Booster and finish up Sardine, as one visiting French climber did (Ello Ethique, 8a) feel free.
Ravens Tor is the jewel in the crown of Peak District sport climbing albeit a rather polished one. Handily positioned as it is by a road it was the scene of many aided ascents in the late fifties and sixties—it was these routes and the in situ gear that was left on them that provided the protection for the early free climbs and helped introduce the concept of sport climbing into the UK. Having said that Tom Proctor's A Little Extra climbed in the 1970s actually had a new bolt placed on it—as elsewhere Proctor could see where the future lay...
It was Ron Fawcett (who else?!) who was to make the biggest impact initially, his ascent of the mixed protection Sardine and the completely bolt/peg equipped Indecent Exposure really got the ball rolling. The next step was a multi-day, multi-pitch siege based, loosely, on the line of the aid route The Prow which was again, exclusively a clip-up. Meantime the young pretender, as he was then, Jerry Moffatt added Rooster Booster— peg/bolt protection only. 1984 was the big year though—first off was Fawcett with Body Machine which was a bolt clip-up and Tim Freeman produced Weedkiller but all were upstaged by Moffatt's Revelations— the hardest route in the country at the time. Curiously though it only had one bolt, Moffatt used the aid climbers' drilled thread runners for protection so as not to annoy them—this philosophy was not to last long!
Steve Lewis went full bolt on Super High Intensity Bodybuilding, Tin Of and Another Toadside Attraction, Mark Pretty made his first contribution with Jive Turkey (which Ben Masterson soon turned into Let's Get Naked!) whilst Andy Pollit produced the outrageous Whore of Babylon, Out of My Tree, Boot Boys and Chimes of Freedom (reclimbed by Ben Moon when a large block fell off the start). Easier routes, now out of vogue, at the lefthand end of the crag were the work of Malcolm Taylor, Nigel Slater and Pete Oxley whilst Lewis added The Toilet and In Brine. The big news in 1988 was Martin Atkinson's Mecca which at 8b+ was one of the hardest routes in the world at the time—a tremendous effort and one that put Raven Tor on the world climbing map. More was to come, Hubble was the scene of a race for the first ascent between Moffatt and Moon and with a grade of 8c+ was, alongside Wolfgang Gullich's Action Directe, the hardest route in the world at the time. Many have tried and few have succeeded and although the grade increase to 9a is somewhat contentious it's aura has never fully dissipated.
A brief lull followed Hubble until Pretty, after Dialectics, succeeded on Make It Funky which, at 8c, was again one of the hardest routes in the world at the time. Rather bizarrely after doing Mecca 18 times he never tried the extension which he had previously bolted!
It was Moffatt again who upstaged everyone else with his ascent of Evolution, now one of the most coveted routes at the crag and definitely 8c+! As the 1980s generation bowed out the 1990s moved in—John Welford's Jehovahkill was a truly desparate addition but it was Steve McClure who was destined to be the next 'King of the Tor'. His Mecca Extension was rapidly overshadowed by the still unrepeated Mutation which, at a tough 9a, again put the Tor on the world map. His Kabaah, The Hajj, Stevolution and Rooster Crossing are some of the hardest at the crag.
Pretty meanwhile, was on an almost endless mission to extend/make more logical/link together any and every bit of rock on the crag; of those routes Proud Whore, The Prow in one pitch, Green Alternative and Call of Nature have become popular as have Kristian Clemmow's Right to Roam and Ring of Fire.
Since then bouldering links into routes have been all the rage but the 'last great problem'— a free version of Brandenburg Gate awaits. John Gaskin's mighty battles came very close to giving the crag a 9b but as yet it remains unclimbed. One of the last gaps was plugged by Buster Martin in 2021 when he climbed the direct finish to Make it Funky to give Persian Dawn (8c+), a desperate bouldery affair.