They call it the Popular End for good reason, we sit on the top of the edge along with several other climbers belaying and watch a snake of maybe 30 children/guardians walking noisily up through the bracken, thankfully not to climb but just out for a ramble. A ring ousel cries out its distress. A constant stream of walkers past along the top. The line of cars parked below is not as long as on a weekend and the instructed groups are further along the edge, Grotto Slab area.
So we are able to pick at will climbs in the short Mantelpiece Buttress area. Rod has brought his friend, Pete, from way past along for an easy day on gritstone. We have two guide books, mine from 20 years ago with climbs described awkwardly left to right and Rod’s [2002 ed.] right to left but with useless diagrams. Things have moved on with guides and the later BMC editions are much better along with Rockfax. It is interesting to see how the grades have changed between our two editions, when I was soloing around innocently in this area all those years ago everything was diff – severe whereas now the routes are recorded a grade or two harder. They certainly felt it today.
A whole catalogue of gritstone techniques were employed – jamming, bridging, udging, knees, slopers, laybacking, manteling etc etc on the climbs we selected. Which other rock type gives you such variety. We had a limited trad rack, no ‘friends’, so everything felt a bit bold. By tea time we’d had enough and soon were in the motorway jams on the way home. That’s another thing that’s changed in the 20 years – the amount of traffic, no wonder our visits to the Peak are becoming less frequent.