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.
Top of Zip Crack.
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.
I’ve always had a soft spot for climbing at Windgather even though the horrendous roads around Manchester and Stockport have to be negotiated. Many a day washed out in the Peak has been salvaged by a visit here on the way home. At one time whilst I was stocking my garden I often visited Dunge Valley Gardens, in the next valley, to view their Himalayan display. Then, car boot stuffed with plants, I would drive up to Windgather for a couple of hours soloing. It is surprising how much you can do in that time on this friendly crag, it is only a minute from the road and the buttresses are 10m high at the most. Plus you have lovely vistas over the Cheshire countryside.
Mark had never been so today we braved the late morning traffic and arrived to find nearly every parking spot taken. The weather has been so poor of late that the chance of a fine afternoon brought everyone out. There are always ‘groups’ in situ on the most popular buttresses and a scattering of boulderers and their mats completed the scene, but we soon found some free space.
Of course it was very windy, it always is!
Despite its popularity, it has been climbed on for a 100years, the well worn routes are not as slippy as imagined as the grit is of such good quality. The escarpment crops out of the hill top at a very agreeable angle and we were soon enjoying all manner of routes. Friendly cracks, thoughtful slabs and steep but juggy walls, all with good protection and nothing harder than VS.
Mark on Centre Route.
The fine High Buttress Arête.
Tackling the nose on Director.
By climbing into the early evening we had the best of the sunshine and traffic free roads for the journey home. A very satisfying trip with a dozen or so routes done.