Epic Scrambles In The Peak District
It’s easy to get distracted by the typical locations such as the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Cairngorms when thinking of scrambling but it’s important to remember that you can find some excellent scrambles anywhere if you look a little closer.
While the Peak District is mostly rounded moorland, plateaus and valleys, there are some pretty exposed ridges, gullies and boulder fields galore. These are the kind of routes that require a good sense of problem-solving and provide a great sense of achievement once completed but must be approached with great care, caution and experience.
Nether Red Brook (Grade 1)
This scramble offers access to the north side of the Kinder plateau and can be accessed by closely following the River Ashop west from lay-by parking on the A57. As the name suggests the route takes you up a brook and this joins the River Ashop where you should leave the river and continue south following the brook, this will eventually lead you to the crux of the route.
To keep this route strictly at grade 1 you should stay with the brook as it turns left where you’ll find plenty of steps and holds to guide you to the top, alternatively, you can choose to tackle one, or both, of the more difficult routes to the right of the brook but do be aware the first alternative you’ll come across on the route is a grade 3 and in wet conditions can be almost impossible due to slimy rock towards the top. The second alternative, slightly further on from the first alternative, is a grade 2 and offers some excellent opportunities to get your hands dirty as you move on up the rocks. Both options can be easily bypassed via a grassy bank to the side should you change your mind.
Once at the top you can continue circular travelling east along The Edge towards Fairbrook Naze before handrailing your way along Fair Brook back towards the road. If it’s a particularly lovely day, maybe you’re enjoying some nice weather or great company, and you are keen to keep moving then you can make your way further round the edge of the plateau and make your way down to the road via Gate Side Clough.
Andy's scramble up Nether Red Book captured by his Go Pro Max, Credit: Andy Johnson
Blackden Brook (Grade 1)
Slightly further along the Woodlands Valley from the Nether Red Brook route above lies a scramble route up Blackden Brook. Travelling up the brook there is a narrow path but conditions can be tricky and you’ll need to cross over the brook a time or two but if the weather allows you’ll be rewarded with picturesque views complete with small waterfalls up the valley.
When you come close to the top you’ll likely notice a few different options that you can choose from to get on the plateau. Use your judgement and consider your abilities as well as the abilities of those you are with and enjoy the challenge at hand.
To descend from this scramble you can head north by Seal Stones and take the path down Gate Side clough, though this will bring you out about 2km further up the A57 than where you started and the road isn’t the best for walking along, so it might be worth leaving a vehicle here if possible.
For a fully circular alternative, if your navigation skills allow, you can take the path heading west towards Blackden Edge before leaving it to pick up a broken stream that will lead you down to a flatter section where you can pick up a broken boundary wall in a prominent gutter that will lead you down to the beginning of the route.
Andy indulging in a selfie on his way up Blackden Brook, Credit: Andrew Johnson
Crowden Clough (Grade ½)
Sitting on the south side of the Kinder Plateau is Crowden Clough which at the crux offers a substantial boulder field for you to cross and as a whole opens up the potential for some pretty big days out on Kinder Scout.
Parking at Upper Booth, follow the path north which will lead you up Crowden Clough. When you reach the Crowden Tower crags, leave the path and stay close to the watercourse where you’ll reach a pool of water, this is sometimes dry in summer so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. From here you can take a direct line towards the top or if it’s a little too wet you might be more successful taking the line up the left. Once you’ve reached the top of this section, keep by the watercourse until you reach the path that runs along the southern edge of Kinder Scout.
There are many options for descent from here, you can take the path northwest towards the Kinder Downfall and pick up the Pennine Way which will take you south, back towards Upper Booth via Jacobs Ladder. Alternatively, you can take the path east and enjoy another scramble down Grindsbrook Clough towards Grindsbrook Booth where you can pick up the Pennine Way which will again lead you back to Upper Booth.
Kat's friends heading up Crowden Clough with Crowden Tower Crags visible in the distance, Credit: Kat Mason
Wildboar Clough (Grade ⅔)
A scramble that can be enjoyed whatever the weather. Often busier in the winter months when a few short ice pitches have formed making it a great place for those inclined to practice winter climbing. During the warmer months though it’s often pretty quiet which is perfect for escaping the crowds that can form in more popular areas of the Peaks.
Get there early enough to park at Torside Reservoir before it gets too busy and take the small path up to the Longdendale Trail. Turn left along the trail and keep your eyes peeled for the Wildboar Clough sign on the right. Follow this over the stile and stick to the concessionary path which will help you avoid the clay pigeon shooting area as you head up the woodland to reach the open moor, here you will see a narrow path on the right bank of Wildboar Clough, you should utilise the path until you can get into the watercourse which is where the fun begins.
From here you can make your way up the clough where you’ll find a couple of big pitches to tackle, the main obstacle to take on being a waterfall. It’s likely not going to be dry, although it has been known to dry up in particularly warm summers, so do take great care making sure your holds are solid, up the left corner tends to be pretty reliable. After this, you’ll have another steep wall to tackle before the clough continues up before levelling out with the surrounding moorland.
Once at the top you can take a bearing south to join the Pennine Way which will take you northwest back to the Longdendale Trail and the car park or if you are hungry for a big day, you can take the Pennine Way south in search of the Bleaklow Bomber near Higher Shelf Stones.
Huw looking for the best route up Wildboar Clough, Credit: Isabelle Storer
Elbow Ridge, Winnats Pass (Grade 3)
The odd one out for the list, Elbow Ridge, as the name suggests, is a ridge scramble that should only really be tackled at the quietest periods in small groups due to the proximity to the road below and the potential for loose rock to cause damage to people and passing vehicles. The exposure on this route becomes more intense the higher you get so it may be worth taking a confidence rope and wearing a helmet for protection but on the whole, can provide some exhilarating fun.
Leaving the car at the pay and display car park at Speedwell Cavern, head east to approach Winnats Pass and you’ll see the obvious ridgeline to your right. It starts by the road and will take you to the top. The first section is perhaps the trickiest but can be avoided by taking the grassy slope up either side. Once past this section, there is a horizontal section that can’t be avoided but can be crawled across if you aren’t quite brave enough to stand up with the exposure. Once past this point, while the exposure is still apparent the route offers excellent hands-on scrambling to the top.
Once at the top, you can simply make your way down the eastern slopes back to the car park or you can head northwest towards Winnats Head Farm where you can pick up a path that will take you on a classic route over Mam Tor and along the ridgeline before dropping down through the fields and back towards Castleton for a well-earned ice cream.
Andy making his way up Elbow Ridge, Credit: Gary Lowe
About the Author:
Charlotte Fish - Outdoor Expert
Charlotte discovered her passion for the outdoors in her early teens and has never looked back since. Her pursuit of outdoor activities has taken her all over the world but she truly believes there is no place like home.