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Rock climbing

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as throughout all the Pennine regions there are two main rock types - gritstone and limestone, and these have long attracted climbers.

Indeed Attermire Scar near Settle is mentioned in the book ‘Where to rock climb in the British Isles’ written by W.P. Haskett-Smith after his visit there around 1894. There was some activity in the Dales through the early part of the 20th century but it was the 1950s and 60s that saw the real start of rock climbing developing in the Dales.

The gritstone outcrops are scattered throughout the Dales with some the best known being those in the southern Dales, such as Crookrise, Rylstone and Eastby. The main gritstone edges mostly have short traditional routes and boulder problems on a variety of buttresses. The grade range is wide with climbs suited to beginner and expert often located side by side. 

A man climbing a cliff Climbing Gordale Scar near Malham

The dominant rock type of the Yorkshire Dales is limestone. This underlying rock gives the place it characteristic look with white outcrops framing the valley sides, ribbons of walls across the landscape, and expanses of limestone pavement. There are many climbable cliffs here include the intimidating ‘big three’ of Kilnsey, Malham Cove and Gordale Scar. Most of the limestone cliffs are better suited to experienced climbers whilst beginners will generally find gritstone a more amenable medium on which to learn and practice

The limestone cliffs have both traditional and modern sport climbing on crags which include some of the hardest climbs in the country. In recent years the addition of new bolted routes have increased the popularity of a number of venues including Trow Gill, Robin Proctor’s Scar and Giggleswick.

Many of the limestone cliffs in the Dales are south or west facing and dry quickly after rain meaning that climbing can take place for much of the year.

Some sites, and in particular, Malham, Gordale and Trow Gill are very popular with walkers and other visitors and so need to be used with a sense of responsibility and care.

During the bird nesting season there are also a number of effective voluntary restrictions to protect breeding raven and peregrines. These are advertised on the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) website and some have on-site notices. These arrangements are organised through regular meetings between the BMC and local climbers, and Natural England, the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

If you would like to try rock climbing for the first time you can look in our ‘activity centres and guides’ section or look on the BMC website to find clubs or a climbing wall in the area.

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