Stanage: Queen of Grit (Part 1)

The view of Stanage Edge is surely one of the iconic images of British climbing. Not for nothing is she known as the Queen of Grit. James tells me that he vividly remembers his first glimpse of Stanage. I vividly recall his reaction: as we approached from Hathersage and the Edge reared up out of the landscape, like the ramparts of a great castle, James’s jaw dropped. He spoke in soft, reverent tones: “Wow. Just wow. Are we going to climb there, Mummy?”

Stanage: Queen of Grit (Part 1)

We’d enjoyed our first climbing trip to the Peak District, but it was October before we had the chance to go again. I hesitated: it would mean a long drive and a lot of faffing for just one day of climbing, and the weather was bound to be rubbish. Then I remembered how, in the years BC [Before Children], we used to drive for hours just to do one route. I gave myself a good talking to for having become so boring, and packed the gear.

When the weekend came, it was clear I’d been right about the weather: the forecast was for patchy drizzle and low cloud. Where to go? Although Stanage is mercilessly exposed to the weather, it is often a good bet on a damp day because the rock dries quickly between showers. So, Stanage it was. James was delighted when he learned we were going to climb at ‘that amazing looking place at the top of the hill’.

As we climbed to the Edge, the moisture hung in the air and clung to the bracken, giving a real autumn feel. The boys were undeterred, which pleased me. It’s good to know they have inherited our obsessions! We identified some routes and established a Base Camp beside them. Then, the boys and I, together with our friends, set about climbing some routes, while Daddy looked after Little Sister.

Climbing with several children is quite a lengthy affair, and takes a few adults to administer properly. You have to be quite careful to make sure they don’t leave any gear behind. I have found you just have to moderate your expectations and think about it in terms of how much fun you had, rather than how many routes you climbed.

Although it was windy, especially when belaying at the top, the weather improved and we even had a glimpse of blue sky. Little Sister and Daddy also had a great time, and alternated between spectating, eating, and scrambling about over the boulders. It won’t be long before she wants to have a go too!

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About the Author

Helen & Ian

Helen & Ian

About Me & Mine

Hi there! Helen and Ian here from the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border! We have two boys who love everything in the Great Outdoors (especially sticks), and a border collie who also loves everything in the Great Outdoors (especially tennis balls). We also have a toddler daughter who is fiercely independent and proving to be just as intrepid as her brothers.

Favourite place in the world:

A difficult one... There are so many wonderful places to choose from... But it has to be Sandwood Bay in the far north-west of Scotland which can only be reached by a 4-mile walk. Last time we went it was a full-on winter mountaineering experience (with ice axe and crampons!) just to get there. Wild and windswept, it's totally unspoilt.

Favourite things to do outdoors:

Enjoy beaches, woods, and coastal paths; explore waterways in our open canoe; go for a big day out on a small hill; go rock climbing; collect sticks, conkers, and acorns; investigate puddles and rockpools; ride our tandem; fly a kite against a clear blue sky.

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