Awesome Dan on Rocky Variations (6b) on Papacy Buttress. Photo: Steve Lewis
The majority of routes here centre around technical face climbing though there are plenty of crack, groove and arête climbs too. Most, but not all, of the rock is quarried and varies in quality from sector to sector and route to route. But the popular areas are really solid with the best faces offering climbing on compact, immaculate limestone that’s as good as anywhere in the Peak. There is a large choice of styles to choose from and grades range from beginner friendly 4s and 5s up to 7b with a majority of climbs in the low to mid sixes.
The main areas of cliff face north west or west and only get sunshine after 3pm - 4pm in summer. However all of the ‘Dark Side’ crags face east and The Retreat faces north so there is always somewhere to escape the intense heat of hot summer days. The Cairn sector, The Playground and Sanctuary all face south west so are good bets if you want to catch some rays in the afternoon.
Due to its open nature the rock dries extremely quickly and takes little seepage. This means it’s dry most of the year. However it can be a cold venue in the winter months due its susceptabilty to wind. It’s a perfect place to spend a spring or summer evening or as a retreat in scorching summer weather.
Much was written over the years with respect to the climbing at Harpur Hill most of which was been about whether sport climbing should exist there or not. In 1994 Nadim Siddiqui and Bill Birch began redevelopment of the quarry, after it had lain dormant for many years, with a view to providing a major sport climbing venue for the area with routes throughout the grading spectrum. This raised the eyebrows of a few anti-bolting lobbyists and during the ensuing debate or, in fact, before any bolting debate was made, the bolts were stripped from the routes and the venue was no more.
After this, and after a extremely heated debate in conjunction with the BMC, it was agreed that sport climbing could coexist alongside the traditional routes of the crag as long as bolts were not placed alongside natural placements or conflicted to any great extent with existing routes. Hence the routes were rebolted and over the decades a huge number of sport climbs have appeared.
Four views of routes at Harpur Hill all with Gary Gibson climbing. From top left and clockwise are:
Bag of Bones (6a+), Full Frontal (6c), The Talisman (7a) and Viagra Falls (6c+)
All photos by Carl Ryan