Articles - Peak District Bouldering: Burbage South Edge
Forget technique, Burbage South's Triangular Wall(V5) is all about pulling hard, Chris Davies is more qualified than most.
Simon Panton & Ray Wood
Often the finest things in life are not too obvious, and to a certain extent I like to think that this truism is reflected in the choice of venues featured in the Stone Circle series. Burbage South Edge is the perfect exemplar of this notion; perched up above the sunny and rather over-run Burbage South boulders, the edge proper retains an air of inscrutability, further accentuated by its shady aspect. It is not the easiest of venues to negotiate; it holds its many secrets close, and if you are not careful you may fail to grasp the very special nature of this extraordinary bouldering crag, but do persist: there are problems here as prize worthy as any in the Peak. Strong, bold lines that will captivate, frustrate and ultimately preoccupy your waking thoughts, until (you hope) that fateful day when the magic of movement that is so particular to grit, clicks, and you find yourself surging inexorably through the motions of exquisite triumph – oh, how sweet these little victories can be!
From a lofty roost up on the left shoulder of the impressive Southern Quarry, I suggest you don rock shoes and begin with the well travelled, classic arête (V2). Immediately to its right, lies the first of many John Welford test pieces: Little Gem, V8 if done with a French start (i.e. jumping) or V8+ with a conventional British approach. 30 metres to the left, the forced union of a slab and leaning wall yields another typical 1970s, black and white era V2. Strolling into the North Quarry, those with an eye for the perfect bouldering line cannot fail to be transfixed by the latter-day Moffatt masterpiece, Zorev (V8).This striking arête line (located 20 metres left of Zeus) is a testament to the joys of modern pad protection; the landing is, despite some public-spirited groundwork from Jerry and Sean Myles, not exactly ideal.
Moving on to the first section of the natural escarpment, there are one or two features worth noting. Above and Beyond The Kinaesthetic Barrier is occasionally referred to as a boulder problem, but unless you are operating with consummate ease at V6, expect a high dosage of fear and intimidation. A little further on, at the base of the famous route Pebble Mill, an innocuous traverse line could easily be ignored. It doesn’t look much, but the Pebble Mill Traverse (V7) is an intense affair, that Jerry Moffatt recently stated was one of his top 5 problems in the Peak!
30 metres to the left, a freestanding block offers a number of possibilities, best of all the slabby central rib (Problem 5): a classic slopey V3 on perfect rock.
Thereafter the jumbled path line beneath the edge leads quickly to the Central Boulders. A friendly lower slab provides a brief distraction, but it is the attractive upper boulder that will draw the curious boulderer. The right arête (Problem 6) is best from a sitting start at V4, whilst the central line (V0) is actually quite forgiving. The hanging groove/arête feature to the left is known as the poor man’s 8 Ball: a superb, powerful V5/6 link from a sitting start, out along the lip into a ‘monkey-up-a-stick’ finishing sequence.
Scrambling 40 metres to the left through a tumble of boulders will lead you to Problem 9, a striking V2 arête. Striding on out of the chaos of the jumbled boulders, the line of the edge reinstates itself and a small quarried section is reached. Electrical Storm (V7) tackles the steep, ‘lightning strike’groove system from a sitting start, exiting rightwards along the ramp extension. A little further on, just before a huddle of large boulders, the much-celebrated Attitude Inspector (V6) is found. First climbed in the late 70s by a visiting American climber, this immaculate arête feature is traditionally overcome with an aggressive dyno for the juggy break. Sneaky tall climbers will be able to make use of a heel around the arête, and thus casually dab their right hand up the arête to the break. Just left a line of crimpy flakes gives access to the same break at V5.
There are numerous problems amongst the adjacent boulders, but the best lie on the near side undercut block. Problem 12 (V3) takes the hanging right arête from the obvious jug, whilst Problem 13 (V5/6) emerges from a sitting start on the supporting pedestal, to face a l-o-n-g rockover out onto the upper slab. Definitive 5.11 is the character building roof crack that emerges from the low cave underneath the block. Apparently this is easiest if you lead with your feet!
Problem 15 is another steep-to-slabby transitional test, with a tricky looking sit down start for strong types.
Back up at the base of the edge, a prominent set of parallel arêtes (Problems 16 and 17) go at a similar grade (V1) on their front sides, although the right arête is commonly climbed at a more testing grade (say, V3) on its steeper right side. Moving left past a V4 wall/shelf problem a diagonal line of slopers marks the rather excellent Problem 18.
For the full V7 tick, start at the jug on the left arête and sketch rightwards across the lip of the steepness on poor slopers to some…err, slightly better slopers. From here rock up to finish – this section can be done on its own at a V5.
The last few problems require a sortie along the edge, to an area of arêtes and grooves, reminiscent of Earl Crag in Yorkshire. At first nothing of particular note is found, but just at the point where the Burbage South boulder field below ends, a series of outstanding problems reward the intrepid explorer. Firstly Triangular Wall, a wonderful V5 that powers up sloping ripples on the overhanging face of a large free standing boulder a few metres down from an obvious slabby highball rightwards facing arête (also V5).There are numerous classic micro routes in this area (check out The Alliance, Little Rascal and Desparete) and the amazing unclimbed ‘Impossible Groove’, but I had to choose John Welford’s recent wonder problem: The Rib (V8+) as the final instalment in the circuit. Don’t be fooled by its amenable appearance, it might have the look of a tame donkey, but only true gunslingers are likely to stay in the saddle.
Who’d have thought?
Ever wondered about the origin of those randomly positioned pock marks that seem so prevalent on problems throughout the Burbage Valley? Turns out, the valley was used for target practice by the army during the Second World War.Makes you think:would classic test pieces such as Moffatt’s aptly named, Blazing 48s at Burbage West be possible without this ‘military approved’ chipping?
There is limited parking in a small bay on the road at the bottom of the valley; follow the Green Drive initially, breaking up rightwards to the South Quarry.Thereafter a vague path can be followed below the edge.Alternatively, park alongside the A625, between the B6450 turn off and the Fox House pub and approach across the moor, upon which you now have (according to the recently implemented CRoW act) the right to roam freely.