Almscliff: One of Britain’s Best Bouldering Destinations

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Reaching through the crux of Pebble Wall (6c), one of Almscliff’s classic problems

Standing high above the Wharfe valley, Almscliff is one of the most renowned gritstone bouldering venues in the UK. Be prepared for sore skin, aching arms and tough problems.

The short walk in and quick-drying nature of the rock makes Almscliff a popular bouldering spot, particularly on calm, sunny winter days. It’s not a place for solitude and if you’re looking to try the classic problems, you’re likely to have a fair bit of company. Due to its exposed location, it can get VERY cold when there’s a chill wind.

Almscliff has problems ranging from Font 4 (V0) up to Font 8b (V13). Although it’s renowned for steep, thuggy problems and routes, there are slabs, delicate aretes and long traverses thrown into the mix. It’s not the friendliest place for beginners and if you’re after some easy ticks, you’ll be sorely disappointed. That said, there’s plenty of rock on which to make up your own problems if you find those in the guide too hard!

Crag highlights

Matterhorn Ridge (4+) is the classic ‘easy’ line, though you’ll want a few pads and spotters if it’s near the top of your grade. There’s also a sit-down start at 7b+.

Up at Demon Wall area, The Crucifix (5) is an excellent easier problem (though easy is all relative!). The descent is down the corner to the left – it’s straightforward but worth having a pad and spotter if you’re a bit nervous about downclimbing. The Crucifix ‘warm up’ Traverse (6a+) starts in the corner and traverses the break all the way to the wall. Traversing the lip of the roof below the break gets you 7a.

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Warming up on the right-hand arete of an unnamed boulder (5)

Another good warm-up is Morrell’s Wall (6a) which starts off on big holds before some fingery climbing on crimps. There are various eliminates to prolong the fun and linking in the obvious traverse to the right gives you Slopey Traverse (7b+).

The Virgin boulder has plenty of hard, worthwhile problems. One of the easiest of the bunch is the Virgin Traverse (6b+/6c) which starts on the block to the left of the overhanging face and traverses round the corner to finish at an undercut flake. Pumpy!

Continuing the pumpy traverse theme, Sloper Patrol (6c+) takes the obvious slopey lip traverse on the boulder up the hill from The Keel. It can also be done in reverse (uphill) at a slightly easier grade.

If you enjoy mantels then Egg Roll (6b) may be right up your street. Start sitting and take the line up from the start of Streaky’s Traverse (7b+) on The Egg boulder, finishing up the slab.

Pebble Wall (6c) is an excellent technical problem that’s easier for the tall. A straightforward start leads to tricky moves up the blank wall above – the clue is in the name!

Arguably the crag classic, Demon Wall Roof (7a+) takes the inviting line out of the middle of the roof and up the wall above using crimps and the obvious flake to reach the large horizontal break. To the right of it, Dolphin Belly Slap (7a) takes the line along the edge of the roof and is another great problem.

The Keel (7c) is a popular problem that lead out from the back of the roof, past a chipped hole on the lip to the obvious pocket. Once you’ve ticked it, try it again without the chipped hold (The Real Keel, 7c+). There are many more variations and link-ups including Keelhaul (8a) and Real Keelhaul (8b).

If you like hard highball challenges then Chaismata (8a) takes the obvious line on Low Man, to the right of the Matterhorn boulder.

Almscliff fact file

Location and how to get there: Almscliff lies between Otley and Harrogate. Take the North Rigton turn off the A659 and turn left (or right depending which direction you’re coming from) in the village onto Crag Lane. Park at the western end of the crag in a large lay-by (can get busy). Follow the obvious path from the stile up the side of the field to the main area of rocks.

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Spectacular views from the top of Almscliff

Access: The crag is on private land. The farmer has asked that climbers avoid the boulders in the fields below the main area and don’t climb at night. For up to date access information check the BMC’s Regional Access Database.

Best time of year: Almscliffe is a good year-round bouldering venue. It’s particularly good on cool, calm days and summer evenings, though some may find it a bit warm for optimum gritstone conditions! Almscliffe gets all the wind going, so if it’s a blowy day you may want to climb elsewhere.

Family friendly?: Almscliffe is a popular location for family walks and the easy walk in makes it a good spot for families. The one downside is the mud and ‘fertliser’ left by the animals that graze the area.

Hazards: The area around the rocks is used as grazing land and can be muddy at the best of times. After heavy rain the approach path through the fields can be extremely muddy and slippy. Be prepared to clean your pads and boots after a wet visit!

Guidebook: Almscliffe is covered in the YMC Gritstone Volume 1 and the Yorkshire Gritstone Bouldering vol. 1 guides.

Local pub: The Square and Compass in North Rigton is just a few minutes drive or a 40-minute walk away.

Think your local crag’s worthy of a shout-out? I’ve climbed across most parts of the UK, so if you have a suggestion, let me know!

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