Britain’s greatest scrambles: Wildboar Clough, Bleaklow

Tucked away at the back of Bleaklow where nobody thinks to look, the cascades of Wildboar Clough combine to create one of the best scrambling outings in the Peak District.

Britain's greatest scrambles: Wildboar Clough, Bleaklow

by Ben Weeks |

For an area so rich in the history and heritage of climbing, the Peak District is surprisingly short on quality scrambling. Short, single pitch climbs are to be found across the length and breadth of the Dark Peak’s gritstone outcrops, and there are more paths and trails to be walked than you could wish for. But chunky longer-route scrambles? Not so much. Which makes Wildboar Clough a bit special. Climbable in almost any conditions (although ice axes, crampons, rope and a host of climbing equipment is required under snow and ice), the river-cut clough offers scrambling of variable difficulty (around Grade 2-3) as it climbs 120m up Bleaklow’s northern escarpments onto the hag and grough peat-scape of the plateau. And it’s good scrambling. There are some thrilling moves, some significant drops, and the almost ever-present risk of getting wet. But it’s also one of the most rewarding scrambling routes to be found in England outside of the Lake District. Here’s how to enjoy it…

Distance8km**| Ascent320m| Scramble ratingGrade 2-3| Go there**outside of freezing winter conditions – unless you’re an ice climber.

1.

Head to the rear of the Torside Reservoir car park to join the Longdendale Trail north-east. Walk for around 200m until you enter some trees, leave the main trail by some wooden steps on the right up the embankment and follow a path through woodland towards the lower part of Wildboar Clough. A fence running across the clough is a good place to join the streambed.

2.

The first major scrambling challenge is a slabby, uninviting-looking rock. This is passed via a crack to the left which, while slightly awkward, is the easiest option.

Just one of many watery obstacles on the ascent of the clough.
Just one of many watery obstacles on the ascent of the clough.
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3.

The next obstacle is found a little further up the clough. If the rock is dry it can be climbed on good steps up the right-hand side. If damp, tackle the wall head-on via a short crack with good holds in the centre of the clough.

4.

Beyond some easy streambed clambering the way is blocked by a waterfall. Even if dry (which is unlikely) this is a pitched climb and should be avoided. Instead, take a rocky stepped out crack to the very left corner of the waterfall (see the photo on the right). Take care climbing this, as the rock can be loose and slippy. At the top, step very carefully right back towards the waterfall. Great care is needed here, as a fall would be serious. The top of the waterfall is an ideal place to turn around and take in the views towards Crowden.

5.

Once above the waterfall, continue onwards over some more easy clambering to another steep wall, which can again be tackled via a corner to the left. The final move is tricky though, requiring a long reach to an out-of-sight hold on the left of the top of the slab that provides enough purchase to heave over the top.

Unless you’re visiting during a prolonged dry spell, a waterfall blocks the way, requiring a careful climb on good holds. Though be careful not to slip!
Unless you’re visiting during a prolonged dry spell, a waterfall blocks the way, requiring a careful climb on good holds. Though be careful not to slip!
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6.

The scrambling peters out gradually, but does not disappear entirely until the clough merges into the moorland plateau of Bleaklow. The simplest route back heads south for just over 1km until it reaches the Pennine Way alongside Wildboar Grain, which can be followed back to Torside Reservoir where the Longdendale Trail can be picked up again and followed north-east to the car park.

7.

An alternative and more interesting onward route heads south-south-east from Wildboar Clough. Upon reaching the Pennine Way, follow it south past the Wain Stones to Hern Stones before heading off-path in a south-westerly direction to visit the plane crash site near Higher Shelf Stones. From here, return to the Pennine Way to follow it back to Torside Reservoir and take the Longdendale Trail back to the car to complete a 15km circuit.

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