New Cicerone guide with over 40 summer and winter routes in the northern bit of the Peak District
Traditionally scrambling guides reads as if they've been written by Victorian gentleman climbers. I once spent a whole week amused by the word 'craglet', which it rapidly became apparent means 'a small, broken outcrop of rock, which you'd normally walk round, but has been included in a scrambling route because without it, there would be no scrambling route'.
To be absolutely honest, my fear was that the Peak District was craglet territory par excellence with rock consisting either of proper climbing crags like Stanage and Froggatt or inconsequential broken rubble with no obvious interest, so I approached the new Scrambles In The Dark Peak guide from Cicerone Press with a certain amount of cynicism and dark foreboding.
A quick browse through suggests that I was half right. Let's be honest, the Peak isn't really dripping with classic scramble routes - sure, there's Kinder Downfall and that ridge that runs up the side of Winnats Pass, but mostly there are bits of bouldery crag that climbers don't bother with and steep stream beds that, you guessed it, climbers don't bother with.
Rather astutely though, Tom Corker and Terry Sleaford, who put together the guide, have made a bit of a virtue of this by incorporating the various Peak scramblets - see what I did there - in longer walking routes across the moors. So not only do you get directions to the route, but there are suggested Links and Extensions to take in other scramblets in the guide or simply to encourage you to stretch your legs.
These - the extensions, not your legs - are clearly shown on neatly trimmed extracts from OS maps, which is a nice touch for a scramble book. The scrambles themselves seem to be well described and take in summer and winter routes - some are feasible only in winter, you really don't - for example - want to be on the side of Mam Tor unless it's securely frozen in place.
To be fair, despite my initial cyncism, there does seem to be a reasonable amount to go at, particularly on Kinder. You'll also find the prominent ridges by Winnats and further south, on Chrome Hill, that most of us have probably idly eyed in passing. Plus there are any number of clough-type blocky stream scrambles. I did smile a little at the observation that the route on Shining Clough always appears to be damp, though was also quite excited to read that the bottom pitch turns into a proper steep ice fall in the right conditions...
Overall, any scramble guide to the Peak is always going to be a bit of a curiosity. You have to think that anyone really into moving on rock is going to focus on the area's excellent climbing crags, that said, if you fancy a bit of exploration and spicing up longer days on the hill with a little more technical interest, then this seems like a thoroughly produced and well-researched starting point, using the standard scrambling grades, albeit a tad conservative in style.
Now if it would just stop raining for a few days...
Scrambles in the Dark Peak is published by Cicerone Press at £12.95. More information at www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/674/title/scrambles-in-the-dark-peak.