Rock climbing in the UK has many facets, but it can broadly be divided into two categories, namely sports climbing and traditional climbing. Although sports climbing is extremely popular, it is traditional climbing which the majority of people go out to do on warm, sunny, windy, cold or even wet days. It seems to have lost none of its original appeal; people delight in climbing routes of all grades, placing their own gear, feeling scared, and fighting their way to the top unscathed - and all this in beautiful surroundings. It is this psychological factor, and the accompanying adrenaline rush, which makes "trad" climbing so particular and each route so memorable. They are held in awe, aspired to, climbed with great respect, and then talked about in the pub for many an evening afterwards.
Traditional climbing, as its name suggests, is inextricably linked with its own past. Consequently, powerful unwritten rules exist which are sometimes in open confrontation with the new sports climbing ethics. The policy of "no hold chipping" is deeply ingrained and vehemently defended, as is the idea that certain areas, in particular mountain crags, should always remain completely bolt free. A prime example of this is "The Shrine of British Climbing", Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, more commonly known as Cloggy, which is shrouded in a complicated and polemic history. Gritstone, a coarse sandstone found only in the north of England, is completely unbolted too. Either the routes rise up safe cracks or they tackle unprotectable slabs and arêtes, resulting in potential death routes which see few repeats.
Interestingly, "trad" climbing has seen a revival at the top end of the scale recently, as a handful of young, powerful bold climbers have repeated the old test pieces and established even harder, more dangerous routes. It is only a matter of time before a new extreme grade will be confirmed.
Many of the crags are situated in three of the National Parks, the Peak District, the Lake District, and Snowdonia (North Wales), while the other crags well worth a visit are in Pembroke (South Wales) and in Devon and Cornwall. The sheer variety of different rock types found in these areas makes "trad" climbing so interesting and unique - everyone has their favourite area, be it a sea cliff or one of the crags inland. This diversity ensures that "trad" climbing remains as popular as ever. In fact, more and more people have recently decided to take on this vertical challenge - weather permitting!
The Peak District
The Yorkshire Dales
Clogwyn Du'r Arddu