Matterhorn Ridge

The wonders of Winnats

A game of choss with my Czech mate
Winnats and Mam Tor 001

Needing a fix and harbouring a faint hankering for the esoteric I dug out my thinking cap and blew away the cobwebs. I was after something a little different, a multi pitch climb with a mountain ambience but with the mountains out of reach I had to rummage through the ill frequented corners of my imagination until at last I came up with a suitable plan. We would ignore the none too promising weather forecast and head up to the Peak District to see for ourselves if Winnats Pass was as enchanting as the photos in my books suggested. We were not disappointed.

As we approached Castleton I spied an improbably narrow gash in the hillside beyond and wished we were going to explore its inner sanctum rather than our planned itinerary. A wish wasted for moments later an unmistakeable collection of limestone turrets came into view; improbably narrow gash, here we come.

So, with the car parked we grabbed our sacks and headed into the pass under a threatening sky and buffeted by an enthusiastic bluster. What a place Winnats is, a grand chasm in miniature bristling with sharp towers, peppered with holes leading to who knows where and no doubt inhabited by repulsive trolls (not unlike UKC). Of particular interest to the low grade bumbly are a pair of graceful spurs, the ridges of Matterhorn and Elbow (Vdiff and diff respectively). I quickly found an appropriate viewing station and pointed Lucie at Elbow, “See that there? Go and climb it before it starts raining”.  With an unusual compliance she scampered off and was almost at the top of the first rampart when from above came a mutinous oath. “I don’t like it. There’s ice on the holds and I really don’t like it”. Feeling a keen sense of empathy I demanded that she “come down from there” before hurting herself and once more she was compliant. Not wishing to bring her claims into question we gave Elbow the Spanish archer and moved swiftly on to Matterhorn Ridge where with a wry smile she demanded that I “climb it before it starts raining”.
Winnats and Mam Tor 017
The first pitch while slippery was easy enough though the best holds came away in my hands and I had to resist the urge to throw them overboard for fear of injuring passing walkers and motorists so respectfully placed them back in their sockets.  With a little relief I gained a short knife edge and brought Lucie up to inform me that my two pieces of protection had fallen out. I wasn’t overly surprised.  Above was a soaring crest which Lucie declined to lead so off I went employing a technique of climbing with my legs and using hands for balance only, I’d quickly learned that pulling too hard on the holds would see me making a rapid descent to the road below. With a pleasing sense of exposure I ran out a full 50 metres of rope, managing to find two useless gear placements before topping out to the novelty of a blue sky.
Winnats and Mam Tor 027

Winnats and Mam Tor 036

Winnats and Mam Tor 044
Soon I was joined by the lady and we dashed off to seek shelter from the wind on a palatial bivvy platform. It was still early but we’d had our fill of choss bothering so sauntered back down opting to fill an hour with a descent into Speedwell Cavern, a moderately interesting diversion with an entertaining motor mouth guide at the helm.

We re-emerged from our subterranean experience to find the sky performing all manner of magic so with no time to lose we raced up Winnats and ran up Mam Tor to complete a fantastic peakland day. However, there was one more thing to do before our day could be rightly termed an unequivocal success…fish and chips from the Toll Bar in Stoney Middleton. Perfect.
Winnats and Mam Tor 104

Winnats and Mam Tor 126

Winnats and Mam Tor 127

Winnats and Mam Tor 152

Winnats and Mam Tor 137

6 Responses to “Matterhorn Ridge”

  1. 1 Rock Climbing UK January 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Good stuff Nick.

    My brother and I climbed those last summer. David managed to kick a football sized piece of rock off, which ended up in the road. Eek! A guy at the bottom was taking pictures of his girlfriend with her top off. I suspect that’s what caused David to lose his concentration!

    We did Elbow Ridge first then Matterhorn Ridge. By the time we climbed the latter it was so windy our rope was bowing out at 90º. Nice scrambling though.

    • 2 nicklivesey February 1, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Eh up,

      I’m relieved I didn’t have such distractions on my ascent! It’s a funny one as it’s very easy but quite dangerous (even with a rope on). Really glad your bro cleared a bit of the choss away for us 😉

  2. 3 Andrew Deacon January 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Nice. Cracking bit of esoteric investigation. I look forward to the inevitable Mam Tor Gully trip report next.

  3. 4 nicklivesey January 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    It’s funny you should say that Andrew as when I was on Mam Tor I specifically went for a look down the gully and it was horrible! I will certainly do it if it comes into winter condition though 😉

    And as for Yr Esgair in summer? Forget it 🙂

  4. 5 Lee March 13, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Some lovely photos of a place I know well, but taken from locations I’ll never get to, only being a hiker.

  5. 6 nicklivesey March 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks Lee, it’s a lovely part of the world and as you know there is some wonderful walking there as well as climbing…just being out there is the thing isn’t it? 🙂

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