Northumbrian Climbing Guide

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Peel Crag What the symbols
& colours mean
Grid Ref: NY755677   Aspect: N   Routes: 90   Max Length: 27   Average Length: 10 
Altitude: 260 mtrs   Walk in: 5 mins   Route quality: ***   Bouldering quality: poor 
Click here for StreetMap Right of access under CRoWThis crag is an SSSI
Turn right off the Military road (B63 18) at the crossroads near the Once Brewed Youth Hostel, 55 kilometres west of Newcastle. Follow the road for 1 kilometre to the Steel Rigg car park from where the crag is clearly visible. The public footpath leads south to the Roman Wall, which is followed to the foot of the crag in about five minutes. This land is National Trust property and camping is not permitted but rights of way from both directions are secure.
Peel Crag is a long outcrop that runs west for 800 metres from the big gap in the escarpment, separating it from Crag Lough, with the Roman Wall, following the line of its crest. Buttresses of clean, compact rock are interspersed with broken, overgrown areas that predominate towards the eastern end of the crag. As with Crag Lough the rock is the quartz dolerite of the Whin Sill. It is hard and smooth and weathers along vertical and horizontal planes to give it its typical block-like appearance. In the main the rock is sound, providing steep exposed climbs, the majority of which are in the Severe/Very Severe grades.
Whinstone Quartz Dolerite, Permo-Carboniferous
Excellent at the western end, but the crag gets more and more overgrown as you go to the less popular eastern end.
MB. Heywood is attributed the discovery of Peel Crag along with Crag Lough. In the C.C. Journal for 1912 which contained a long article and a sketch of Crag Lough. Heywood described Peel Crag as too much broken to offer many definite climbs and included a description of only one route at the west end of the crag; a clean line up a very stiff slab which necessitates exceptional contortions. In the years that followed Peel Crag appears to have been neglected. By the mid 1930's most of the county's crags had been climbed on but Crag Lough and to a greater extent Peel crag did not seem to be popular. It was not until the late 1930's that Basil Butcher and Keith Gregory began their exploration of Crag Lough and to a lesser extent Peel Crag. In the 1940's development of Crag Lough was in full swing but Peel Crag was still regarded as too loose and broken for good routes, with the exception of Sunset Buttress which had a route called Zig-Zag which we now know as Sunset. It was the formation of the Crag Lough Club in 1952 with Albert Rosher as the key figure that was responsible for the major development of Peel Crag. Early members, Frank Carroll, Don Laws and Geoff Oliver, were joined in the late fifties by Nev Hannaby who was responsible for a number of new routes and by Eric Rayson, Terry Sullivan and John Cheesmond. It was during this period and the early sixties that most of the classic routes were climbed; Certificate X, Locomotion, Grooves, Ace of Spades, Overhanging Crack and Rock Island Line are all attributed to Rosher. During this time lines that could not be climbed were pegged, with the aid progressively reduced until climbed free. Examples were Rock Island Line, Green Line and Chocolate Deirdre, which were not climbed free until 1978. Twenty-two routes on Peel Crag were included in the 1964 N.M.C. guide but this was probably not a true record of the development at that time for shortly afterwards Rosher brought out a small guide at his own expense with some seventy new routes added to Peel Crag and Crag Lough. By the publication of the 1971 N.M.C. guide the number of routes on Peel had risen to seventy-one due mainly to the continued efforts of Rosher and the newly formed Border Climbing Club. In the 1970's the pace of development slackened as interest moved away from Peel Crag and Crag Lough to the sandstone outcrops in the north of the county. By the time of the publication of the 1979 N.M.C. guide only half a dozen routes had been added. The most significant of these was the free ascent of Ritual by Bill Wayman. In the 1980's Peel Crag continued to decline in popularity. The nature of the rock, unable to offer the potential for harder lines provided by the sandstone elsewhere in the county had little to offer the extreme' rock climber. Despite having a range of good quality Severes and Very Severes, Peel had to compete with Crag Lough for the Very Severe climber's attention. Consequently a large number of routes have become overgrown with only the popular climbs receiving enough traffic to keep them clean. The half dozen new routes put up since the 1979 guide are of a rather artificial or eliminate nature and it would appear that Peel Crag has little scope for new routes. It remains to be seen if a resurgence of interest in the crag might not open up new possibilities. Notwithstanding, Peel Crag has enough good quality routes to deserve better attention in the future.