This impressive crag adopts a commanding position atop a triangular area of moorland and forest. The rock is a hard compact sandstone of excellent quality, although its northerly aspect does make it exposed to the elements. It has some of the best quality 'easy' grade routes (its Very Difficult and Severes having tested many Very Severe leaders over the years) in the county and the harder routes although often intimidating, provide quality climbing in superb situations. The Great Wanney fault which lies behind the cragline a few hundred metres to the east of the main crag, provides a quantity of subterranean climbing, but many of the entries have been blocked.
Ottercops Sandstones Carboniferous, Dinantian (Lower Limestone Group)
The early history of climbing on Great Wanney is in many ways the history of climbing in Northumberland as a whole and as such this early period is quite well documented in the printed guide. The first routes were recorded by G.W. Young in 1902 and over the next thirty years or so a significant number of routes were recorded by him and his companions. The popularity of the crag continued and towards the end of the thirties A.P. Rossiter had become the local expert, climbing most, if not all, of the routes on the crag. Things stagnated somewhat after this and no recorded, significant developments took place until 1971 when Great Wall was climbed by Mick Foggin and Hugh Banner. In 1976 Bob Hutchinson and John Earl added Idiot Wind and the magnificent Northumberland Wall. Following the first ascent of the latter an enormous hold was chipped which Hutchinson promptly filled in with concrete using sand from the base of the crag to obtain the correct colour match. 1978 was an eventful year with the same team producing the awesome Endless Flight, which was repeated within a matter of weeks by Karl Telfer and Martin Doyle thinking they were doing a first ascent. Nosey Parker and Broken Wing were two more significant routes by Hutchinson and Earl, the former had a dubious flake which although it housed all the runners wasn't secure enough to be used as a hold, all that now remains is the scar. That year also saw the arrival of Bob and Tommy Smith with two very bold routes Last Retreat and Blue Arete. In 1980 Bob Smith added Thin Ice with Martin Doyle and Thunder Thighs with brother Tommy. It was some three years later however before Bob accompanied by Earl added the latter routes dynamic and serious independent start. Also in this year Earl and Stewart added Osiris discovering in the process that Pharoah's Face up which it finishes was E3 and not Very Severe. On 24th July, 1981 whilst most of the country was watching the Royal Wedding; Smith and Earl were freeing the old aid route Swing High to produce the superb and sustained Absent Friend. Things remained peaceful until 1986 when John Wallace climbed Stairway to Heaven, which received its second and third ascents in the same day by Hugh Harris and Bob Smith respectively. Finally, in 1987 Harris broke through the Chapter House roof to give Willing to Sin.