Cheddar Gorge Rock Climbing
Early evening in the gorge.
The tallest inland limestone outcrop in the UK, a busy tourist attraction, a cold, deep, gloomy gash in the landscape... Cheddar Gorge can be described in a multitude of ways, but there's no disputing that it is one of the UK's best sport climbing destinations. Where else can you find 4-pitch bolted routes, such a range of grades, or such a spectacular situation as the awesome routes on Sunset Buttress?
It hasn't always been this way. Before 2005, access was very limited, with climbing all but banned in the gorge. Routes relied heavily on old, rusted pitons, faith and luck for protection; loose rock was the norm and vegetation was well on its way to reclaiming large swathes of the gorge walls. That all changed with the Cheddar Gorge Restoration project. Thanks to the work of Martin Crocker and other local activists, and with the support of the BMC, a new access agreement was negotiated, old routes were cleaned, and thousands of bolts were placed to turn a rather esoteric destination into a vibrant sport climbing area.
The access agreement is still complicated and fragile, and ivy is still threatening to take over the less-frequented regions, but it is orders of magnitude better than in the past.
A few of the old traditional routes have retained their bolt-free status. Particularly notable is Coronation Street, one of the most famous climbs in the UK. This 5-pitch route ascends High Rock which, at about 100m in height, is the tallest inland limestone outcrop in the UK. The first ascent was broadcast on national TV and was quite a spectacle at the time! It is still not a route to be underestimated, hard in the grade with retreat becoming very difficult after the third pitch traverse. Many parties have been benighted while struggling with the crux fourth pitch (or even before).
The current access agreement is rather complicated, and is described in detail in the guidebook. Roughly speaking, the gorge is split into the North side, owned by the national trust, and the South side, owned privately by Cheddar gorge and caves. Most of the North side is open year round, and most of the South side is only open during the winter (1st October - 15th March inclusive). In addition to this, there are sometimes bird bans between March and July. Check the access notes in the guidebook and the BMC Regional Access Database
for the most up-to-date information.
This access agreement may seem restrictive, but it is in place to minimise the risk of rocks or dropped climbing gear causing damage to people or cars in the bottom of the gorge during peak tourist season. As usual, it would only take a few people ignoring the restrictions to jeopardise the whole arrangement, so please respect it!
Cheddar is a small village in the Mendips hills, famous for cheese, cider and the gorge. From Bristol, the A38 then A371 takes you directly there. From the South, M5 junction 22 gets you onto the A38, and from the North M5 junction 21 then the A371 is the best route. From London, take the M4 to Bristol and proceed from there.
The current definitive guide is Cheddar Gorge Climbs
by Martin Crocker. The colour topos are excellent, and it is a comprehensive guide to the gorge, but the quality of the binding is lacking: treat it with care!
The Climbers' Club guide Avon and Cheddar
is now redundant, having been published before the restoration project. It is still a good resource for historical notes, and the descriptions do apply to the few remaining trad routes, but most of the gorge has changed beyond recognition since its publication. West Country Climbs
by Rockfax has a short section on Cheddar, but no detailed information and should not be relied on as a guide
Weather station 9.6 miles from here
17 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',6],['3 Stars',6],['2 Stars',5],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]
Featured Route For Cheddar Gorge
Coronation Street 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Europe
: United Kingdom
: ... : High Rock
A justifiably popular, classic route of historical significance, probably the best limestone E1 in the country and even today a serious undertaking. A massive route, in 5 (or 6) pitches.P1: 5.7, 40mClimb the corner to a belay on a sloping ledge at a large thread and old pitons. Rest here, because the rock now starts to angle back into a gentle overhang. This pitch can be split into two, but there isn't really a natural place to belay so best done as one. P2: 5.8+, 20mClimb the crack above, past ...[more] Browse More Classics in International
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