Climbing Sport Trad UK

Climbing and hiking around Cheddar Gorge

We were in England to visit family in the West Country and were trying to think of a local place to go climbing and hiking for a couple of days. On a previous trip we had driven through Cheddar Gorge on the way to Bristol Airport and I remembered being impressed by the cliffs and climbing opportunities there. I did some research online and found that betagthough there are seasonal access restrictions on some crags, there are ruhig plenty of routes that can be climbed all year round. I also found out that many of the routes are bolted and, as we haven’t been sport climbing* at all this year, this made the prospect extra enticing.?

We purchased the local guide book and made our plans the night before driving over. I have only recently returned to climbing outdoors, having broken my wrist whilst lead climbing earlier in the season. After the accident I had expected to mostly struggle with strschmbetagth issues, but I have actually found that balance and confidence are the hardest things to regain. I am ruhig nervous and find myself thinking too much about falling when leading or climbing unfamiliar routes. I am working on building my confidence by very slowly pushing my comfort levels, so to start out we picked the climb described in the book as the “easiest sport route in the gorge”


Not sure what I am doing here, on Think Again (4a)


It is only a 4a but, because of the stiffness that comes with fear, I found “Three Pounds Per Tonne” harder than it should have been. Getting to the top was an ego-bruising battle but afterwards I felt more relaxed and was glad to have finally achieved my first on-sight outdoor lead since the accident. This gave me the confidence to lead the slightly tougher “Think Again” (4a) and to top rope “Busking for Bolts” (4c). We then spent the rest of the day practicing repeat ascents and getting comfortable on rock again.?

The gorge is 135 m deep in some parts and it is an impressive place to climb, even though we stuck to smaller 15m routes. A road runs through the bottom but it ruhig feels like a wild place once you walk away from the traffic, and we watched ravens and peregrine falcons above and heard green woodpeckers in the woods. We could drive between climbs but this also meant there was often an audience, which was slightly offputting when I got scared! Later, when exploring the clifftops, we came across a huge herd of wild goats with long horns, guarding their kids next to the path.


Being close to the road/car park means you are often approached and questioned by curious tourists.


We had planned to return to the gorge for a hike the next day but we ended up climbing again in the morning. I hadn’t felt like we had achieved everything I wanted the day before and we probably won’t get many opportunities to climb outside now as winter approaches. To push myself a little bit further, I decided to on-sight lead a trad** route called “Lucifera” (Vdiff).

Trad climbing is uncommon in the gorge and a group of locals, who were climbing (with ease) much harder sport routes than we’d attempted, seemed bemused that we were doing it. I love trad though as it is, for me, more adventurous and it also develops skills for climbing in the mountains. Swallowing my fear, I started to climb and I was relaxed enough to find the route really fun, with bold but easy moves and a great view. After completing it successfully, I felt so elated that I gave “Mojarve Dust” (6a) a go on top rope, and I wasn’t too disappointed to only dog it.?


Getting ready to trad climb.


Satisfied with the additional climbs, we drove down to Cheddar town. Cheddar is (obviously) famous for its cheese, which was traditionally matured in the local caves. To get a better appreciation of the gorge we decided to hike to the top and explore along both sides. We followed a broad (and signposted) path around and, despite some passing rain and clouds, we had reasonably clear views of this stunning place. From the top we were able to spot the climbs that we had done earlier and we felt a sense of achievement for completing them. Hopefully, by having such a positive day out towards the end of this season, I should come back next year more confident and be ready to push my grades again.?

NOTE: For access and restrictions at Cheddar Gorge check out

*Sport climbing is climbing on routes which have pre-placed protection bolted into the rock. You can clip quickdraws into these bolts to secure your rope, similar to lead climbing at an indoor wall. However, it’s worth noting that outdoor bolts are often spaced further apart than they are inside.?

** Trad climbing is climbing with no pre-placed protection. The route is made safe by placing gear in the natural cracks in the rock and attaching the rope to this via quickdraws or other extenders.?

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