Pete Dawson's - Best of Kilnsey

by Steve Dunning
Posted: 28th May 2018



The Crag

British crags don’t get much more jaw-dropping than the wildly leaning walls of Kilnsey in the Yorkshire Dales.

The climbing lives up to these impressions with the routes being the steepest and most physical around, and consequently they attract climbers from all over the country to test their metal.
The routes range from high 6’s to low 9’s on a variety of uniquely styled buttresses and their quality rivals anything abroad.

Areas of the crag

There are several areas each with a different style.

The left-hand most sector is the Directissima area and is recognised by the huge capping roof. This roof was once thought to be impossible to free climb but now many exhilarating routes tackle it. I first experienced this roof as a thunderstorm was rolling in, and I’m still grateful I got down without being electrocuted.
Just a bit further right is the Bulge area which is a series of aesthetic bulging climbs which always make me smile.
Going further right the wall gets ‘slabby’ and the Dihedral wall, Optional Extra and Biological Need areas span this section.
Then comes the big one, the North Buttress and it holds some of the hardest and best routes in the world.
Finally, on the far right is the Grooved Arete area which is perfect if you are like me and want something a bit shorter at the end of the day.

The very best climbs


• The Directissima 6c, is a long classy groove climb and is the namesake of the Directissima area.
• Comedy 7c, is a short route in the Bulge area which is perfect for those climbers with all brawn and no brains.
• Dominatrix 7c, is the line of least resistance although on the North Buttress although that doesn’t mean much!
• The Ashes 7c+, is another route in the Directissima area which is a constantly steepening pump festival. Skipping draws at the top is common and leads to some exciting lobs of the last few moves!
• Urgent Action 8a+ is one of the famous Yorkshire triple crown along with the Groove at Malham and Supercool at Gordale.
• The Mandela 8b, is the original route through the roof capping the Directissima area and one of the wildest sport routes in the country.
• True North 8c is an infamous route on the North Buttress. Ian Vickers made an incredible effort to cruise this route in two hours.
• Northern Lights 9a was the famous project of Ben Moon after he did Hubble but then the first ascent was stolen by Steve Mclure. Even today it has only seen repeats by Adam Ondra and Alex Megos. This one is on my dream list! 


• The Diedre E2 5b, is a nice open corner that takes two pitches to wander to the top of the crag at 50 metres.
• Central Wall E4 6a, is one of the climbs in the legendary Extreme rock by Ken Wilson and Bernard Newman.
• Balas E5 6b, is a mega corner climb in the Dihedral Wall area and is on the ticklist of the extreme corner climbs in the UK.
• Déjà vu E5 6b, is a wall climb in the centre of Directissima area which is one of the best E5’s in the country!

The beta

What gear do you need?

A 60-metre rope, 14 thick quickdraws, aggressive shoes, a harness and a chalk bag are the bare necessities. However, things like a warm down-jacket and a jet boil might make the experience more enjoyable in cold temperatures. A guide book is also useful and Northern Limestone Rockfax is the one to go for.

When to go? 

Summer! It’s east facing so gets morning sun and afternoon shade. The crag seeps badly so check the internet before heading there. Its altitude is 300 metres and the valley is windy, so this is the crag for the hottest days of the year. 

What is the approach like? 

The approach is easy, it’s 5 minutes along flat ground and the crag is impossible to miss however be ready to ford a ‘raging torrent’! The base of the crag is flat and grassy so perfect for a picnic however as at all crags do be cautious about rockfall.

Anything to be aware of? 

The parking is an issue at the crag. Please follow the BMC guidelines for parking. The cliff is on private land so keep noise to a minimum and try not to leave things like rubbish on the floor and draws in the crag. Just remember power squeeks not power screams!

Anything else to do there? 

The crag is just by the Kilnsey Park Estate that offers fishing and food.
If you are a country person the Kilnsey show has been taken place since 1897 and is aimed to showcase the rural Yorkshire life and is next held on the 28th of August.
Finally for those wanting an active rest day the Kilnsey, Malham and Gordale loop is a 31 km run across the moors.
Steve Mclure did this by bike and climbed the triple crown last year although this doesn’t really count as a rest day!
Finally, if you’ve just sent your project it would be rude not to celebrate in the Tennants arms just down the roads. 



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