Some Gritstone Climbs

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Some Gritstone Climbs
Frontispiece of 'Some Gritstone Climbs'.jpg
Frontispiece page of Some Gritstone Climbs, by John Laycock, 1913.
Author John Laycock
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Guidebooks:Rock Climbing
Publisher Refuge Printing Department : Manchester
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 116 pp (first edition)

Some Gritstone Climbs is a rock climbing guidebook written by British lawyer John Laycock (1887–1960).[1] The book's subtitle, included uniquely on the frontispiece, is Some Shorter Climbs (in Derbyshire and Elsewhere). It was published in Manchester in 1913 by the Refuge Printing Department (then an insurance company). Although focusing on rock climbing in the Peak District, it covers several adjacent cliffs outside this region, and despite its title, referring to the Millstone Grit (or gritstone) geology of many of the cliffs, it includes several cliffs consisting of other rock types, including Mountain Limestone and Red sandstone. It is regarded as the first ever published rock climbing guidebook for the Peak District National Park. Some Gritstone Climbs is one of the earliest guidebooks to rock climbing in the United Kingdom: Climbing in the British Isles by Walter Parry Haskett Smith was published in 1894 and the climbing guide The Climbs on Lliwedd, by J. M. A. Thompson and A. W. Andrew, in 1909.[2]

Physical description[edit]

The book is 16 cm × 12 cm, contains 14 leaves of plates, and has 116 pages. It has 11 initial pages (including frontispiece and preface), and 116 pages of content, with 3 appendices. It is in hardback format, with a dark green cover. The book contains a dedication to 'S. W. Herford', referring to Siegfried Herford, a pioneer rock climber and close friend of Laycock. Herford went on to climb the famous Central Buttress route on Sca Fell, and was killed at Ypres in 1916, shortly after the book's publication.

Main sections: climbing areas covered[edit]

The following climbing areas are covered in the book. Some are now known by other names, such as Stonnis Rocks, or have ceased to be popular climbing venues, such as Coombes Rocks. All are still subject to modern access arrangements, clearly defined in the relevant current guidebooks. Some of the major climbing venues in the Peak District were omitted, such as Stanage Edge and Wharncliff Crag, due to access restrictions at the time.

The book contains three short appendices: Appendix I: Limestone Climbs; Appendix II ('severe climbs'); Appendix III: Bibliography

Original publication and reviews[edit]

The book originally sold for 3 shillings and 6 pence. The Rucksack Club was opposed to the publication of the book as a number of the crags described were on private property and the club was concerned about trespass law. Laycock resigned from the club in disgust, and the book was published by the Refuge Printing Department (an insurance company in Manchester at the time). A very early review appeared in the Yorkshire Ramblers Club Journal in 1913, in which it was noted that the book was "liable to be dismissed by a percentage of mountaineers as a Baby Book on Toy Climbs".[3] The same review critiqued the selection of crags and climbs, some of the latter being described as "merely fancy gymnastics".

Some Gritstone Climbs has been widely cited in subsequent literature relating to climbing and the Peak District. It was first referenced in its year of publication by a Baddeley Guide to 'The Peak District of Derbyshire and the Neighbourhood' as " A recent work gives an excellent synopsis of climbing in the district on millstone' grit – viz.: "Some Gritstone Climbs in Derbyshire and Elsewhere." By John Laycock. 3s. 9d. net. Refuge Press, Manchester.".[4] It was also referenced in the club documents of several climbing clubs at the time, including by the Yorkshire Ramblers' Club in 1913, who stated: "In his little volume, Some Gritstone Climbs, Mr. J. Laycock speaks of the Buxton Boss, an excrescence of gritstone on the side of Coombs Moss, not far from Buxton. If this be the boulder I have in my mind, it is also known as the Buckstone and Robin Hood's Stone and, in addition to presenting several attractive little problems, possesses a peculiar historic interest all its own."[5]


Some Gritstone Climbs is regarded as "the first pocket climbing guidebook".[6] The book is significant for its early date, its rarity, and for the historical perspective on both the format and the sport. Laycock pioneered much of the early exploration at many of the cliffs included in the guide. For example, at Helsby, where 'The Overhanging Crack' was considered at that time to be one of the hardest "gritstone" climbs in England.[7] Laycock's guide was the first to document climbs at many of the crags featured in the book, such as Blackstone Edge, and it has been regarded as the first 'modern' approach to climbing guides.[8] Some cliffs, such as Laddow Rocks, had already been documented in private climbing club publications,[9] but Some Gritstone Climbs was the first to collate cliffs and climbs into a regional guide.

As noted by subsequent gritstone pioneers such as H. M. Kelly: "Laycock's little book Some Gritstone Climbs has had a much greater influence than its size and subject would indicate".[10] It is regarded by climbing historians as a historical 'snapshot' of the pioneering explorations of 'the first gritstone tigers'. It also disseminated information, and allowed the next generation of climbers to develop newer and harder routes. For example, it was in the hands of Piggot, Wood and Wilding in 1920 when they made the first ascents of Lean Man's Climb, Sand Buttress and Lone Tree Gully at Black Rocks.[9]

Use in subsequent climbing guides[edit]

A supplement to Laycock's book was published in 1923 as Recent Developments on Gritstone, edited by Fergus Graham. This was in response to new explorations in Yorkshire and the Peak District, and was jointly published by The Rucksack Club, Gritstone Club, and the Yorkshire Ramblers' Club. This in turn started the trend for increasingly regular regional climbing guides, both in the Peak District and elsewhere in the UK. This led, after the Second World War, to the first series of guidebooks to cover all the gritstone crags in the Peak; a publication pattern that continues to the present day. This series commenced in 1948 with The Climbs on Gritstone Series, Volume 1: The Laddow Area, edited by Harry Parker.[11] Subsequent volumes were published for: The Sheffield Area, 1951 (Volume 2);[12] Kinder, Roches and Northern Areas, 1951 (Volume 3);[13] Further Developments in the Peak District, 1957 (Volume 4);[14] West Yorkshire Area (Volume 5).[15] These and other guidebooks used the format, grading system and approach of Laycock's original Peak guide, but with a more succinct style. Like the original book, these later guides acted as a 'snapshot' of their generation, and a basis for the next advances in rock climbing standards in the Peak District.


  1. ^ Todmann, Alan. "John Laycock 1887 -1960 Manchester and Singapore". Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Marsh, Terry (2010). Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia. Cicerone Press. ISBN 978-1-85284-581-0. 
  3. ^ Yorkshire Ramblers Club. "(1913) Reviews: Some Gritstone Clims". YRC Committee. (1913) Reviews. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 4 Number 13: pp196-201. Leeds: YRC. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Byrde, Mountford John. "A Guide to the Peak District of Derbyshire and the Neighbourhood". Thomas Nelson and Son, 1913. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Yorkshire Ramblers Club. "Chippings: Buckstone". YRC Committee. (1913) Chippings. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 4 Number 13: pp165-173. Leeds: YRC. Leeds: YRC. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Byrne E. & Sutton G (1966). High Peak: The story of walking and climbing in the Peak District. London: Seeker & Warburg. p. 256. 
  7. ^ Rouse, Alan (1976). A Climbers Guide to Helsby and the Wirral. Cicerone Press. p. 73. ISBN 0902363174. 
  8. ^ Lancashire Rock. "Blackstone Edge – Historical Information". Lancashire Rock. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Byrne E. & Sutton G. (1966). High Peak: The story of walking and climbing in the Peak District. Seeker & Warburg. p. 256. 
  10. ^ H.M Kelly & J.H.Doughty. ""A Short History of Lakeland Climbing, Part 1", Fell & Rock Climbing Club Journal, 1936–37" (PDF). Fell & Rock Climbing Club Journal, 1936–37. FRCC. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Parker (Ed.), Harry (1948). Climbs on Gritstone Series Volume 1: The Laddow Area. Birkenhead: Willmer. p. 68. 
  12. ^ Byne (Ed.), Eric (1951). Clims on Gritstone, Volume 2: The Sheffield Area. Birkenhead: Willmer Brothers. p. 171. 
  13. ^ Allsopp, Allan (1951). Some Gritstone Climbs, Volume 3: Kinder, Roches and Northern Areas. Birkenhead: Willmer Brothers. p. 153. 
  14. ^ Byne E. & White W. (1957). Gritstone Climbs, Volume 4: Further Developments in the Peak District. Birkenhead: Willmer Brothers. p. 205. 
  15. ^ Allsopp A. & Evans B. (1957). Climbs on Gritstone, Volume 5: West Yorkshire Area. Birkenhead: Willmer Brothers. p. 140. 


  • Byne E. & Sutton G. (1966). High Peak: The Story of Walking and Climbing in the Peak District. Seeker & Warburg, London. 
  • Laycock, John (1913). Some Gritstone Climbs. Refuge Printing Department, Manchester. 
  • Thompson, Simon (2010). Unjustifiable Risk: The Story of British Climbing. Cicerone Press, London.