In my pursuit of steadily increasing my outdoor challenges I have been looking at going up Wilderness Gully West for a few months. I've been checking it out at every opportunity to weigh up what level of challenge it may be. After Torside Clough I decided that this had to be next in line. So last Saturday I dropped on a window in the weather and headed out.
Wilderness Gully West is, funnily enough, the most westerly of a series of five gullies to be find on the southern slope of the valley through which Chew Brook flows from Chew Reservoir. Above the gullies is an area called Wilderness on the edge of Saddleworth Moor. The next Gully along is known as Wilderness Gully East and is a grade 2 gully that will be a challenge for a later date. My challenge, Wilderness Gully West, is a grade 1 scramble. There is a little bit of ambiguity in the scramble grading system, so a grade 1 scramble can differ somewhat from scramble to scramble. I'd say Wilderness Gully West is at the top end of a grade 1 and I will explain why I think so.
The first thing I noticed as I headed of to the gully was how low the water level in Chew Brook was. Just a couple of weeks of fairly dry weather had reduced the water level considerably. No longer a lively flowing brook, just a steady trickle. Great news from a scrambling perspective as it would mean any water flow down the gully would be reduced. Not a good sign from a water supply point of view.
The approach to Wilderness Gully West is along side Chew Brook. Whether you go by the Oldham Way or up Chew Road, you will eventually either come across, or see a wooden bridge that crosses Chew Brook around the area of Charnel Clough. This is where the Oldham Way crosses Chew Brook and meets Chew Road. At the eastern end of the bridge there are signs of a trodden path that follows Chew Brook.
Following this path for around half a mile will bring you to the foot of Wilderness Gully West. You know you are close when you pass an old rusty, heavy duty steel girder that crosses Chew Brook. At this point you are only a hundred meters or so from Wilderness Gully West and only able to follow the northern bank of the brook. As you close in on the gully you will need to cross back over onto the southern bank to access the Gully. There is a very large flat boulder at the foot of the gully.
The first 10 meters of the gully is grass, but this soon transforms. The higher you get, the rockier it gets. Very quickly you are getting into the thick of some really nice scramble terrain.
I found I was able to use all sorts of climbing techniques to get over the boulders and obstacles. Within what seemed like only a few minutes I was half way up and taking a quick pit stop to take in the view and some air.
Continuing on and the challenges increased in difficulty in quite a nice steady way. This is where grade 1 scramble goes out of the window for me. The first half to two thirds is definitely a grade one. The top third or so is leaning more towards a grade two with considerable use of the hands needed in certain areas.
I also found myself using smearing to get up a couple of the climbs, certainly not walking with the occasional use of your hands. So I would definitely grade this at the top end of a grade 1. But what a blast.
Once up on the path that runs across the tops of the gullies you can look down into Wilderness Gully West from an excellent vantage point on a large protruding boulder. In the centre of the first photograph below is a dark area with a large sloping boulder above and to the left. Above the dark area is a series of four smaller boulders. That wasn't the toughest challenge, but it was one of the highest.
I now headed east, along the path, towards Chew Reservoir. Approximately 150 meters from Wilderness Gully West I cam across the top of Wilderness Gully East. Wow, that is some green rock. I really fancy this one, but I will wait until the rock has dried a little and isn't so green. I can imagine it being a real handful. I have my eye on some other gullies and scrambles before considering Wilderness Gully East.
The route back was pretty straight forward, over to Chew Reservoir and then down Chew Road to Charnel Clough and down to Dovestone Reservoir. I dropped on well with the weather. The heavens opened just as I got in the car to leave......phew!
The grading issue I have with gully is my own. I would highly advise anyone interested in having a go do their home work and have a good look before attempting it. My aim is to give people an idea of how I found Wilderness Gully West as a challenge for me and my capabilities and maybe inspire you to have a go. Your capabilities may differ. A good start would be a book called Scrambles in the Dark Peak published by Cicerone, written by Tom Corker and Terry Sleaford.