Monday, 31 August 2015

Wilderness Gully East: Grade 2 Scramble Number 2 in the bag.

It may only be around 250 feet from bottom to top, but Wilderness Gully East has the most fun packed into such a small space I have yet come across scrambling. If you look around on the Internet you will find it referred to as a classic, I have to totally agree. It is easily on par with Wildboar Clough, if considerably smaller.
Wilderness Gully East is situated just over one and a half miles from the car park at the head of Dovestone Reservoir, which is near Saddleworth Moor, Greater Manchester. There are several ways to get to the gully, none particularly straight forward, but all use a part of the Oldham Way in Chew Valley. I generally chose to head up Chew Road, which eventually leads to Chew Reservoir. But at the point where the road passes the foot of Charnel Clough I break off down into the valley across a foot bridge and follow a vague path up the valley to foot of Wilderness Gullies East and West. I tend to stay on the higher ground working across the clumps of rocks to keep away from the patches of sphagnum moss and small hidden streams feeding into Chew Brook. There are large patches of what I think are Bilberry plants. Be very wary around these as they can hide deep holes.

The first gully you pass is Wilderness Gully West, which I have already bagged and written about in a previous post.

Where the valley begins to drastically narrow, just past the tree on the left bank, you arrive at the foot of Wilderness Gully East up to your right. This is where you get to see your challenge for the very first time. It makes Wilderness Gully West look like child’s play. The first 20 feet or so is a steep grassy slope with a slightly easier access off to the left.

Once up close and personal it becomes obvious that the condition of the rock is definitely of the greener side. I tend to find that the darker the green, the more potential there is for it to be slippery. But this isn’t always the case, so checking the condition of the rock as you place your feet is important. I always try to be prepared for the rocks being too slippery as I place my feet. If necessary having my hands ready to catch me if there is a slip.
Before I go any further, I have done a lot of reccy work for Wilderness Gully East. I did scramble it solo which many might consider dangerous. So because of that, I took many photographs on previous visits. Read up on the scramble in the Cicerone book ‘Scrambles in the Dark Peak’. And I also watched this helpful video on YouTube ( As mentioned before, I’m not a newbie to rock climbing so I have a good idea what my limits are. I also leave a trip itinerary with a member of my family that has a lot of walking experience, just in case. It’s best to be prepared.
For me there are four crux points on the scramble, the first I felt being the toughest. If you can get past the first crux, I believe you should have few problems with the rest. Bellow are a couple of photographs showing what I found. But remember, this is how I did this scramble, you need to do your own research. On the left the original, and on the right the crux points marked.


Photographs are deceiving, so the fist crux is around 10 feet high. In the photograph below can be seen the left section with four layers of rock. These layers are 2-3 feet high each and quite slippery. There are hand holds, but foot holds are a little sparse. So you need to have a good look around and find what suits your abilities. The rocks also change over time as sections fall off in winter, wear away with use etc.

From here you are climbing up what almost feels like a giant’s staircase. It is green and slippery, but there are areas where it is safe to place your feet. Just be careful, a slip would be very dangerous.
Then, before you know it, you’re at the second crux. This I found very straight forward except for watching foot placement. This was again a slippery place to be, if your foot placement is not well planned. This is another section around 10-12 feet high. So if you fall off near the top, it’s going to end your day badly. Remember, when you place your foot, test it, and don’t just assume your foot is planted.

The third crux reminded me of a section of Wildboar Clough. This involved some edging on narrow foot holds and some scrabbling for hand holds. But once you are on your way, it flows nicely.
Looking down the gully and I have made considerable progress after only around 15 minutes of scrambling. The view out across Chew Valley is pretty nice as well.


A scramble over some more rocks and you reach the final crux of the scramble. The chimney that runs up the right side, the bit with all the dark green gunk on it would be great if I was in a group to try. But on my own I kept to the dry stuff on the left. This is again around 10-12 feet high, so no messing around. The left hand route has plenty of foot placements, but hand holds have to be looked for to keep you on the rocks, else you are off.

Looking down from the top of this feature and it looks all to easy from above.
The final little obstacle was a scramble and jam up the crack, helped by good footwear.
Once at the top the views down and across were fantastic. I had feeling of elation at reaching the top of a tough challenge. Unfortunately, it was over too soon. It took a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes from car park to gully top. Oh well, I’ll have to have another go another time, quite soon.

The route from the top took me to Chew Reservoir and than back to the car park via Chew Road. Its well worth going back this way as it gives you a great view if Wilderness Gully East and allows you to see more clearly what you have achieved. And with people at the top of your photograph, it gives you an idea of the scale.

And one last tip from me. If you want to make scrambles like this much easier to cope with, wearing the right footwear helps. In my case I wore a pair of Salewa Raven Combi GTX boots. They are B2 graded boots with a stiff sole and a Vibram Mulaz Outsole which is fairly sticky. I’ll be reviewing these boots shortly. But any stiff boot with good grip should be okay. The stiff sole helps with edging on narrow lips and the Mulaz outsole is pretty much an industry standard fitted to many boots designed for this kind of activity. A pair of La Sportiva Trango boots would be even better for jamming into cracks as the toe box is very narrow, if they fit your foot shape. But good, stiff, grippy walking boots should do the job.

(Disclaimer: This is a description of my attempt at Wilderness Gully East, not a point by point guide that you should specifically follow. I have rock climbing experience that comes in handy, not only technically, but also from the point of view of knowing when to walk away. Although this scramble took me to the edge of my comfort zone, I never had any kind of issue and enjoyed it greatly. So please, while I hope you enjoy having a go, make sure you are appropriately prepared, a point I may tend to repeat. If in doubt, take part in a scrambling course first. I’m actually planning to do a five day course next year to improve what I know and what I can do.)

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