Peak District

Peak District Geology for climbers

The climbing courses in the Peak District are normally run on Gritstone edges. These rocks provide a perfect place for a climbing course as the rocks are an ideal height, with interesting features and great friction.
The rocks of the Peak District were formed many million years ago and have a extremely influential effect on the landscape, plants, animals and the people who live in the area. For us climbers, the rocks are the reason why we visit the Peaks.

There are many different type of rocks within the Peak District although most people visit the area for the gritstone. There are the sedimentary rocks, gritstone and the older Limestone, which are the rocks that climbers enjoy. There has also been some volcanic activity in the area now know as the White Peaks which has lead to Dolerite and Basalts.

Peak District climbing

Limestone of the Peak District

The Limestone was formed between 360 and 326 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.
During this time the area now known as the Peak District was south of the Equator and covered by a tropical sea. This sea was teeming with life, many of these sea creatures had hard outer shells of calcium carbonate. When these sea creatures died their soft bodies would rot away leaving the hard calcium carbonate shells on the sea floor. Over a period of 30 million years these turned into the limestone we see today.
The limestone has many uses such as building stones and to make quicklime, but for us it provides some excellent climbing on natural rock faces and disused quarries.


Toadstone is the local name for the volcanic rocks that were formed at the same time as the limestone. These rocks are not that common in the peaks and are of little interest to the climbers. They can be seen at Tideswell Dale quarry and on a path between Minner Dale and Litton Mill.

Gritstone Rocks.

Gritstone was also formed between 326 and 316 million years ago when a huge river washed pebbles, sand and mud into the sea. This river flowed through the area that now forms the Scottish Highlands. The pebbles and coarser sand collected in the same areas and hardened to make the famous gritstone cliffs.

Coal in the Peak District

316 to 300 million years ago, after the gritstone and shales were laid down by the river, swamps formed. In these swamps many plants lived and died. Over time layers of dead plant life formed, which was compressed and chemically changed into coal.

Uplift, folding and erosion.

Around 300 million years ago, the land was lifted upwards as a result of movement in the earth’s crust. This caused an anticline or dome, now called as the Derbyshire Dome.

This upheaval was called the Variscan orogeny. During this time the present day England was near the continental plate boundary between Laurassia and Gondwana. As these two ancient plates crashed into each othe’r the land around was folded and cracked. The upward folds are called anticlines and the downward folds are called synclines.

Once the rocks had been pushed upwards they became exposed to the wind and rain. The softer rocks were worn away by wind and rain leaving the harder ones behind. At the highest point of the dome the gritstone was also eroded and the limestone beneath was also exposed.


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