Sheffield’s Urban Boulders (including the Tour de Blocs challenge by bike)

For many in Sheffield, climbing is a way of life. So it's unsurprising that the city’s parks have also succumbed to the appeal of climbing. Several purpose-built climbing boulders have popped up all over the city in recent years. Built to closely mimic the natural boulders and slabs found out in the Peak District, these public facilities offer a convenient and fun opportunity for novices and experts alike to work on their technique – all for free.

Locations:
The folk behind the Sheffield Boulder site have handily put together this Google map showing where to find these free public boulders. Their site also contains topos of boulders and a wiki for documenting any problems.

Tips for using the boulders:

  • All the boulders have landing surfaces below them, varying from small stones to thin matting. These won’t guarantee your safety though, so remember that you’re climbing at your own risk and read the BMC's safety advice before you get started.

  • Before climbing up a boulder, make sure you can climb back down again. Walk around and locate the easiest way down.

  • You may be lucky enough to meet one of Sheffield’s many resident climbers at any of these boulders, who will probably be happy to give you some tips.

Useful links: BMC's safety advice.

The Tour de Blocs is a fine challenge for the climber who cycles.

It lacks any grade 4 climbs and sprint finishes, but it’s a great way for you to sample the diverse bouldering delights of The Outdoor City.

Start the Tour de Blocs in the dead centre of town at Cemetery Road. There’s not a ghost of a chance you’ll flash every problem because some of them are pretty grave but it’s arguably one of the best boulders in the city, so dig deep. 

Start on the side of the boulder facing the cemetery park, its gentle angle provides an ideal warm-up. On the opposite side, the main face has a selection of excellent holds that allow problems of all sorts to be invented. Finally, the prow is burly and steep, ensuring you’ll be struggling to hold the handlebars as you set off for the next destination...

...which is esoteric in the extreme. Sheffield has a great tradition of using anything made of gritstone as a training venue. Broomgrove Road wall is on the side of Broomgrove Hall, part of the Sheffield Hallam University Campus. To reach it, you’ll encounter pretty much the only hill on the Tour de Blocs, a grand opportunity to build up a sweat before tackling the tricky Broomgrove traverses. Fingery and technical, it’ll prove a real contrast to the Cemetery boulder. 

 

Freewheeling back down Broomgrove Road will then be a real treat. Wend your way through the back streets, through Little Sheffield and Boston Street and you’ll find yourself at the St Mary’s boulder in the grounds of a grand church. Much easier, it’ll grant some welcome recovery time and a moment’s peaceful reflection in the heart of the city. 

 

Suitably refreshed, head for the Climbing Works for an intense session. Having arrived by bike, you’ll be treated to a free cup of tea before you get stuck into some of the best problems in the country. The atmosphere is great, the variety unsurpassed and you’re only a short ride from your final destination.

Which is the Heeley Boulders. Built in the grounds of a small park maintained by the local community, these are two of the best boulders in the city. The original boulder is large and peppered with great holds. It’s a good spot to work on stamina with a number of pumpy traverses. The straight-ups run from gentle to brutal. The surroundings are lovely, with well tended trees and shrubs and, should you run out of arm strength, there’s a small intricate mountain bike trail to play on.

The new boulder is a different beast, more natural and seriously technical. It has a relatively slabby face that is still tough and an overhanging face that is both fingery and pumpy. Beware, even the downclimb isn’t easy. 

 

And now you’re finished, in every sense of the word, pumped, dehydrated and ready for some kind of recovery drink.

Which is where the Sheaf View comes in. On the opposite side of the road is one of Sheffield’s finest pubs frequented by many climbers and home to one of the best selections of real ale in the area. The beer garden on a sunny evening is convivial and you’ll almost definitely end up chatting to fellow climbers. Better still, there are other excellent hostelries nearby including the Brothers Arms with great music most nights, and the White Lion on the Chesterfield Rd, also famous for its great selection of ales. Is there a better way to celebrate completing the Tour de Blocs?

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