Great Rock: Sonny’s first summit

Great Rock: Sonny’s first summit

How my first ever summit became my son’s first summit, on a trip down memory lane above the Calder Valley.

Great Rock in West Yorkshire, located above the sleepy little town of Todmorden, is (probably) the first thing of any note I ever climbed. Perched among the heathery slopes of Staups Moor at an altitude of around 320m and with a road running right beneath it, summits don’t get much easier to reach.

This little dude has no idea what he’s about to climb!

I’m not even totally sure how high Great Rock is, maybe 40 or 50 feet at a push, and if you don’t fancy the exposed but technically simple climb up its front you can pretty much walk up the back of it, leaving yourself with a short and straightforward little scramble over the final few feet.

I used to ride my bike here as a kid with a bag of crisps and bottle of pop for company, clamber up to the top and dangle my legs off the front, gazing out across the green folds of the Calderdale Valley at the familiar pointy outline of Stoodley Pike on the horizon, letting my imagination run away with itself. I dreamed of climbing higher peaks and exploring faraway places, and it’s probably where my love of hills, rocks, mountains and adventure was born.

Back where my love of high places began, with Sonny strapped to my chest

I haven’t been here for around 15 years, but I returned recently with my 5-week old boy Sonny and treated him to his first little peak. Strapped into a sling, with a daft monkey hat keeping the breeze off his head and snoring the whole way through the climb, he won’t remember a minute of it. But in a few years, hopefully after he’s chalked a few mountains off his own tick-list, we’ll be able to look back at these photos together and remember where it all began.

His mum watched nervously from the grass below as I tottered around on Great Rock’s large, flat rocky crown. She needn’t have worried though, because this is simply a safe place with an epic feel to it. We live in Cambridgeshire now, a long way from the endless green valleys and rocky hills surrounding Todmorden, so Sonny won’t be able to pedal here after school like I did. I just hope little trips like this fuel his passion for the outdoors and help him form his own special childhood memories.


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