- On 24 Mar 2021
If you are planning outdoor activities for the summer, why not try gorge walking? Whether you are an experienced gorge walker or have never even heard of a gorge, this guide will offer all you need to know about gorge walking and the best locations for this popular outdoor activity.
What is a Gorge?
A gorge is a narrow valley that has a stream or river running along its bottom. Gorges can often be referred to as ‘gully’, ‘ravine’ or ‘ghyll’. In French, ‘gorge’ is a term that means neck or throat. Typically, gorges are formed when streams and rivers cause erosion, wearing rock away to form a deep valley. Alternatively, geologic uplift can also form gorges when rock layers beneath the Earth’s surface bump against the surface layers. Gorges can form as a result of natural forces, specifically erosion caused by streams that break down hard layers of rock. Sedimentary rock is then forced downstream, eventually creating the steep walls of a ravine. Gorges are often confused with canyons, which is another type of deep and narrow valley, although gorges tend to be smaller.
What is Gorge Walking?
Gorge walking is the activity of walking down a gorge’s stream. Gorge walking involves the exploration of mountain and hill streams which includes everything from teetering ledges, meandering streams, hopping from rock to rock and jumping in pools. These activities typically require a professional guide to ensure, especially if it is your first time gorge walking. Gorge walking is common in the countryside, you never know, you may even live near a well-know scramble spot. To check, you should simply search ‘gorge walking near me’.
What is Gorge Scrambling?
Gorge scrambling is basically the same as gorge walking, however, it is slightly more demanding. Scrambling involves more technical climbs and trickier scrambles across river crossings which are better suited to more experienced climbers.
What is Ghyll Scrambling?
Ghyll scrambling is also very similar to gorge walking and scrambling, with the main difference being the ability to exit the ravine. This is because a ghyll is a type of narrow wooded stream which are not as steep as gorges. Ghyll scrambling is the preferred option for parties who prefer more time scrambling banks than exploring streams.
Popular places to gorge walk
Now you understand all there is to know about gorge and ghyll walking and scrambling, it’s time to consider the most popular locations for gorge walking.
Gorge Walking in the Lake District
One of the most popular destinations for gorge scrambling is the Lake District, where you can find a wide variety of gorges and routes to take. If you are planning a trip to the waterfalls in Lake District National Park, there are plenty of scenic locations to choose from, whether you’re a beginner or an expert ravine scrambler.
For family activities, you may want to consider a mixed ability scramble such as Stoneycroft Ghyll, located just outside of Keswick. Here, you can explore natural rock chutes which are polished to provide the perfect slip and slide adventures in the well-known sheep dip.
The Stoneycroft Gyll walk is usually led by qualified instructors and typically takes around three hours to complete. To take part in the ghyll scramble, you will need a wetsuit and possibly some socks to keep you warm whilst exploring. This area is consideredby walkers as one of the most beautiful spots for walking in the Lake District.
If a challenge is what you are after, you should consider the Esk gorge walk, one of the top ghyll scrambling Lake District locations. The Esk Gorge is located in a remote valley on the West Coast of Cumbria in the Eskdale glacial valley, where you can find the biggest jumps in the Lake District.
The River Esk gorge walk is ideal for experienced scramblers who are willing to tackle jumps of up to 14m. To truly tackle this scramble, you should dedicate a full day to this activity, as the entire walk usually takes up to five hours to complete, plus an hour walk to and from the car park (and the pub).
Gorge Walking Wales
If Wales is your preferred holiday destination, gorge walking should definitely be on your list, as there plenty of hills, mountains and rivers to enjoy in all parts of the Welsh countryside. When researching things to do in Wales, you will notice ‘gorge scrambling wales’ is a commonly searched activity, showing just how popular it has become.
When visiting North Wales, there is no gorge scramble than the one at Afon Ddu. Situated on the west side of the Conwy Valley, the Afon Ddu gorge is a favourite amongst beginner scramblers.
The Afon Ddu ravine scramble features deep pools, which are perfect for swimming during dry weather. You will also encounter large waterfalls and steep paths. At the crux of the gorge walk is the 5a boulder traverse, which is hard to tackle near the end but definitely worth it.
Brecon Beacons Gorge
Visitors to the South of Wales mustn’t leave without tackling the Brecon Beacons gorge walk. The scramble takes place in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, where you will find Waterfall County.
When gorge walking Brecon Beacons, you will find a steep-sided natural beauty, where you can crawl under waterfalls, jump into deep pools and climb cascades in half a day. Many tour operators also offer a drier experience for anyone who feels they aren’t the strongest swimmer or prefer to stay warm and dry during their adventure.
Gorge walking safety checklist
Gorge walking does involve some level of risk, especially if you have never done it before or are fairly new to the activity. To ensure you are safe, you should take note of the following safety checklist:
- Make sure a qualified instructor is leading the gorge walk
- Follow the steps of the instructor carefully to avoid slipping or falling
- Proper safety equipment is used throughout
- Adequate clothing is worn
If it is your first time gorge walking, it is important to wear the right clothing and carry the correct safety equipment. Some companies will provide you with all the essentials you need when ravine or ghyll scrambling.
Gorge walking equipment
If you plan to make gorge walking a regular hobby, you should consider this gorge walking equipment and clothing checklist:
- Invest in a canyoning wet suit with a hood
- A high quality rock climbing helmet
- Wear a wetsuit with a swimsuit underneath
- Wear old trainers or hiking boots
- A Buoyancy Aid
- Dry Bag
- Canyoning rope, which is tough, static and has low water absorption
- Invest in thick neoprene socks and gloves (if walking in autumn or winter)
- Pack dry clothing, footwear and a towel