COLUMN: Explore the Peaks from every angle like Puttrell
On December 12 1903 the first ascent was made of High Tor Gully in Matlock Bath.
This impressive limestone crag is 396 feet high and all previous attempts to conquer it had failed.
The man who did make it, along with two companions, was a man named Jim Puttrell.
Puttrell is one of the people entwined in the history of climbing and caving in Derbyshire and will be a well known name to many who enjoy those pursuits. He was the first to climb on Wharncliffe Crags near Sheffield, making the area a sort of natural gymnasium on which he scrambled, squeezed and stretched to find routes.
During his lifetime Puttrell’s record of more than 150 first ascents in the Peak District earned him much respect.
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He was a founder member of the ‘Climbers Club’ which aimed to unite working class British climbers and he was also an early member of a group named ‘The Kyndwr Club’, which pioneered cave exploration in the Peak District, including the caverns in Castleton.
The first descent into Peak Cavern from Cavedale, on March 1 1902, was by this group of intrepid underground adventurers. They also explored the ‘Bottomless Pit’ in Speedwell Cavern and one of the old ‘Wonders of the Peak’, Eldon Hole.
This pothole near Castleton is around 180ft deep and to explore it Puttrell and his friends built a swing chair over the top, which was lowered down into the blackness below.
The Kyndwr Club later disbanded and in November 1906 Puttrell and some friends formed a new group, The Derbyshire Pennine Club “for the pursuit of Rock Climbing, Cave Exploration & Hill Walking”, which still exists today (thedpc.co.uk).
Puttrell was a friend of Randolph Douglas, who opened the Douglas Museum House of Wonders in Castleton in 1926. Randolph and he often climbed and caved together, collecting minerals and specimens to add to their collections.
Puttrell also gave talks on caving, rambling and climbing which were broadcast by the BBC from 1926 to 1931.
This inspiring and adventurous man set many people off to follow in his footsteps, enjoying the Peak District from both above and below. He died in 1939 at the age of 70.