Nesscliffe – and Jake’s first E7

You’ve probably driven past this sandstone crag, immediately above the old A5 just a few miles north of Shrewsbury.

Hidden in the trees, it’s a long disused quarry of very soft sandstone that’s historically been mostly used as a top roping venue and more recently has become a hot bed for goey top-end E-grades. The quarrymen have hand sculpted spectacular stepped walls, corners and aretes, with very few cracklines. Nature has helped out by providing numerous pockets, from monos to huecos, and climbers have placed the odd peg to supplement the sparse natural gear.

We warmed up on the classic ‘easy’ extreme of the crag – Red Square, E2, and found it disconcertingly damp and sandy… not very auspicious for Jake’s plan for the day…

This was Yukan II, E7 6b, which follows a tapering rib up a vertical wall, protected by a handful of pegs (one of which is literally a large nail!) supplemented by a couple of cams. Common sense as well as local etiquette suggested that a top rope inspection was in order, and Jake found the going hard on a first look as every hold was coated in a layer of sand. A soft brush would have been ideal, but we’d forgotten to bring one, so improvised with a sock.

After a bit of a rest, Jake top roped the now clean route comfortably, and felt happy enough to go for an attempt on the sharp end. This proved to be completely lacking in drama, as he oozed smoothly up the wall in very fine style. Here are some pics taken by mum (you can tell Jake was climbing smoothly as Helen can’t usually bear to watch him on tricky trad!)

Bouldery starting moves to the first gear at around 15ft

Gear clipped and on with the show

Are you a corner or an Arête?

Above the crux high-step and starting to feel confident

A stiff pull for a flatty

First E7 in the bag!

It’s a stunning line and I even managed to cover the ground on a pretty snug rope, just to savour first-hand what Jake had been grappling with. Good effort!

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