Nesscliffe – Trouble in Toytown

We visited Nesscliffe a couple of years ago, with the focus very much on Jake’s ambition to lead his first E7. That trip turned out well… …and I’d been really taken by the place.

The quarrymen have left a set of stunningly aesthetic lines: soaring aretes, blank walls and immaculate corners, all sculpted in shades of rose-pink sandstone, and peppered with pockets.

The general standard is pretty stiff, and with around 40 routes in the E5-7 range there’s plenty for Jake to go at, so he didn’t take much encouragement. There are easier routes but they’re largely on the fringes (apart from the classic E2, Red Square, which we’d done on the previous visit). However, the two stand-out corners at the left of the main area looked to be potentially my kind of route – worth a look…

The crag is somewhat conditions-dependent, with damp sandstone being both slippery and fragile, but the dry spell had sorted that out. Judging by the amount of chalk, the classics had seen plenty of post-lockdown action, which also meant that the task of dusting off the holds wouldn’t be too onerous. Whilst caution and local ethics would suggest a visit with a brush on a top-rope, Jake just jumped on Marlene, E4 6a, the left hand corner (fearless youth!)

You actually start up the arete on the right…

… until an improbable line of just enough pockets (not too many; not to few) heads across the otherwise blank wall at around 1/3 height…

… to finally clip a peg in the corner about 6m off the deck. Gear improves from here, but there are still tough moves to the top.

Fabulous route – fine to follow but the runout to the first peg had me wimping out of the lead.

The next corner right is Trouble in Toytown E5 6b. This sticks to the corner throughout. Slightly grungy rock at the start soon improves and the climbing is sustained rather than desperate,

… with a couple of “foot in a break level with your head and mantel like buggery” moves to spice things up.

In between cruxes you can rest for as long as you want (or until your calves cramp) and there’s a tonne of gear! Outstanding!

I found it pretty okay seconding Jake, and rapping back down I surveyed every piece of gear and told myself “that’s a bolt, that’s a bolt… If you’re not going to lead it today then when will you?”

On the lead I managed to stay in this sports climbing headset, and the climbing felt totally comfortable. Woohoo – I don’t lead many E5s (okay, I know the situ gear and top-rope shufty made a huge difference, but I was still pretty chuffed!)

Just right again, the corners run out and give way to the Main Wall. It’s pretty much all E7s and 8s all the way to the next corner (the aforementioned Red Square). 10 O’clock Saturday Morning, E7 6c, takes the thin seam up the centre. Tough moves past a couple of pegs lead to a break at 2/3 height and gear and a situ thread. Here’s Jake on his onsight attempt, contemplating the runout to the distant peg above.

Here’s his account from his UKC logbook:

“Had a flash go, got very pumped faffing with gear, came reeeaaally close but fell off the last move. Was too pumped to clip the peg so took a bit of a winger onto the thread, brushing past some branches on the way down. Couldn’t face the prospect of another whip so abbed to check out the last move. Went smoothly second go. Great climbing though.”

Celebrations were cut short by the dash for the car to speed home and open up the Zoom Meeting for the Rucksack Club Virtual Slideshow (a riveting multi-sensory journey to Nepal with Paul and Rachel – you can catch-up with this and previous shows here:

Anyway, fabulous day!

One response to “Nesscliffe – Trouble in Toytown

  1. Great article. Marlene on the wall is a relatively safe lead after I placed that whopping angle peg at th end of the traverse. That also means that Marlene in the corner is ok after the boulder prob start. Get Jake on Marlene direct!

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