Good Day at Nesscliffe for Pearson - E8, E8, E9by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor May/2012
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In terms of 'grades' perhaps the most successful day of the trip was at Nesscliffe, when James Pearson racked up an astonishing E8 flash, E8 onsight and E9 headpoint in a single day. Full details in his own report below.
We have previously reported on UKC about the team's efforts in Northumberland and North Wales (including an onsight of the famous Strawberries), and below we have a trip report from James Pearson on Pembroke and Nesscliffe, but first here's the full list of hard routes:
"Beginning on the 12th May in Northumberland, we visited Gogarth, Tremadog, The Slate, Pembroke, Nesscliffe, and finally the Lakes. It was a fantastic experience to make such a quick fire voyage around our little island, visiting old favourites as well as places I had never been, and climbing with such a talented yet varied team.
As the trip progressed I enjoyed watching the individual characters finding their feet. Hazel's affinity with the rock is immediately obvious as she moves up a face with such delicate, technical control. Hansjorg's enthusiasm is unrelenting, equally game for seconding a classic E1 or throwing himself at a bold E7 onsight. Caroline made unbelievable progress in her understanding and execution of the technical and logistical side of trad, coming from not being able to place the simplest of protection, to finding and using tricky, fiddly gear that sometimes I would even miss. And finally myself... well... I mostly just fell off lots of things!
My top memories from the trip involve Caroline's busy day in Pembroke, where she warmed up on an E5, on-sighted Hindenburg (E7) and in the evening redpointed The Jackals, an unrepeated (as far as I know) E8 from Ben Bransby. It has been great for me watching Caroline's progress over the last few weeks, and she is quickly becoming one of the best female trad-climbers around. Her proficiency at placing gear is getting better by the day, but more importantly, she understands the (often very small) difference between trying hard in the knowledge you are protected, and pushing on recklessly into the death zone. She climbed The Jackals with great style and control, keeping a cool head even when placing the crux protection proved more difficult than imagined. She looked so smooth in fact, that when I flashed the route later that day, I got quite a shock at the difficulty of the moves, coming close to falling in the final tough section.
A few days later the whole team moved to Nesscliffe, Shropshire to try our luck on the amazing grooves and Aretes. After walking up to the cliff for my first view of the routes, I was more motivated than I can remember in a long time. The lines just look so good, and there are so many! I ran around like a kid in a candy store, guide book in hand, searching out routes for my dream list for the following day.
I began the day warming up on Marlene Direct, an amazing E7 that I climbed ground up, 1st try today after falling on my on-sight attempt the evening before. After this I watched Caroline and Hazel trying Gathering Sun, a fierce looking E8 wall that began to look more inviting after a sprinkling of chalk. The route seemed especially reachy through its upper section and neither of the girls felt like giving it a try on the sharp end, but thanks to their help and advice, I gave it a shot and was able to flash this really unusual route.
Temperatures rocked during the mid-day hours and I took a rest from climbing to offer my belay skills, hoping to save some juice for the big projects of the day. When the evening temperatures fell and the light turned golden pink, I warmed up again on Gathering Sun and began to prepare for my On-sight attempt of My Piano (E8). In addition to trying to read the sequence, when you are planning an onsight of a trad route, you must also try to plan out what gear you may need. With a full trad rack at my disposal, I had a tough job slimming it down to minimize weight, yet cover all the placements the route may offer. I knew there would be no more than 3 or 4 pieces to place, but the last thing you want when facing a deck-out from 6b moves it to have left the crucial piece of protection in your backpack.
I set of with a heavy harness, and immediately got a shock in the hard and bouldery lower section. When you are on-sight in a dangerous route, you can't afford to take any chances. Each move must be static, each hold must be checked before committing, and each obscure crack/hidden pocket must be examined for potential gear. The result... I get pumped out of my mind on climbing that would be around Fr7b+ on a top-rope! When I topped out on My Piano, I knew the climbing was not especially hard, but the overall experience had been the most taxing thing of the trip so far! Trad climbing is much more than just the sum of its parts, and perhaps that is what makes it special.
On-sight and redpoint are two very different beasts and it's important to practice both to keep balance in your climbing. The day had been amazing (and long) but there was still one thing left undone...
A Thousand Setting Suns was first climbed a few years ago by Nic Dixon and is the current hardest route at Nescliffe. It follows a shallow blunt groove up a steep slab, with sustained tenuous climbing protected by a 6inch nail !!! and a pair of pegs. A full description of the route can be found on the High Sports Website.
Just after topping out on My Piano, I ran down to the base to make the most of the cooler, dryer evening conditions, and climbed A Thousand Setting Suns placing the gear on lead. It was a memorable finish to a fantastic day, and great to be able to try hard on some difficult moves for a change.
E7 Ground Up, E8 Flash, E8 On-sight, E9 Headpoint... Time to go for a beer!"