Nick Dixon has completed his project at Nesscliffe, Shropshire, which takes a direct line up the wall left of Une Jeune Fille Quatre Vingt Dix Ans and just right of Nonsense. He has named the line Cassini and graded it E8 6c.
Nick first checked out the line last autumn when Calum Muskett was attempting Jeune Fille, but the damp winter put a hold on the project until late spring this year. Nick told UKC:
'Ed Booth and I top roped it a few weeks ago and I got a few days of serious practice on it last week, top roping it three times in all. Ed has now top roped it in a one-er several more times and I am sure his ascent won't be far away.'
The climbing involves typical Nesscliffe pocket climbing up a vertical and unprotected wall to a hand-placed peg at 10m just after a difficult move. Nick commented:
'I had previously tried to hammer the peg, which is in a natural hole, but it was just bottoming at 6cm and dinner-plating the rock so I decided it would be far better for the crag to hand-place it on the ascent and do my best not to fall off on the difficult moves just above. It was just as well that those moves went OK, as just as I was finishing them the hand-placed peg fell out and trundled down the rope to Adam.'
With a couple of cams in a break and some tricky-to-place wires in the upper break next to a half-decent peg, there is then a 6c headwall to be climbed on two one-finger stacks. 'I really, really only just made the stretch to the top finishing hold. Well, it's a stretch for a short-arse like me!' Nick said. All gear was placed on lead, except for two cams in the first break that were in-situ from an earlier attempt.
Regarding the grade, Nick reckons the climbing is around French 8a and with its bold lower section, he considers E8 to be fair: 'I don't know, it is really hard to tell and anyway grading is a bit arbitrary; one man's E8 is Caff's [James McHaffie's] E5.
'I have had some lovely comments on Facebook, thanks for those, my favourite being Ian 'Squawk' Dunn, who calls me a "master of dirty vert." A big thank you also to Adam Booth who kindly held my rope for the ascent after his 21 mile training run and to Mike who filmed the ascent on my phone, which is nice to have for posterity! (I wish I had some videos of me doing grit E8s back in the eighties). I was pretty fired up to do it so finding a gap in the showers when the wind was giving good dry friction was brill.'
Nick's choice of name was timely, as NASA's 20-year long Cassini mission to study Saturn ended in the disposal of its probe the day after Nick's ascent. He commented:
'I called it Giovanni Cassini 'cos it is on a bit of wall with Franco Italian names and the 6-tonne space probe has been pretty mega and its photos of Enceladus's tectonics of ice and mysterious underground oceans are enchanting.'
Nick is no stranger to hard trad routes and has already made numerous first ascents at Nesscliffe up to E9, including the crag's hardest line A Thousand Setting Suns E9 7a. He also made the first repeat of the notorious Indian Face E9 6c and made the first ascent of Face Mecca E9 6c, both at Cloggy in Snowdonia, North Wales.
Watch the video of Nick's ascent below: