Posted by Swaledale Outdoor Club on 2013-11-12

Eskellent day on the North York Moors

Some of the minor crags on the North York Moors are a bit too far east for some members for summer evening meets and too small for long summer days. However, they are closer than most major venues and are worth a day trip when the days are short in Autumn and Spring.

IMG_0862 3The chosen venue on 3rd November was the compact, west-facing crag in the lonely dale of Esklets, south of Westerdale and west of Blakey ridge. I have walked past Esklets Crag many times on my way from Westerdale to Farndale. I took a closer look a few years ago and admired its classic main cracks

The weather forecast for Sunday was good sunshine, a temperature of 8 ºC and a 20 mph westerly wind. Phil and Harry were keen, and so we met at Rosedale Head at . As expected, it was windy up there, but Esklets is a narrow dale with north-south ridges rising 100 m higher than the crag on either side, and so I hoped that the wind would be gentler down at the face. We yomped for 25 minutes across Westerdale Moor, over the barbed wire fence and found our way down the side of the dale to the base of the crag. The wind was indeed much gentler and the sun was shining.

The rocks were a bit cold at first but they gradually warmed up in the sun. This quiet crag in a pretty dale was a nice place to be. Harry and Phil were both impressed with the climbing, and so was I, although it was mostly too hard for me at the moment. The routes tend to be vertical and sustained with little opportunity for resting: “Great if you're operating at HVS-E2” according to one local commentator on UKC. The heather-clutching top-outs on some climbs were also a bit of a nuisance and I noticed a loose block on one.

IMG_0855 3Harry led Left Unconquerable (HS 4b) and finished off Dwarf’s Ear (graded S but Phil reckons HS 4b) after Phil decided that the crux was rather too bold. Sadly, I didn’t manage to finish either. Phil also inspected Giant’s Ear (also graded S), but it looked very awkward. I led Eskape (VD), which links the lower section of Waiting for an Alibi (MVS 4b) to the mid section of Deception Chimney (D) by an awkward ledge. It is the lower of two possible ‘eskapes’ in fact.

Phil then led Waiting for an Alibi, coping well with bridging contortions most of the way, but he decided to ‘eskape’ the heather-grabbing top-out by a high traverse to the top of Deception Chimney. Finally, Harry led Right Unconquerable (VS 4c), undoubtedly the classic of the day. He was muttering eulogies all the way up: “This is wonderful! … Fantastic! …” and so on. He summed it up afterwards: “It looked good and it was good. I like hanging off steep sustained hand jams and placing bomber gear while working up a sweat and thinking (probably wrongly) "this is never VS!””  The crag was illuminated by the rays of the setting sun when Phil followed up, making for some nice photos and video.

We yomped back across Westerdale moor in the gathering gloom, stopping briefly for a final photo at Old Ralph Cross. Then there was time for a visit to the Lion Inn at Blakey, one of the finest inns in England, where Harry and Phil studied my videos of their efforts of the day. Harry kept telling himself to “get a move on!” Esklets is a little gem and I am sure that SOC will be back. Maybe it is not too far for a summer evening meet, but it might need a bit of a breeze to keep the midges away. Anyway, I must try to be fitter next time.


John Birtill

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