Lancashire's Ousel's Nest is back in action. The crag has enjoyed a recent revamp, with loads of cleaning and new routes from local activists to make it ready for inclusion in the upcoming Lancashire Bouldering guide. Robin Mueller gives verse on the crag's new lease of life and what to expect at this challenging new, or should we say old, crag.
The fickle whims of climbers can turn upon a beer-fuelled word or a notion sparked by fading photos. Although some crags are ever-loved, others drift between fleeting winds of worship, and others still slip slowly into darkness. For those rocks long absent the devotion of chalky hands, history's course may be altered by the chance motivation of one climber here or there, whose efforts might just awake the desires of many. Ousel's Nest was such a crag, grown sleepy with fern and nettle, shrunk dreamily into leaf and green.
In May of this year, rain sputtered in the space between the tree-line and the cliff-line. The nearby meadow bent its grasses flat beneath the drizzle and the clouds huddled wetly overhead. But there was noise. There was movement. Climbers on the rock, conversation in the air, musicians playing songs. Over two decades since the last first ascent recorded in the BMC route guide, climbers had returned in force. A clean-up day was in progress, and this was only one of many eager visitations made throughout the year.
The change has been drastic. A rolling snowball of enthusiasm that began with work for the forthcoming BMC guidebook somehow managed to collect the super-keen super-cleaner Tim Greenhalgh, a dedicated facebook following, several visionary new routers and a gang of boulderers eager to develop the place for inclusion in the new Lancashire Bouldering guidebook. As a result, Ousel's Nest has been a popular spot for much of spring and summer. New routes have been climbed and old routes have been repeated over and over. Ousel's Nest is at full sail once more.
What's it like?
It's quarried grit and it's steep. There are some great easier climbs, such as Hogmany Slab Vdiff, but the meat of the climbing is in the harder grades. Come here if you want a challenge. The VS's and HVS's are tough – Please Ring The Plumber is the one to do if you like your VS's thuggy.
Then there are the E Grades. The low E grades are mainly short and butch, with Alison's Route being an excellent bouldery E3, and Goose Fat And Budgie Smugglers E3 5c giving an amazing overhanging groove on spaced gear and giant holds. The mid E grades are where the crag hots up. Ousel's Nest is more densely packed with mid E grades than any other quarry in Lancashire. With 10 routes at E4-E7 in a 50 metre stretch along the crag, there is a load to go at whether you are a hotshot onsighter or a dogged headpoint battler. The three-star classic is the E5 Pigeon Toad Orange Peel, but two-star gems abound.
On the bouldering front, this is the place to come if you find Brownstones too easy. The problems tend to be fingery and technical, with highlights being the sequency and amazing Faith And Energy 7A+, the highball Ring Ooze 7B and the super steep Nutcracker 7C+.
S - VS 8
E1 - E2 8
E3 - E4 10
E5 - E7 5
6A - 6B+ 5
6C - 6C+ 3
7B+ - 7C+ 2
What are the new routes?
E3 5c – Goose Fat And Budgie Smugglers – Incredible overhanging groove. Creaky holds and worrying gear to start. A head-game.
E3 6a – Alison's Route – Done years ago but previously unrecorded. Bouldery. Top end of the grade.
E4 6b – Brick Shaped Dreams – Bold and bouldery start to a romp up a leaning arete.
E5 6c – Backwards Magic – Fiercer direct start to the above.
E5 6c – Faith And Energy – Done years ago but previously at E4 6a (we assume it has lost holds). A classic highball boulder problem into a tricky thin top section. Unrelenting. Would be tough to onsight.
E6 6b – Bambousel – Straightforward climbing to an imposing roof, then attack! Stay calm on the airy finish.
E6 6c – The Ten Year Itch - Bouldery tick-tacking up sidepulls to start, then gear and one more hard move before a glory romp.
E7 6c – Ring Ooze – Climb the tough highball, compose yourself at the jug (there's no gear) then commit to a 6b sequence before bigger holds near the top. A solo.
What are the conditions like?
Although some sections seep during prolonged wet weather, once the crag has dried out it is almost perma-dry for much of the year, and climbing is even possible during light rain. Due to the tree cover, it's a good option on sunny days when you can choose to sunbathe or climb in the shade. Don't go on muggy evenings unless you are immune to midges.
How do I get there?
Find your way to Chapeltown Road B6391, which is north of Bolton in Lancashire. Turn off this road at the brown sign for “Jumbles Country Park”. Park in the free car park. Walk downhill on the obvious path between trees and houses. Turn left down steps and cross the meadow to the crag.
What guidebook do I need?
For routes - The current BMC Lancashire Rock guidebook covers most of the routes, though for the new additions you'll have to look out for the next edition, which will hopefully be ready in the next year or two. In the meantime, watch the videos or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more beta.
For bouldering – The new Lancashire Bouldering guidebook is hot off the press and is now available from the BMC shop. Also check out www.lancashirebouldering.com for new problems done since the guidebook went to print (there are quite a few at Ousel's Nest).
You can check the latest access news on the BMC regional access database.
Watch: Ousel's Nest Routes on BMC TV:
Watch: Ousel's Nest Bouldering on BMC TV: