James McHaffie edging his way up on the fifth ascent of The Indian Face
UKC Articles, Aug 2013
© John Orr
James 'Caff' McHaffie recently made the first ascent of a route on the Milestone Buttress in the Ogwen Valley, North Wales. He named the route The Ambassador, originally graded the route E8 6c but changed this to E8 7a after heading back with Pete Robins.
The Ambassador climbs a blunt prow to the left of the Redhead E5, The Wrinkled Retainer, and had been tried previously by Calum Muskett who got close in 2012 but never returned this summer. Talking about the route's history on his blog, Caff said:
"Johnny Dawes had mentioned that the blunt Prow of the Milestone was a possibility over a decade ago but had played down that it was any good. My friend Calum Muskett had tried it early in 2012 and had gotten close but seemed to have lost interest in it in 2013 as he'd not been on it and it didn't appear he was going to get back on it in the near future...
Just before setting off for a lead go I received a text off Calum saying it would be nice if I gave him a week to attempt it before trying it. Not feeling (nice) like I had as much time as a young man to keep returning I replied an ascent was unlikely as I'd bust my tip and felt the climbing was tricky. It was however too fun not to try."
After abbing the route on a GriGri, checking the moves and the gear, Caff had a lead attempt at the route, placing the gear as he went but fell on the last hard move. After a quick rest he managed a clean lead despite having to tape up a split tip. Caff described the climbing:
"At 3/4 height the climbing goes from easy to suddenly steepening on the right side of the arête, a powerful move to a backhand and a reach to a sidecrimp on the arête using a poor foothold is followed by a wild step through to prevent a barndoor. You can place 2 good RPs here but they are difficult/desparate to place. It then follows a fantastic seam line with minimum footholds feeling like a gritstone problem."
You can read a more detailed report on Caff's ascent of The Ambassador and his return with Pete Robins on the DMM Website.