James McHaffie on Spider Pants (E6) Video

© Jack Geldard
James McHaffie climbing The Treacherous Underfoot E7 6b  © Jack Geldard
James McHaffie, Ground-up on The Treacherous Underfoot (E7 6b) Anglesey Sea Cliffs, © Jack Geldard
James McHaffie should have been the star of last year's film On Sight, but he wasn't.

He has climbed over thirty E7's in the purest style, with no pre-inspection and with no falls. Around ten of these are what James might describe in his quiet, understated way as "quite tough". Many climbers have onsighted an E7 or two, usually (and quite sensibly) choosing from a list of soft touches or relatively safe and straight forward routes, but there are some routes on James' CV that are quite a different proposition.

He is pushing this style of climbing up to the elusive grade of E8 and he is always out on the crag. Why then, does he make only brief appearances in the film that focusses directly on his speciality?

Perhaps it is because James climbs smoothly and quietly, doesn't enjoy the presence of a film camera, doesn't often take huge falls and doesn't dress in bright, camera-friendly clothes. He climbs E6's and E7's in much the same way as many people climb VS's, sometimes with his approach shoes clipped to the back of his harness and the guidebook stuffed down his jumper.

In this short film we see James 'retro-flashing' the fiercely technical slate groove of Spider Pants (E6 6b/c). James had climbed the route three years previously, onsight, and here he repeats it again. Although he has some knowledge of the route from his earlier ascent, it isn't a full blown red-point, James is improvising and reading the rock as he climbs.

The route is extremely physical, the frictionless slate corner ensures a full body pump. It is also mid-winter, very cold, and James has no warm-up route to get him going, preferring instead to quickly touch his toes and "give it a quick look". Some of the holds are wet which adds to the already slippery nature of the route. The route is a 'hybrid', utilising a mixture of bolts and natural protection as is quite normal on some slate climbs.

James' previous onsight of this route is, as far as we know, the only onsight to date.

James McHaffie is a professional mountaineering instructor at Plas y Brenin in North Wales.

  • This is an out-take from the film On Sight by Alastair Lee of Posing Productions. Alastair has a new film on the cards - The Asgard Project. You can read more about it in this UKC News Item.

James McHaffie on Spider Pants E6 6b/c:

Missing video!

James McHaffie is sponsored by Wild Country , Red Chili and Karrimor

More about The Asgard Project:

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29 May, 2009
Does he really do all his routes in Red Chillis?! The climbing nerd in me wants to know the names of these thirty E7s he's on-sighted. Actually the climbing nerd in me aslo wants to know all the one's he hasn't as well. Also all the other E7s that have been onsighted in Wales, plus dates, partner's, E6's etc.........
29 May, 2009
James M was down in Pembroke last year the same long w/e we were there and we ended up at same crags as him a few times. Reading the climbing media, you think that top climbers spend their lives top roping E9s to submission but he proved that wrong. Saw him onsight 5 or 6 routes around E5 standard one after the other without any apparent difficulty, in the same way as me and my mate were doing on our trip (but obviously at a much lower grade!) If anything he was probably more in his comfort zone that we were. He was heading off to Devon/Cornwall the following week, would love to know what he got done. Humble guy too. In pub he said he'd just got back from a trip to Madagasca, done some good routes. Next months Climber had him on cover in Madagasca with 'Hardest Slab in the World' headline!
29 May, 2009
I remember reading on here ages ago that he onsight soloed Souls in pembroke - anyone know if its true?!
29 May, 2009
that was a good video, props to the man!
29 May, 2009
He has climbed over thirty E7's in the purest style, with no pre-inspection and with no falls. Around ten of these are what James might describe in his quiet, understated way as "quite tough". Yeah come on Jack, the nerds want names!
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