James McHaffie Climbs 'The Meltdown' - 9a Slab?

James McHaffie has climbed the long standing slate project The Meltdown to give the UK its hardest slab route at around 9a.

James McHaffie on 'The Meltdown' - The UK's hardest slab route, and possibly 9a  © Jack Geldard
James McHaffie on 'The Meltdown' - The UK's hardest slab route, and possibly 9a
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Jul 2012
© Jack Geldard

James McHaffie on 'The Meltdown' - The UK's hardest slab route, and possibly 9a  © Jack Geldard
James McHaffie on 'The Meltdown' - The UK's hardest slab route, and possibly 9a
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Jul 2012
© Jack Geldard
The route, a bolted sport line in Tyll Mawr, near Llanberis, North Wales, is on the wall underneath the famous Quarryman groove, taking a line to the right of the first pitch of The Quarryman.

The climbing on The Meltdown starts off at a slightly easier standard (around 7c) to a rest by a small roof, and then is continuously desperate to just below the chains.

James fell several times from a particularly difficult move leftwards (see video below) just after the start of the hard climbing, but has been able to do all the moves on the route for quite some time, however linking them all together was proving difficult.

Yesterday, Monday the 9th, on his third attempt of the day, he climbed the whole line in one push, commenting:

"There's a 6b move just before the chains, and at the point you're way out above the bolt. It's E6 just for that bit. As for the overall sport grade, I'm not sure, it's around 8c+ or 9a. Not sure about 9a as it didn't take me as long as I expected."

The line was first attempted and bolted by Johnny Dawes when he was climbing at his prime, during the time that he was very active on the slate. Johnny came close to completing the route, but never quite ticked it.

McHaffie has been training hard for this route, as although it is a slab, it requires extreme fitness, finger strength and core strength to maintain tension throughout the long sequences of hard moves.

McHaffie, known more for his hard trad onsights (he was out onsighting E7 at Pembroke last week on his 'rest days') has previously climbed 9a with his ascent of The Big Bang, and now with The Meltdown has perhaps added another 9a to his CV. Although he is reticent about offering a grade of 9a, the route is known to be extremely hard.

Twll Mawr (which means 'big hole' in English) is the biggest of the slate holes in the Dinorwig quarries, and is home to many hard routes such as The Quarryman (E8 7a) and Coeur de Lion (E8 7a) as well as being one of the first parts of the slate quarries to be climbed, when it was explored by Joe Brown and friends in the early 1970's. It is fitting that this major crag is now home to perhaps one of the hardest routes of its type in the world.

VIDEO: James McHaffie attempting The Meltdown


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James is a full time climbing instructor and coach. You can book him via his website.

James's Athlete Page 11 posts




10 Jul, 2012
Mega! This is great news, and something we've been waiting for for a while. Great to know James hadn't given up on it. Why do I find this particularly inspiring? Dave T.
10 Jul, 2012
Well done James. Very impressive. Jack
10 Jul, 2012
A 9a slab. The mind boggles.
10 Jul, 2012
It's a slate saga
10 Jul, 2012
Reticent indeed. If he had it his way, nobody would know he even knew how to tie-in! What an absolute monster of an achievement, and such an historic line - nice one Caff!
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