James McHaffie on his 100 Lakes Extremes in a DayInterview

© Henry Iddon

James McHaffie enjoying a beer after soloing 100 Lakeland Extremes in a day.  © Henry Iddon
James McHaffie enjoying a beer after soloing 100 Lakeland Extremes in a day.
© Henry Iddon
On Monday the 23rd of June, James McHaffie made British climbing history by climbing 100 extreme routes in the English Lake District, solo and in just 19 hours.

James, brought up in Borrowdale - one of the key climbing valleys of the Lakes - is widely regarded as Britiain's top all round rock climber, and is able to perform at a world class level in almost all styles of climbing. His ascents or attempts at some of the most iconic climbs on the planet, and his almost limitless UK traditional ticklist, juxtaposed with his understated and humble manner have resonated with the British climbing community and placed him in a short list of all time greats.

James 'Caff' McHaffie, born on January 15th 1981, developed his love of soloing early in his climbing career, and a wild period in the late 90's and 00's saw him clocking up hundreds of solo ascents across the UK as well as countless desperate and bold onsights of roped climbs. He has wound back a little on the soloing as the years have gone by, saying that his confidence isn't quite what it used to be. Where his confidence might have dropped (and by any normal climber's standard, he is supremely confident), his physical ability has sky-rocketed. Realising that his physical strength was the limiting factor in his climbing, James set about rebuilding his body a few years ago, and after climbing two sport routes of 9a, has taken that level of traditional skill and sport strength to quickly dispatch hard routes with minimum fuss, such as The Long Hope Route on Hoy and Salathe Wall in Yosemite.

Reading James' heartfelt write-up of his Lakes 100, his appreciation for the beauty of the Lakeland landscape, as well as its climbers, both current and past, flows from the page. If you haven't read it, then you should: Jame's McHaffie's Blog.

"I was deeply touched by the level of support given by people both on the day and in congratulations afterwards on what I’d seen as a personal pilgrimage through some great memories of the Lake District. Some climbs were big, some were tiny, some were clean, some were filthy but all were in the most fantastic landscape." - James McHaffie's blog after his Lakes 100.

James McHaffie climbing 'Reward' E2 5c, Castle Rock of Triermain, St. Johns in the Vale during his 'Lakes 100'  © Henry Iddon
James McHaffie climbing 'Reward' E2 5c, Castle Rock of Triermain, St. Johns in the Vale during his 'Lakes 100'
© Henry Iddon

James McHaffie on the Lakes 100:

I had wondered how I'd feel on the E2s at Grange Crag at about the halfway mark and they felt alright, but when I got to Reecastle I did 8 routes back to back, with Guillotine as the last route at the crag and I felt really tired on it. I was going to do Thumbscrew and someone said that he found it the easiest out of the lot and suggested I did it, but I told him I couldn't do it safely so wouldn't be doing it. So I went and did a nice short technical E2 - I could still do techy stuff just not moves where you needed to pull hard.

James McHaffie climbing 'Guillotine' E3 5c, Reecastle Crag, Borrowdale, on his solo of 100 Lake District Extremes in 24 hours  © Henry Iddon
James McHaffie climbing 'Guillotine' E3 5c, Reecastle Crag, Borrowdale, on his solo of 100 Lake District Extremes in 24 hours
© Henry Iddon

I then headed straight round with Adam Hocking to Goats crag and knocked out a load of short ones, I had a last route that I was thinking of missing out, an E4 called Rogue Herries, that felt okay when I onsight soloed it the week before. It's relatively short so I decided to go for it, but I got quite high and then suddenly realised I was in the red zone, with nothing in the tank, and I had about 5 seconds to do something, you know. That was the only close call really. Adam showed me the video footage afterwards and I look okay but actually I'm going all out at that point.

I did actually back off an E1 just after that because it had felt a bit awkward and mossy when I did it fresh the week before, so I decided against it when tired.

For the last thirty routes I didn't think I'd do it because I just felt too exhausted but I wanted to hit 90 or 95 even if I didn't finish the full century. Then I got to Castle Rock and had a 45 minute rest where I had a load of food and Lucozade. After that I felt quite good and managed to get up to 95.

I had wanted to do Thirlmere Eliminate as the last route but I was a bit intimidated about doing a 3 pitch route when I was so tired so it ended up being number 98 I think. I was going to do Ted Cheasby next but decided on something a bit more technical so I did Wingnut and then finished on the jug-fest of Angel's Highway

It got dark just as I topped out on the last route, I put quite a big effort in once I got that second wind at Castle Rock as I knew I had just over an hour of day light left. I felt quite revitalised and could still climb 5c and on Thirlmere Eliminate which is ok because you can bridge the crux. Plus the great thing about Castle Rock is that the holds are so positive that even when you are tired you feel secure. 

Adam Hocking came up and camped with me at Scafell and he organised it all really. I came up on the Tuesday, a bit hungover and headed to the two Goat crags to solo a few routes and check out some E2s that I'd not done before, but Hock had stashed some ropes and organised loads of help from all sorts of folk. I couldn't have done it without all the support.

I was unbelievably lucky leading up to it. You know when you feel like everything is going your way - the weather was perfect over the weekend, I chose not to do it at the weekend because it would be too busy. It was a beautiful morning once I topped out on Central Buttress and as I ran down to Piers Gill Crag, the sun had started rising and I could see over to Derwent Water and Borrowdale and I though "Fuck yeah that's where I'm heading!".

James McHaffie climbing 'Green Eggs and Ham' Castle Rock of Triermain, E1 5c  © Henry Iddon
James McHaffie climbing 'Green Eggs and Ham' Castle Rock of Triermain, E1 5c
© Henry Iddon
Caff on Harlot's Face E1 5b, Castle Rock, on his way to soloing 100 Lake District Extremes  © Henry Iddon
Caff on Harlot's Face E1 5b, Castle Rock, on his way to soloing 100 Lake District Extremes
© Henry Iddon

James McHaffie climbing 'Angels Highway' E1 5a, Castle Rock,   © Henry Iddon
James McHaffie climbing 'Angels Highway' E1 5a, Castle Rock,
© Henry Iddon
It was great catching up with old friends, not the routes so much but people like Steve Ashworth who I've not seen for years and Duncan Booth, a really good climber who now has MS, he brought his wife and kids up to Reecastle. The Mountain Heritage Trust had the Abraham brothers' camera, who my dad used to talk about in his slideshow, and took some photos of me at Reecastle. It was just a very surreal day. 

You can't compare something like this to a route like Salathe Wall really. I think the Lakes 100 suited me, and I found it quite hard, throughout the last third, I really didn't expect to do it. Especially at Reecastle and Shephard's because the routes are steep and it was hot, and I felt knackered on routes I knew well. 

I'm having a bit of a rest now, but I'll be over in the Lakes again in a couple of weeks and I'll have a rope on this time! And I'm meeting up with a load of school mates I've not seen for a long time. I'd like to do Borderline an E7 on Scafell and Incantations (E6) and I'd like to do some of Birkett's routes. I may end up heading to Scotland, maybe I'll do a bit of both. It might be a bit of a flying visit to the Lakes, we'll see. It all depends on the weather.

THE FULL LIST: James McHaffie's Lakes 100


Central Buttress E1 5b Scafell Crag
Heatwave 95 E2 5b Piers Gill
Shaun & Haley E2 5c Piers Gill
Sleeping with the Stars E2 5b Piers Gill
Piers de Piece E1 5b Piers Gill
Wheels of Misfortune E2 5c Round How
Fastburn E2 5b Neckband Crag
Gillette Direct E2 5c Neckband Crag
Razor Crack E1 5a Neckband Crag
Gandalf's Groove Direct E2 5b Neckband Crag
Sweeney Todd E2 5c Neckband Crag
Cut-throat E3 6a Neckband Crag
Aragorn E2 5c Neckband Crag
Intern E1 5b Gimmer Crag
Gimmer String E1 5b Gimmer Crag
Capella E1 5b Pavey Ark
Poker Face E1 5b Pavey Ark
The Confidence Man E2 5b Cove Crag
The Future's Bright E1 5a Cove Crag
Slab Ridge and Arete E1 5b Cove Crag
Nobble Nibble E1 5b Cove Crag
Bright Beck Corner E3 6a Bright Beck Crag
Confusion Wall E4 6a Bright Beck Crag
The Tinkerer E1 5b Bright Beck Crag
Little Jack E1 5c Bright Beck Crag
Aphasia E2 5b Sergeant Crag Slabs
Quicksilver E1 5b Sergeant Crag Slabs
Holly Tree Crack E1 5b Sergeant Crag Slabs
The Death Stroke E1 5b Sergeant Crag Slabs
Between The Lines E1 5b Sergeant Crag Slabs
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now E1 5b Heron Crag
Flamingo Fandango E1 5b Heron Crag
Big Foot E2 5c Heron Crag
The Question E2 5c Heron Crag
Little Corner E1 5b Heron Crag
Barefoot E2 5c Heron Crag
Joie Pur E2 5c Heron Crag
Traverse of the Frogs E2 5b Heron Crag
Amistad con el Diablo E2 5c Bleak How
Bleak How Buttress E2 5c Bleak How
Cellulite E2 6a Fat Charlie's Buttress
Cholesterol Corner E1 5b Fat Charlie's Buttress
Supermodel E1 5b Fat Charlie's Buttress
Reassuringly Stocky E1 5c Fat Charlie's Buttress
Praying Mantis E1 5b Goat Crags
The Sting E2 5c Steel Knots
Paint it Black E2 5c Steel Knots
Zombie in the Dark E3 6c Castle Crag
One Across E1 5c Castle Crag
Fuel Crisis E2 5c Grange Crags
Driving Ambition E1 5b Grange Crags
Desmond Decker E2 6a Grange Crags
Rough Justice E1 5c Grange Crags
Sudden Impact E2 5c Grange Crags
Red Neck E2 5b Grange Crags
Mule Train E2 5c Shepherds Crag
Black Icicle E1 5b Shepherds Crag
Porcupine E3 6a Shepherds Crag
Hippos might fly E1 5a Shepherds Crag
Straight and Narrow E3 6a Shepherds Crag
The Grasp E1 5b Shepherds Crag
Poop & Clutch E2 5c Shepherds Crag
MGC E2 5c Shepherds Crag
Shanna E2 5c Shepherds Crag
Aaros E1 5b Shepherds Crag
PS E1 5b Shepherds Crag
North Buttress E1 5b Shepherds Crag
Imago E2 5c Shepherds Crag
Jaws E1 5b Shepherds Crag
Conclusion E1 5b Shepherds Crag
Brown Crag Grooves E1 5b Shepherds Crag
White Noise E3 5c Reecastle Crag
Rack Direct E2 5c Reecastle Crag   
Rack Finger Flake E2 5c Reecastle Crag 
Water Torture E2 5c Reecastle Crag
Bold Warrior E1 5b Reecastle Crag
Gibbet E1 5b Reecastle Crag
Guillotine E3 5c Reecastle Crag
Gauntlet E1 5b Reecastle Crag
Widowmaker E2 5b Reecastle Crag
Mort E1 5b Goats Crag
Balancing Act E1 5b Goats Crag
Light Fantastic E2 5c Goats Crag  
Pussy Galore E2 5c Goats Crag   
Munich Agreement E1 5b Goats Crag  
Optional Omission E1 5a Goats Crag   
Nightmare Zone E1 5b Goats Crag   
Berlin Wall E2 5b Goats Crag  
Stranger to the Ground E3 5c Goats Crag   
Rogue Herries E4 6a Goats Crag   
Mackanory E1 5b Goats Crag
Green Eggs and Ham E1 5c Castle Rock of Triermain
Reward E2 5c Castle Rock of Triermain
Romantically Challenged E1 5b Castle Rock of Triermain    
Pinnacle Wall E1 5a Castle Rock of Triermain    
Final Giggle E1 5a Castle Rock of Triermain   
Harlots Face E1 5b Castle Rock of Triermain   
Thirlmere Eliminate E1 5b Castle Rock of Triermain    
Wingnut E2 5c Castle Rock of Triermain   
Angels Highway E1 5a Castle Rock of Triermain

James McHaffie is sponsored by: Boreal, DMM, Rab and Sterling Rope

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

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27 Jun, 2014
"James- is widely regarded as Britiain's top all round rock climber." Why say something as unneccesary and trite as this on what is otherwise such a great celebration thread following an absolutely major acheivement. What happened to understatement of genius, like with the man himself?
27 Jun, 2014
Well done to James, a staggering achievement. Just reading the routes list made my arms wilt. Awesome stuff, really great challenge, and superb write-up on the blog. Really impressed. Jack
Yeah, outstanding days climbing. Stirling effort old chap! I did over 50 solos at Burbage North couple of weeks back Jack. When's this hitting the news page? lol
27 Jun, 2014
Holly hell! Central Buttress alone was a full day out for me. Though I can't understand why he would have hiked a long way into Scafell for only one route and while he was at Shepherds, he missed out The Bludgeon. Odd.
27 Jun, 2014
from the blog "CB was the biggest route on the list and in its own way the most intimidating. The 1st ascent of this in 1914 was visionary with the kit they had. Leaving Sansoms shoulders to grovel up the crack before bringing Holland up was some feat which dad would speak of in his lectures in the Moot Hall in Keswick. Mabel Barkers and Menloves efforts were incredible also. It was the centenary of the 1st ascent this year and I’d read a great deal about the 1st World War and what was ‘involved’. Herford died in it in 1916 at the age of 25. His essay ‘The Doctrine of Descent’ is a brilliant piece of writing concerning mountain climbing. Starting on CB felt like paying respects and the story and tragedy related to the climb was like fuel." Amazing effort from James and a lovely understated bit of writing to go with it.
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