James McHaffie has continued his proactive streak of new-routing by making the first ascent of what could be Wales' hardest trad route yet on Dinas Mot in the Llanberis Pass. Dark Religion E9 7a follows the slab left of the top pitch of Direct Route.
Belayer Calum Muskett praised the ascent on his Twitter account:
"Caff made the FA of the Dinas Mot project this evening. One of the best leads I've seen and a contender for the hardest in Wales."
To put the physical difficulty into perspective, The Indian Face E9 6c is thought to come in at around 7b+, whereas this latest addition is "8a++", according to Calum Muskett, who seconded James on the route.
James told UKC:
"It's got some very good climbing on it. You do the crux on Direct Route then go left to the arete where balancey moves lead up and then left to sidepull flakes where you can get wires in. A few moves up leads to a tough crux.
"You do a hard move to a small edge which I used my thumb on, grab a really slopey finger pocket and do a hard stand up on two small pebbles, where quick moves on small sidepulls lead to a good ledge beneath the top via smears."
James abseiled down the line last Monday and did all the moves, returned on Thursday and Friday night to get them wired before Calum and Tim Neill arrived, then led it. He commented:
"It felt less secure than I expected on the lead as the first half is tricky on small feet, so your feet get tired by the time you hit the crux which feels like a real nose grinder. I must not have chalked up before the slopey pocket, as I was struggling to use it on the lead which meant the next bit was a bit off kilter!"
James adds Dark Religion to a growing list of recent hard first ascents in Wales, including House of Talons E9 6c - also in the Llanberis Pass - The Gravity Wave E8 on Anglesey (UKC News Report) and a few E7s in the Llanberis Pass, Tremadog, Pembroke and Gogarth.
Regarding the grade, James isn't certain as yet, but maintains that it is technically harder than his recent new route House of Talons E9 6c (UKC News Report):
"I'm not sure about the grade, but it is a big insecure lead. Could be E9 7a or so."
"I owe Calum a couple of belays now. Still thinking about a name."
Is there any unclimbed rock left in North Wales to keep James busy?!