Two 'Cutting Edge' North Wales Arêtes by James McHaffie

© James McHaffie

James McHaffie had a productive weekend in North Wales, establishing an Ogwen highball arête named Devil's Blade and graded 8A/+ at the back of Cwm Idwal - directly above the Idwal Staircase and to the left of Nick Dixon's Open Heart E6 6b - as well as onsighting a new E6 arête Knife Life with Dave Hesleden and Dan McManus just to the right of Sub Cneifion Rib

The chalked-up line of Devil's Blade 8A/+  © James Mchaffie
The chalked-up line of Devil's Blade 8A/+
© James Mchaffie

James discovered both the highball and the E6 in a fortuitous encounter on 6th August - the day of James' friends Jemma Powell and Alex Mason's wedding. He told UKC:

'I was doing a solo reccy from Gribin Facet, across Suicide Wall and I dropped off above Rampart corner ready to get to the wedding and spotted it. I walked to its base and thought that if the pockets high on it were any good, it would be climbable. I must have walked near it multiple times over the years on Mountain Leader courses but had never looked closely. When I looked back knowing where it was, it was super obvious from the far side of Llyn Idwal, especially in the evening light.'

Although not typically considered a boulderer, James was attracted to the aesthetic line of the arête:

'I love arêtes and haven't been as psyched to try a problem since 2010 when I had one of my better days on grit and worked out a short person's sequence for the start and finish of Careless Torque 8A and climbed it a few times, repeating it after doing Unfamiliar E8 and some of the arêtes above it.'

Devil's Blade 8A/+, Cwm Idwal
© James Mchaffie

James returned to the problem over the following weeks and tried it with various friends, enjoying working the line and treating it as a social occasion.

He described the climbing as follows:

'You start doing a few balance moves up the arête where techy moves lead left to a big undercut. (7B+ to here) From here, a hard move regains the arête and a clamp to hit one of the two nice pockets where a last flick for a hidden drag leads to the obvious flake left of the arête and an easier finish.'

Pete Robins reportedly gave the problem a tentative grade of 8A+ when he first looked at it with James, but conditions were very poor at the time. James commented:

'I think for normal sized people it will feel harder than Careless Torque, but for proper albatrosses it may feel the same level.'

He added:

'Rumour has it that it's miles too hard and high for Dan Varian.'

Pete Robins playing on the stunning Knife Life E6  © James Mchaffie
Pete Robins playing on the stunning Knife Life E6
© James Mchaffie

Regarding the E6 arête Knife Life, James told UKC:

'It's short but features great climbing and it went onsight, which was good as it was arctic up there. We did the little estoteric E5 near it called Doubting Thomas (E5 6a) which is worth a visit.'

According to a report on DMM's website, another hard problem has recently been added to the Ta’r Ogof boulder below Llech Ddu in the Carneddau by Tim Peck - linking the crimps in the roof left of his impressive 7B+ arête Here’s to the Kings to give The King, a powerful 7C+. 

James is sponsored by: DMM, BorealRabSterling Rope and is a BMC Ambassador.

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26 Sep, 2016
26 Sep, 2016
26 Sep, 2016
That's a useful comment.
26 Sep, 2016
Open Heart E6 6b. That's the one.
27 Sep, 2016
Love the DV comment, nudge nudge, wink wink!
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