James Mchaffie on New-Routeing Spree

James 'Caff' Mchaffie has been busy establishing two new E7 trad lines on Lundy and five new routes in the Dinorwic slate quarries in Llanberis, while using one of his ascents to campaign for action against climate change.

The Subtle Knife 7c.  © Franco Cookson
The Subtle Knife 7c.
© Franco Cookson

On Lundy, Caff completed his remaining Extreme Rock routes on the first day, including Controlled Burning, which was originally graded E3 5c but is now E6/7 with a tricky start due to rockfall over the years. Caff then turned his attention to new lines. He told UKC:

'The day after, I abseiled the underside of the arch right of The Cullinan hoping for a quickish new route, but it was going to be 8c+/9a. However, looking opposite to an E6 called Brinkman's Ship I wondered if you could do a direct finish. I abbed the top of it and it was a goer with a brilliant boulder problem and heel hook at the top to flip the lip. I onsighted a new start into the crack on Brinkman's Ship and did the new direct.'

Caff reckons this new line, which he named Ulterior, adds up to E7 6c.

The following day, Caff abbed down the crack system right of The Flying Dutchman. He told UKC:

'The start was damp but I could see it was on, and I could see it was going to be brilliant. I picked up more kit and abbed it again to check the gear. I led it (just) and was blown away how good it was - really brilliant sustained face/crack climbing on granite, probably 7c+, might feel 8a putting kit in. It felt harder than Flying Dutchman.'

Caff named the line Spirit Guide, which weighs in at E7 6c. 'It's the best new route I've done for a long time, really sustained, high quality climbing for 25 metres to where it eases off and in a brilliant setting,' he added.

Read a DMM report on Caff's Lundy trip.

In the slate quarries closer to home, Caff has been prolific in spotting hard new arête lines and dispatching them quickly with an environmental naming theme: Greta Thunberg 7c/E6 and the Invisible Girl 8a - both named after the influential 16 year-old Swedish climate change activist - and Extinction Rebellion E6 6b/c. Caff wrote a blog about this route and his support for Greta. He told UKC:

'The new slate ones, Greta Thunberg and the Invisible Girl are good. I've got a perler, a new E6 I climbed for the environmental campaigning group, Extinction Rebellion, which is like a Master's Edge but on slate. I've got three other good ones to do in there.'

Extinction Rebellion was a particularly significant ascent for Caff. He told us:

'It's a cool trad arête which went at E6 6b/c in the end, as a block came off near the top, making a 6c move into a 5c move. It involves stunning and quite wild climbing up the arête and crack left of Dinorwic Unconquerable, climbed with Mikey Goldthorpe. The Extinction Rebellion group contacted me to do something and it was in-keeping with the new sport routes I did called Greta Thunberg and the Invisible Girl nearby, as both Greta and XR (Extinction Rebellion) are the largest scale environmental movements I've seen.'

The arête to the right of XR and Dinorwic Unconquerable went as a neat 7c, giving a precarious crux. Caff told UKC:

'I did this with Ferdia Earle and Alex Mason. We called it The Subtle Knife, from Phillip Pullman's second book in the Spyglass series. Arêtes have always been a favourite for me in terms of features to climb and these two are in a great setting.'

Earlier, Caff established Suck My Karma (E4 on bolts) with Duncan Cunningham. Writing in his blog, Caff commented: 'It isn't the best new route I've ever done but if you look at it in the morning light I think the pillar of rock looks a lot like a huge version of my middle finger which I like to think is aimed towards much of the Tory party and any other spoiled chodes.'

McHaffie's mission to climb every route in Ken Wilson and Bernard Newman's book Extreme Rock is almost complete. He only has five of the 180 routes featured remaining before he will become the first climber to tick every one of them.

Watch a film of Caff climbing Extinction Rebellion below:

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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

17 Apr

Nice one Caff. And nice one again for adding to the message that Extinction Rebellion are putting forward. We all desperately need to listen!

17 Apr

Caff never ceases to impress with new lines at consistently impressive grades. Also good on him for throwing his weight behind the growing ER movement, an asset to the BMC.

Looking forward to seeing him complete his extreme rock mission - all the best with it and stay safe JM


20 Apr


The comments are quite revealing.

Caff says: "pretty much everyone has a carbon footprint. Its no excuse for being a lazy shit and not trying to cut down on your own"... as he boards the helicopter to Lundy for a pleasure trip.

20 Apr

He does come off as a bit of a tw*t in the comments section. If everyone on the planet had the same average carbon footprint as professional climbers we would massively accelerate climate change. Yes, the hypocrisy is rife.

I'm injured and ill at the moment but it's still nice to cycle round to my local crag for a couple of hours.

Not that I don't drive a bit at weekends or go abroad but then again if challenged I probably wouldn't start lashing out and calling people punters because they don't live the extreme helicopter lifestyle James Mchaffie does.

Imagine if everyone tried jetting around like their climbing and mountaineering heroes on instagram. This forum has given a lot of flak to the three peaks challenge but lots of sponsored climbers have carbon footprints bigger than any coachload of people driving up to Ben Nevis (and at least they are sharing transport).

I thought so too ;)

I was quite disappointed that he refused to answer questions such as if it would be ok by him if everyone seeking to complete a tick list got a chopper ride to help them out? Clearly he couldn’t be seen to be saying yes, as that flies in the face of what he’s trying to promote and make himself look caring with but alternatively if he said no then he comes across as more deserving when really, he’s not.

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