James Taylor has made the first ascent of a new E10 7a (8b) on 'The Painted Wall' in Rhoscolyn (1km North of the main Rhoscolyn crags), which he has named Prisoners of the Sun.
James visited the crag in 2018, hoping to repeat the two existing routes on the wall (Surreal Appeal, Easel-EE, both E7) and finding them to be in bad shape with rusted pegs. He told UKC:
"They are Mike Turner's routes and I was going on a trip with him that year so I wanted to experience some of his old routes. I get really motivated to climb my friends' routes and these ones looked like they would fit my climbing style well."
The routes had seen very little action in the last 25 years, with only a quick onsight of the easier one by James McHaffie in 2015 and the other still unrepeated. James (Taylor) cleaned both lines and sorted some of the fixed gear.
That same year, James spent a lot of time developing and cleaning the wall, often trying the hard project between ticking the easier lines. He commented:
"Through the winter of 2018 going into 2019 I perhaps had 20 sessions working specifically on this route before being able to link the route in one for the first time. 2020 was a bit of a fallow year, for obvious reasons, but I still managed to climb there regularly through the summer and autumn putting in another 15 odd sessions. In 2021 I put in quite a big winter of training specifically for this project and went bouldering a lot too."
James focused on the project for a month or so before getting it done. The line starts off a ledge on the left side of the face, involving technical climbing and minimal gear. He described the route as follows:
"There is gear 1m off the ledge in a break, but it soon becomes redundant once you climb above it. I found some small brass offset wires just above but they are mostly for decoration and are still too low to protect the crux. The climbing is immediately challenging with a stiff 6c pull to get established on the wall. 10 hard (all ~ 6b or 6c) hand moves lead to a nasty 7a move into an undercut, at this point you will hit the ledge from about 25ft up if you were to fall.
"After a long stretch off the undercut you reach a sloping break and the first proper gear of the route at 30ft. The gear here is really good but just under half way on the route. From here you have a run out 7c+/8a to the top with a few shallow micro cams to steady your nerve as you go."
James fell from the upper section twice before the final send of the route; once just after the good gear, followed by a slump onto of the small cams. He explained:
"I was really starting to think about giving up as I was finding it hard to justify the spicy lower wall again, but luckily for me I held it together on my third try."
As for the grade, James reckons it's around 8b to top rope, while the crux is unprotected on lead. He said:
"I guessed at E10 7a. In my opinion it is just as dangerous as Rare Lichen and Gribin Wall Climb (both E9) but 8b, whereas RL and GWC are both 7c+, so for me that justified the extra grade."
Previous hard ascents on James' ticklist include Rare Lichen E9 6c, a first free ascent after major rockfall of Ultima Thule (E7 6c, 400m) in Norway, a first ascent of Runnel Vision (8a, 850m) in Brazil and ticks of In Heaven 8c and V12 boulder problems.
James acknowledged that he has reasonable sport climbing experience in the mid-8s, but is unfamiliar with high E numbers, especially outside Wales. He added:
"I think its the responsibility of the first ascensionist to name and grade the route and to not suggest a grade is a total cop out in my eyes. It is hard to grade something that's at your limit, but I feel you have to just try and be honest about your experience. It's also worth remembering that the climbing community works with a consensus grading system, so E10 7a is only a proposed grade for now and the consensus grade will come over time and repetitions."
Overall, ticking the line has been a valuable journey for James. He summed up:
"The process of climbing this route has accompanied me through a tricky few years in my life, so to climb the route now, having worked through those harder times feels like a significant marker."