James McHaffie has climbed a new E9 7a in a quarry in the Llanberis pass, naming it Crac yr Meistri (Master's Crack). Whilst James is not entirely sure of the difficulty, he estimates it to be around French 8b.
North Wales stalwart Tim Neill tipped James off to the project around two years ago but it wasn't until last month when he finally got a chance to ab down the line. Quickly realising it was 'outstanding', James got to work. He told UKC:
'[It has] a hard start, a hard finish and the middle is E6. I think it will get a bit of attention as hard trad slab go its one of the best in the UK, up there with the Dyer Lookout routes.'
A mixture of Welsh weather and the difficulty of the climbing meant that things didn't go easily for James:
'I got rained off with James Williams and then went back with Gwion Llewelyn. Warming up I felt really good and then was gutted and surprised to be shut down by this bizarre 2nd move about 20 times and rinsed myself trying everything. Eventually worked it out and it's a move I've not done anywhere else! Jamming one foot in a crack then stepping on the foot with the other foot to get the leg power! Quite weird.'
When he was getting close, James got through the tricky start only to fall and pull an old peg out. He tried to knock it back in with a rock but fell on his next attempt and pulled it out again.
After a couple more abortive attempts which James attributes to burning the candle at both ends, he returned with renewed optimism and 'a few days off the booze.'
He said: 'I went back with Lewis Perrin and some fresh skin. It feels quite a long pitch and you need to carry quite a rack as although the rock is pretty good you've got to beware some placements possibly blowing in slate. There is a death spike at the start, I put a pad over this and unless you want a split personality people looking at it should do the same.
'Every move on the start is quite all out, first few moves protected by some pegs then pumpy to place kit and get stood up for a breather. My tip went again at the end of the 1st sequence.'
After this first section, there's the E6 crack to a rest at about three quarter of the way up where it's possible to get some decent gear before the 'all-out' final section:
'Most moves from this rest to the jugs near the top before the piss finish are 6c, sidepulls and small feet, thin finger jams and wild moves. I'd only played on 2 move sequences on this and on the link it did feel sketch and tricky to stop and place key RPs, was chuffed to get through it first go, slapping a couple of the last moves.
'I was made up to do it, the finish sequence is wild and the views back up Llanberis pass lovely from there. I'd seen Jerry Moffatt up on the cromlech a few days before, him Ben Moon, Craig Smith, Gavin Ellis, Ben Pritchard, Noel Craine, proper 80s crew.'
James is one of the most accomplished trad climbers in the world, with many first ascents and hard repeats to his name. He's made the first ascent E9s such as Moonrise Kingdom on Skye, and Dark Religion on Dinas Mot, soloed 100 Lakeland Extremes in a day, and last year, became the first person to tick all the routes in the classic book Extreme Rock.