The Meltdown | 9a Sport route at Twll Mawr

Bolted by Johnny Dawes in 1985. He described the route as follows:

Slate is famous as the rockover capital of British climbing, yet the Meltdown barely has one. Off the top of my head I can remember ten unique moves I've never come across elsewhere. In '86 I was able to link large sections together, one combination representing the hardest link I've ever done at that point except perhaps for the pre-scarred crux of Scritto's Republic in '82. On Meltdown eight 6c moves up a dynamically-climbed rib are sandwiched between an ankle-height drop down involving precise rotation of the whole body and a highly compressed mantle. This link I repeated in '90. It was my best achievement of the year alongside The Very Big and the Very Small, but this time complete with the substance of the start and clipping two bolts.

This meant I'd linked up to the second crux traverse right. The technicality of these cruxes is such that any limb's contact can fail which is unusual. The top crux is the harder, powerful-like Hubble, subtle like Shirley's Shining Temple yet at the end of an horrendous sequence. Lovely. The trouble is the sequence has disappeared.

While yarding like mad at the edge of the overlap the overlap broke, the weight of a satchel full of gold, I fumbled it then watched as it rotated slowly, accelerating swiftly onto obscure bits of disappointment. Some 11 years have passed since the convoluted ripples right of the first pitch of The Quarryman first attracted me. What to do now? One idea I hit upon was to remodel the hold out of bronze. Like a gold cap on a gangster's tooth the cast would gleam on the smooth purple overlap. I have a friend who casts bronze. His skills combined with a strangely clear image in my mind (plus High8 video evidence from a Stone Monkey pilot) should allow a meltdown to remould the moves of my memory.

Meltdown is unique, though only 80' high it has two crux traverses of 20' each. Each move is different to any other, tiny slivers of slate as sidepulls manifested in spookily appropriate positions, rounded micromounds for feet, set in natural perfection to limit the sweep of the hand. Clusters of three holds where three are necessary to swap hands. There is a rest before the crux which takes six moves to establish and use three footholds to enable a heel standing/hands off, possible by starring out your body. The second crux involves using the bronze cap; this will be for six moves. A dyno into a left hand finger pointing layback (fingers straight, hand palm at 90 to them) with the right knee resting on top of the left hand. A slap into an undercling and then a leg flag move where it would be ideal if you could take off your left calf muscle. Then a full foot smear, toe pull and footless dropdown after a low, long slap onto a pinch in front of your face. Extended, a big beautiful slopy foothold comes just within reach, legs and arms all crossed up, a hand off is sequentially possible. A few deft un-weightings, a set up and a sideways double dyno (the easiest move on the route) and the Meltdown is complete. [2]


[1] Jerry Moffatt and Johnny Dawes trying Meltdown in the 80s

[2] On The Edge, 'The Slate Issue' (no 66?)

Pics + Vids

James McHaffie
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Added at 21:01 on 05 January 2023
James McHaffie
Added at 13:05 on 10 May 2021
Johnny Dawes
Added at 16:01 on 19 January 2021
Ignacio Mulero
Added at 12:02 on 07 February 2021
Franco Cookson
View this post on Instagram

Added at 12:03 on 07 March 2022
Franco Cookson
View this post on Instagram

Added at 22:03 on 06 March 2022


4 recorded ascents.

Climber Style FA Ascent Date Suggested Grade
James McHaffie Lead (Worked) May 2012 9a

Guessed the date based on the blog post.

Johnny Dawes Lead (Did not finish) 1985

Johnny put in some excellent links (estimated to be in the 8c/+ range) way back in the day, when 9a would have been the hardest climbing in the world.

Ignacio Mulero Lead (Worked) May 2018 8c+/9a

Second ascent.

Franco Cookson Lead (Worked) 5th March 2022

Unusually, you've skipped all grade 8 climbs and gone straight to 9a – which is almost certainly a first for anyone. How did this come about?

I suppose this is largely because I almost exclusively climb self-belaying, so get a lot of practice in on new routes with hard sequences, but spend relatively little time actually sport climbing. I have actually been on some sport climbing trips in the past and have climbed on Yorkshire limestone a few times, but basically I've either been just onsighting (and failing to onsight 8a), getting shut down on Yorkshire limestone, or getting very close to harder projects that I never finished off. [3]



[2] A clip from a previous attempt