James McHaffie

Instagram.com
Also known as: Caff and The Dark Lord

Quick Info

Nationality: GB
Hardest Boulder (Worked): 8A
Hardest Sport (Worked): 9a
Hardest Sport (Onsight): 8a+
Hardest Trad (Worked): E9
Hardest Trad (Onsight): E8

James McHaffie is a prolific North Wales based trad climber who's also a very capable sport climber. He is one of the best trad onsight climbers in the UK (and potentially the world) with over a hundred E7 onsights to his name. He's also completed some impressive challenges, such as the 100 lakes extremes in a day.

On the 26th May 2021 James climbed Revelations at Raven Tor, the last route of 180 on his way to ticking every route in the book Extreme Rock. This incredible effort demonstrates a huge breadth and depth of experience, from relatively pedestrian climbs such as The Strand at Gogarth (North Stack And Main Cliff) to bold and intimidating leads such as Johnny Dawes' Indian Face and Jerry Moffatt's Master's Wall.

References

[1] Interview with DMM, September 2021 https://dmmwales.com/journal/may-2021/mchaffie-completes-extreme-rock

[2] Interview with RockClimbingUK, 2011 https://ukbouldering.com/board/index.php?topic=23709.0

[3] Interview with March Langley for UKClimbing.com, September 2020 https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/james_mchaffie_-_the_cumbrian-13045

Contributors: remus

Quick Info

Nationality: GB
Hardest Boulder (Worked): 8A
Hardest Sport (Worked): 9a
Hardest Sport (Onsight): 8a+
Hardest Trad (Worked): E9
Hardest Trad (Onsight): E8

James McHaffie is a prolific North Wales based trad climber who's also a very capable sport climber. He is one of the best trad onsight climbers in the UK (and potentially the world) with over a hundred E7 onsights to his name. He's also completed some impressive challenges, such as the 100 lakes extremes in a day.

On the 26th May 2021 James climbed Revelations at Raven Tor, the last route of 180 on his way to ticking every route in the book Extreme Rock. This incredible effort demonstrates a huge breadth and depth of experience, from relatively pedestrian climbs such as The Strand at Gogarth (North Stack And Main Cliff) to bold and intimidating leads such as Johnny Dawes' Indian Face and Jerry Moffatt's Master's Wall.

References

[1] Interview with DMM, September 2021 https://dmmwales.com/journal/may-2021/mchaffie-completes-extreme-rock

[2] Interview with RockClimbingUK, 2011 https://ukbouldering.com/board/index.php?topic=23709.0

[3] Interview with March Langley for UKClimbing.com, September 2020 https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/james_mchaffie_-_the_cumbrian-13045

Contributors: remus

Lists


Podcasts


Pics + Vids

The Tesseract (E7, FA)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 20:07 on 25 July 2021
Geronimo (E7)
Added at 17:03 on 14 March 2024
© Dave Willis
Big Bang (9a)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 13:05 on 08 May 2024
Divided Years (E9)
Added at 13:01 on 14 January 2021
Mission Impossible (E9)
Added at 09:01 on 09 January 2021
GreatNess Wall (E10)
Added at 09:01 on 09 January 2021
Divided Years (E9)
Added at 13:01 on 14 January 2021
Big Bang (9a)
Added at 11:01 on 24 January 2021
Big Bang (9a)
Added at 17:01 on 26 January 2021
Longhope Route Direct (E9)
Added at 07:02 on 09 February 2021
The Meltdown (9a, FA)
Added at 13:05 on 10 May 2021
The Meltdown (9a, FA)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 21:01 on 05 January 2023
House of Talons (E9, FA)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 13:01 on 27 January 2023
Sea of Tranquility (8c+)
Added at 09:07 on 03 July 2021
GreatNess Wall (E10)
Added at 22:08 on 07 August 2021
Coeur de Lion (E8)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 20:02 on 16 February 2022
Indian Face (E9)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 12:02 on 03 February 2023
Crac Yr Meistri (E9, FA)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 14:06 on 02 June 2022
The Rathlin Effect (E9)
Added at 06:08 on 31 August 2022

Ascents

51 recorded ascents.

This timeline is missing some ascents where the date of the ascent is unknown. Use the other tabs to view these ascents.
Year Climb Grade Style Ascent Date
2000 The Ego Has Landed E8 Lead | worked 2000
First ascent.

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Master's Wall E7 Lead | did not finish 2000

James had an epic whilst trying to onsight the route:

After a few tough sequences leading up right to get stood up in semi balance on crimps I thought I was ‘in’, a small amount of euphoria started to arrive. Unfortunately the handholds went dry, just having those ‘only for balance’ type hand holds. The move was obvious, put your left foot high onto a small edge and spring for what was hopefully an edge above. I was pretty baked from the effort so far and could see the feet went shit beyond. Half an hour of failing to progress via any possible option and the invincibility had worn off with the pain of reality soon to become the biggest epic I’d ever had in climbing dangerous routes. I think the sun had hit me before I’d realised I’d have to drop the ropes and it was 2 hours or so later before the ropes, 2* 9mm’s tied together got thrown blindly from Adam Wilde out over Cloggy to rescue my absolutely fucked body and mind from the clutches of the black cliff.

The situation had been horrendous for both of us, he was looking at having a teenage kid die on him and I had assumed for some length of time I was going to die as my tendons had been ebbing away in a really terrifying manner. I also knew my family would be devastated and I knew it was stupid. I remember thinking so fast about everything. Everything I wouldn’t ever be able to do. I was so sure I was a dead man. I’d pleaded with every god I could think of for a miracle and tbh when I sailed down to near the base of Vember on that line it did feel like I’d received one. [1]

[1] http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/masters-wall-extreme-rock

2001
2002 Fear of Failure E8 Lead | worked 2002
First ascent.
Disorderly Conduct E8 Lead | worked Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Hellish E8 Lead | worked Before 1st Jan 2002
Second ascent.

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Satan's Little Helper E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Flattery E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

The Spirit Level E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Camouflage E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

De Quincy E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Geronimo E7 Lead Before 1st Jan 2002
Zero E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

Described as Zero Direct [1], perhaps took a slightly different line?

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

2003
2004
2005
2006
2007 The Serpent Vein 8b Lead | worked Apr 2007
First ascent.

One of the best routes of it's type in Britain; an awesome line with some awesome climbing, and as hard as Bungles Arete. [2]

References

[1] Slate Historical Section

[2] Llanberis Slate. United Kingdom: Ground Up, 2011.

Trauma E9 Lead | worked 17th Jun 2007

I was struggling with the key wire placement – I reckon I only had ten seconds to place it and clip it before I would fall. But then I sussed a more comfortable body position and knew it was on. As for the grade, well, I think with the pecker hook it doesn't warrant E9. E8 7a seems a more accurate appraisal.

James got on the route again some years later and revised his grade suggestion to E9:

The downgrading game is bollox a lot of the time. Me n Robins said trauma was e8, I got back on it years later n it's definitely e9. I thought Longhope was e8 7a when I did main pitch in 2012 as was sport fit but its safe e9. [2]

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2007/06/james_mchaffie_downgrades_trauma_to_e8-37873

[2] https://www.instagram.com/p/CsHXDtQIJic/

2008 Sauron 8b Lead | worked 3rd Mar 2008
First ascent. 2 sessions.

Initially Caff thought it was going to be ~7b+, but fortunately he was going well at the time and still managed to finish it off quickly.

References

[1] Llanberis Slate. United Kingdom: Ground Up, 2011.

2009 Mission Impossible E9 Lead | worked Jun 2009
2010
2011 Big Bang 9a Lead | worked Jul 2011
Dawes Rides a Shovelhead E8 Lead | onsight Aug 2011
Unjustified 8b+ Lead | worked 6th Aug 2011

In a day and same day as Predator!

Predator 8b Lead | worked 6th Aug 2011

In a day and same day as Unjustified!

2012 Bat Route 8c Lead | worked 6th Apr 2012
The Meltdown 9a Lead | worked May 2012
2013 Gribin Wall Climb E9 Lead | worked 2013
Longhope Route Direct E9 Alternate Leads | worked 25th May 2013
Indian Face E9 Lead | worked Jul 2013
2014
2015 The Beast 8c Lead | worked 2015
Supercool 8a+ Lead | onsight 2015
Coeur de Lion E8 Lead | worked Apr 2015
Megalopa 8c+ Lead | worked Apr 2015
Divided Years E9 Lead | ground up Jun 2015

Without doubt it’s one of the best single pitch routes, sport or trad, that I’ve ever done. It’s physically around 8a+, safe and straight-forward to get the gear in. The rock is immaculate and the moves are great. The climbing was a lot better than I expected with a lot of cool and varied moves. A great route with a great name.

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2015/06/divided_years_e89_ground_up_-_mchaffie+pasquill-69801

[2] https://vimeo.com/187316913

2016 Sea of Tranquility 8c+ Lead | worked 2016
Gravity Wave E8 Lead | worked 14th Feb 2016
First ascent.

It’s probably a bit easier than Chicama and around 7c+ in technical difficulty. It’s great climbing on nice holds but it’d be a hard one to onsight. [1]

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2016/02/new_e8_for_james_mchaffie_on_anglesey-70261

House of Talons E9 Lead | worked Apr 2016
Dark Religion E9 Lead | worked May 2016
Face Mecca E9 Lead | worked Jun 2016
Third ascent.

It's a fantastic bit of climbing, very Nick Dixon, I used about five thumb spraggs on it and it has quite knacky manoeuvres. Glad I never tried to onsight it as I wouldn't have got very far and the finish would be gnarly if you didn't know it as the peg and rurp would rip in a fall which would give a very big fall.

I was happy to do it in a day. Pete Hurley had brought up a spare beer as well. [2]

References

[1] https://www.climber.co.uk/news/news/james-mchaffie-repeats-face-mecca-e9/

[2] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2016/06/face_mecca_e9_6c_for_james_mchaffie-70510

Devil's Blade 8A Boulder | worked Sep 2016
First ascent.
2017 Mur Gwyn 8A Boulder | worked Apr 2017
Moonrise Kingdom E9 Lead | worked May 2017
2018 The Walk of Life E9 Lead | worked May 2018
Once Upon a Time in the Southwest E9 Lead | worked May 2018
Master's Wall E7 Lead | worked 28th Jun 2018

I was drawn up there almost unconsciously. I’d justified it to myself, partly through listening to Jerrys take on the route. I’ve always loved treading in the footsteps of heros [sic] and this was another opportunity. It wasn’t about the quality of the route, it was about the experience it offered. It was also a mental block and I hate the thought of those, they just shouldn’t be allowed.

...

I’d done more than 200 routes of E7-9 and this bastard felt amongst the most serious few leads I’d ever done. It was more than just my history with it for sure, the way Jerry went was really dangerous and if Leo went that way as a 17 year old in shit shoes it’s just extraordinary and shows the mental audacity he had in the late 90s. From reading into Jerrys account of his ascent I’m pretty sure this is where he went and I’ll just throw it out there and say I think he did an E9 in 1983 and I don’t feel too bad for having a total fucking epic on it as a teenager. [1]

References

[1] http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/masters-wall-extreme-rock

2019 The Rising Son E8 Lead | worked 2019
Second ascent.
Requiem to the Cyber Wankers E3 Lead 30th Apr 2019
First ascent.
2020
2021 Revelations 8b Lead | worked 26th May 2021

This ascent marked the end of James' challenge to climb every route in Ken Wilson's book Extreme Rock making him the first person to complete the challenge.

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2021/05/james_mchaffie_becomes_first_extreme_rock_completionist-72402

The Tesseract E7 Lead | worked Jul 2021
First ascent.

References

[1] https://www.instagram.com/p/CRwGjwMFS5t/

2022 Crac Yr Meistri E9 Lead | worked 1st Jun 2022
First ascent.

A North Wales version of The Walk of Life, technically harder but not quite as knarly a start.

References

[1] https://www.instagram.com/p/CeRgzyBt6gE/

[2] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2022/06/james_mchaffie_climbs_new_e9_6c_in_llanberis_pass-73068

Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade
The Meltdown 9a Lead | worked May 2012 9a
Big Bang 9a Lead | worked Jul 2011
Megalopa 8c+ Lead | worked Apr 2015
Sea of Tranquility 8c+ Lead | worked 2016
Bat Route 8c Lead | worked 6th Apr 2012
The Beast 8c Lead | worked 2015
Unjustified 8b+ Lead | worked 6th Aug 2011

In a day and same day as Predator!

The Serpent Vein 8b Lead | worked Apr 2007
First ascent.

One of the best routes of it's type in Britain; an awesome line with some awesome climbing, and as hard as Bungles Arete. [2]

References

[1] Slate Historical Section

[2] Llanberis Slate. United Kingdom: Ground Up, 2011.

Sauron 8b Lead | worked 3rd Mar 2008
First ascent. 2 sessions.

Initially Caff thought it was going to be ~7b+, but fortunately he was going well at the time and still managed to finish it off quickly.

References

[1] Llanberis Slate. United Kingdom: Ground Up, 2011.

Predator 8b Lead | worked 6th Aug 2011

In a day and same day as Unjustified!

Revelations 8b Lead | worked 26th May 2021

This ascent marked the end of James' challenge to climb every route in Ken Wilson's book Extreme Rock making him the first person to complete the challenge.

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2021/05/james_mchaffie_becomes_first_extreme_rock_completionist-72402

Supercool 8a+ Lead | onsight 2015
Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade
Devil's Blade 8A Boulder | worked Sep 2016
First ascent.
Mur Gwyn 8A Boulder | worked Apr 2017
Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade
GreatNess Wall E10 Lead | did not finish
House of Talons E9 Lead | worked Apr 2016
Dark Religion E9 Lead | worked May 2016
Moonrise Kingdom E9 Lead | worked May 2017
Crac Yr Meistri E9 Lead | worked 1st Jun 2022 E9
First ascent.

A North Wales version of The Walk of Life, technically harder but not quite as knarly a start.

References

[1] https://www.instagram.com/p/CeRgzyBt6gE/

[2] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2022/06/james_mchaffie_climbs_new_e9_6c_in_llanberis_pass-73068

Trauma E9 Lead | worked 17th Jun 2007 E9

I was struggling with the key wire placement – I reckon I only had ten seconds to place it and clip it before I would fall. But then I sussed a more comfortable body position and knew it was on. As for the grade, well, I think with the pecker hook it doesn't warrant E9. E8 7a seems a more accurate appraisal.

James got on the route again some years later and revised his grade suggestion to E9:

The downgrading game is bollox a lot of the time. Me n Robins said trauma was e8, I got back on it years later n it's definitely e9. I thought Longhope was e8 7a when I did main pitch in 2012 as was sport fit but its safe e9. [2]

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2007/06/james_mchaffie_downgrades_trauma_to_e8-37873

[2] https://www.instagram.com/p/CsHXDtQIJic/

Mission Impossible E9 Lead | worked Jun 2009
Gribin Wall Climb E9 Lead | worked 2013
Longhope Route Direct E9 Alternate Leads | worked 25th May 2013
Indian Face E9 Lead | worked Jul 2013
Divided Years E9 Lead | ground up Jun 2015

Without doubt it’s one of the best single pitch routes, sport or trad, that I’ve ever done. It’s physically around 8a+, safe and straight-forward to get the gear in. The rock is immaculate and the moves are great. The climbing was a lot better than I expected with a lot of cool and varied moves. A great route with a great name.

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2015/06/divided_years_e89_ground_up_-_mchaffie+pasquill-69801

[2] https://vimeo.com/187316913

Face Mecca E9 Lead | worked Jun 2016
Third ascent.

It's a fantastic bit of climbing, very Nick Dixon, I used about five thumb spraggs on it and it has quite knacky manoeuvres. Glad I never tried to onsight it as I wouldn't have got very far and the finish would be gnarly if you didn't know it as the peg and rurp would rip in a fall which would give a very big fall.

I was happy to do it in a day. Pete Hurley had brought up a spare beer as well. [2]

References

[1] https://www.climber.co.uk/news/news/james-mchaffie-repeats-face-mecca-e9/

[2] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2016/06/face_mecca_e9_6c_for_james_mchaffie-70510

The Walk of Life E9 Lead | worked May 2018
Once Upon a Time in the Southwest E9 Lead | worked May 2018
Rare Lichen E9 Lead | worked
The Big Issue E9 Lead | ground up
The Rathlin Effect E9 Lead | worked

...best pitch of climbing I've ever done. Ricky Bells amazing Rathlin Effect at Fairhead. 70 metres long. ...big pumpy moves lead up to the roof and gear before crux moves left lead to a Dyno (I fell here on first effort!) Left for an arete and an amazing layback to a rest foot hold where you can shakeout. This is around 35 metres up and I thought it E8 to here. A little above lies ten metres of arete climbing of sustained 6b where a fall will be really big. The last 20 metres gives stunning E6 6b/c face climbing.

http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/fairhead

https://vimeo.com/386792141

The Ego Has Landed E8 Lead | worked 2000
First ascent.

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Fear of Failure E8 Lead | worked 2002
First ascent.
Gravity Wave E8 Lead | worked 14th Feb 2016
First ascent.

It’s probably a bit easier than Chicama and around 7c+ in technical difficulty. It’s great climbing on nice holds but it’d be a hard one to onsight. [1]

References

[1] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2016/02/new_e8_for_james_mchaffie_on_anglesey-70261

Disorderly Conduct E8 Lead | worked Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Hellish E8 Lead | worked Before 1st Jan 2002
Second ascent.

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Dawes Rides a Shovelhead E8 Lead | onsight Aug 2011
Coeur de Lion E8 Lead | worked Apr 2015
The Rising Son E8 Lead | worked 2019
Second ascent.
The Tesseract E7 Lead | worked Jul 2021
First ascent.

References

[1] https://www.instagram.com/p/CRwGjwMFS5t/

Master's Wall E7 Lead | did not finish 2000

James had an epic whilst trying to onsight the route:

After a few tough sequences leading up right to get stood up in semi balance on crimps I thought I was ‘in’, a small amount of euphoria started to arrive. Unfortunately the handholds went dry, just having those ‘only for balance’ type hand holds. The move was obvious, put your left foot high onto a small edge and spring for what was hopefully an edge above. I was pretty baked from the effort so far and could see the feet went shit beyond. Half an hour of failing to progress via any possible option and the invincibility had worn off with the pain of reality soon to become the biggest epic I’d ever had in climbing dangerous routes. I think the sun had hit me before I’d realised I’d have to drop the ropes and it was 2 hours or so later before the ropes, 2* 9mm’s tied together got thrown blindly from Adam Wilde out over Cloggy to rescue my absolutely fucked body and mind from the clutches of the black cliff.

The situation had been horrendous for both of us, he was looking at having a teenage kid die on him and I had assumed for some length of time I was going to die as my tendons had been ebbing away in a really terrifying manner. I also knew my family would be devastated and I knew it was stupid. I remember thinking so fast about everything. Everything I wouldn’t ever be able to do. I was so sure I was a dead man. I’d pleaded with every god I could think of for a miracle and tbh when I sailed down to near the base of Vember on that line it did feel like I’d received one. [1]

[1] http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/masters-wall-extreme-rock

Satan's Little Helper E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Flattery E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

The Spirit Level E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Camouflage E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

De Quincy E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Geronimo E7 Lead Before 1st Jan 2002
Zero E7 Lead | onsight Before 1st Jan 2002

Described as Zero Direct [1], perhaps took a slightly different line?

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Master's Wall E7 Lead | worked 28th Jun 2018 E9

I was drawn up there almost unconsciously. I’d justified it to myself, partly through listening to Jerrys take on the route. I’ve always loved treading in the footsteps of heros [sic] and this was another opportunity. It wasn’t about the quality of the route, it was about the experience it offered. It was also a mental block and I hate the thought of those, they just shouldn’t be allowed.

...

I’d done more than 200 routes of E7-9 and this bastard felt amongst the most serious few leads I’d ever done. It was more than just my history with it for sure, the way Jerry went was really dangerous and if Leo went that way as a 17 year old in shit shoes it’s just extraordinary and shows the mental audacity he had in the late 90s. From reading into Jerrys account of his ascent I’m pretty sure this is where he went and I’ll just throw it out there and say I think he did an E9 in 1983 and I don’t feel too bad for having a total fucking epic on it as a teenager. [1]

References

[1] http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/masters-wall-extreme-rock

The Bells! The Bells! E7 Lead | onsight

References

[1] On The Edge, Issue 113 page 53

Requiem to the Cyber Wankers E3 Lead 30th Apr 2019
First ascent.
Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade