Well to be honest I don’t know, but I am pretty sure I belayed Caff on it today.
The story started late last night when I was 4 pints into an evening in the heights. So the morning was hard work, although after walking up to Cryn Las I had an hour or so to lay about in the sun, as Caff ran round to the top of the crag, worked a few moves on the top pitch before we started up the Grooves.
I did the first pitch, and I hadn’t been on the Groove since climbing it with Tombstone Tom as Caff knows him. That was back in the mid nineties during the university years. I forgot how good that pitch was so nice to climb and the conditions on the crag were the driest I’ve seen in a while. Caff then lead off to find the first ‘easy’ pitch of his new route.
Looking up it seemed inoculous, follow an E2 then move out right to a groove, before finishing up a wall above. Caff made the E2 look about E4, but the 6c section look like 6a. The climbing on this pitch is really technical with only just adequate protection. The rock is quiet dirty so if you are off with your foot work your shoes will soon be covered in lichen. On a previous attempt with Caff someone else suggested that this pitch might warrant E7. Caff thinks more like E6, but expect an old school E6 grade and solid climbing that is desperate. I resorted the gear, much tension and pulling from caff and swearing a lot to get up the pitch. I am pretty sure I cheated past the 6c moves!
Arriving at the belay exhausted, above me is a leaning wall capped with roof. Already my heart was sinking as I had struggled with the ‘easy’ pitch. Caff description was its easy to a ledge then you get some gear before doing the crux. A small pointless wire that is there for show breaks up this sequence, before you quest on up to jugs and good kit. Above that you traverse the roof on undercuts to reach a flying arete. Getting from the jugs to the end was F7b. I am currently climbing about F7a maybe a + if the wind is in the right direction and that is from the end of the crux which to my expert eye appeared to have very limited supply of small holds, which if you could hold might lead somewhere.
Caff flew up to the ledge, widdled in some gear and then down climbed to get psych for the battle ahead. A quick brief on what rope was being clipped into which runners, where the hairy section is and he booted up. One more runner and a quick rest on the ledge and caff unleashes the beast, and fires up the leaning wall on tenuous sidepulls and fancy foot work. Pausing momentarily to fire in a tiny micro wire, I heard something I haven’t heard for a long time, Caff power screaming. I instantly think, shit, Caff power screamed on that move. Now I have witnessed this once maybe twice before, and it means the climbing is actually impossible for all but a very few good men…. and women.
In the briefest of moments Caff is now hanging on jugs jamming cam after cam into a break. Shaking out the rest of the climb is easier, but pumpy. Where after gaining the roof, you undercut 20ft or more rightwards to reach a hanging arete at its end. As Caff rock round this, I could tell from the abrupt change in angle and the freshness in his arms (No bingo winging from caff) that he was more or less home and dry.
Anyway caff tops out and puts me on belay. I reach the easy bit to the ledge only realise that it wasn’t that easy and that ledge was more of a large edge. I then had to remove all the gear which was essentially as far as I got. Everytime I tried to even find the holds that start the crux. I found out that just as I thought having heard the power scream, the moves were impossible and I was not one of the few. That sequence is so hard that caff had to top rope this pitch to find a sequence that worked. Looking at the holds on offer, it looked like a similar angle as size of holds that are on Trauma an E8 on Dinas Mot. However where Trauma’s crux soon leads to improving holds and an easy top out. On this route your not even half way.
Thats all I saw of the route, as I very rapidally lost contact with the rock. Whilst I could gain it again, actually pulling into a climbing position was near impossible for a man of my callibre. Eventually I got lowered off to the ledge and caff had to ab the pitch to strip it and then climb up to the top pitch of The Grooves.
I have been climbing in North Wales since the 1990’s. I was lucky enough to climb with Pete, Leo and Will. All of which were outstanding climbers. I have seconded them up many route, some E7 although I never even attempted Trauma when I belayed Leo the day before he successfully lead the route. I am convinced that what I saw today was climbing at and above that, given Trauma gets E8 and on Caff’s new route that only gets you half way, I was somewhat amused that Caff has given this route E8, but after that the route is well protected, so I guess he has more of an idea than me.
Caff is on form at the moment, riding the wave of the fitness he gained to climb the Big Bang F9a. He was close to climbing a hat trick of E7 in a day at Pembroke this week. He came back up yesterday, and described himself as feeling quiet tired after four days climbing some impressive routes down there. Yet unrested he managed to climb a route that I think will stand as a major modern testpiece for a considerable time. He had attempted all the pitches ground up, slipping off the mossy groove on the on-sight of the first pitch and then backing off the top.
It served as a reminder to me that my friends are awesome. Through chance I was there ringside seat, watching this amazing feat of climbing that will stand as possibly the hardest route in Llanberis Pass for a long time. I have exchanged texts with Caff why I have been writing this mainly with Caff asking what I though of this name or that name.
To which I had to reply that this route will probably be one of Caff legacies for years to come. Four pitches long with two very hard pitches on a north facing mountain crag. My point to Caff is it doesn’t matter what I think, its him who needs to be happy with it, and he isn’t just naming another route either.
He didn’t like my suggestion of Azkaban, seeing as all the routes in the area are names of Prison’s. Lubyanka is named after the HQ of the KGB and the associated prison. Long Kesh was another name for the Maze prison in Northern Island. Anyway I have left the naming in Caff’s capable hands however the overall grade Caff is offering is E8 6c.
I have a few pictures I tried to take as he climbed. I will try and put them up soon.