James McHaffie a.k.a. 'Caff' may be well known for his trad onsighting ability, but by making the first repeat of The Big Bang at Lower Pen Trwyn (LPT) on The Great Orme, he now joins an elite group of F9a sport climbers.
Big Bang was initially climbed in 1996 and over the years the aura surrounding the route has steadily grown, as potential suitors to emulate Neil Carson's feat have walked away from it, often put-off by the look and feel of the minuscule holds on the slabby, mooted to be V10 finish. Ben Moon who knows the route well, commented: "I thought it was really hard. Defo 9a. That's a great effort by James."
Caff turned his attention to Britain's first F9a last year. He had about five sessions on it after making a fast repeat of Infanticide F8c, another Carson route, that shares the same start. Finding the best means of getting established on the slab at the top was clearly going to be the key to success and Caff spent two hours on a rope unlocking this sequence to come away with a method he believes must have been the way Carson did it.
For the next two months, Caff found the time between his work at Plas y Brenin to focus on training and trying the route. Training involved doing hundreds of pull-ups, dead hangs and push-ups as well as resisting cake and alcohol to stay light. He said: "You've got to train and watch what you eat to climb F9a. You can't get away from that." On the day of his successful redpoint he got it second go and added "I didn't dare let out a shout of relief until the lower-off was clipped."
As a footnote to Caff's ascent, fifteen minutes later, a guy in his fifties who is often down at LPT and who Caff subsequently learnt was called Keith (wearing yellow in pic above), managed to finally redpoint Statement of Youth F8a. Not in itself particularly remarkable but he had apparently first started working it when Neil Carson made his ascent of The Big Bang - dedication clearly being the common denominator to both Caff's and Keith's success [Update 31.7.11: Thanks to the UKC poster who pointed out that 'Keith' is in fact Keefe Murphy]