Caff gives The Ambassador (E8 7a) short shrift

02 October, 2013
McHaffie placing the fiddly RP 1 before moving around the arete of The Ambassador. © Ray Wood

An in-form James 'Caff' McHaffie made quick work of the Milestone Buttress project that breaks out left from The Wrinkled Retainer to tackle the prow on the left of the Central Block.

Originally giving The Ambassador around E8 6c, Caff returned with Pete Robins a few days later who tried to flash it with the gear pre-placed but was stopped by the moves pulling around the arete. Although the conditions weren't ideal, Pete thought it felt like F8a and worthy of English 7a. However, he was in no doubt about the brilliant quality of the climbing and reckoned it to be one of the best of its grade.

Starting as for The Wrinkled Retainer for twenty feet to a ledge and gear, the route then heads out leftwards. Caff found reaching the arete was the technical crux with powerful moves on undercuts but then it was still 6c to get around it with fiddly brass micro nuts - size 1 and 4 - to place in the process.

After checking out the moves on a GriGri Caff fell off above these wires on his first attempt. Pulling the ropes he got it next go after an hour's rest. Caff questions the E8 grade as the route is safe "but it just feels that little bit too hard to give it less? It's not as physical as Trauma in the Pass but potentially less secure."

Like many great projects it has a history. The blunt prow high up on the Milestone Buttress is an obvious challenge easily spotted from the road. Johnny Dawes and Calum Muskett first tried it a couple of years ago on the way back from Tremadog.

Calum put in a great deal of effort trying it during March 2012, coming very close to success, getting through the crux twice and falling off the last move on one occasion. But frustrated with repeatedly trying it and the project getting in the way of simply going cragging, he put the route on the back burner and headed out to the Alps. The fact Calum hadn't been back on the project since then didn't go unnoticed by James McHaffie, although Calum hadn't given up on it. For such talented climbers as James, projects of the quality and difficulty as The Ambassador are rare, and hold an addictive draw. Caff named the route after Calum and the reference will all become clear in the future.

You can read more on the backstory to Caff's ascent on his blog where he writes that while there was "...some small sense of Ian Hislop smugness there was also a glimmer of guilt. That disappeared when a friend said it's not like you've stolen his girlfriend and perspective was regained." [Ed: I wonder if Calum agrees?]

Calum Muskett back in March 2012 on the powerful undercut moves to reach the arete. © Ray Wood