In the Ogwen Valley, James McHaffie has climbed a striking highball arete, that is up there with the best of north Wales’ boulder problems. Named the Devil’s Blade, it is situated at the back of Cwm Idwal against the dramatic backdrop of the Devil's Kitchen cliffs.
James said: “Considering I’m not really a boulderer I’m really pleased to get it done and just in time for the new guidebook. The climbing is varied and great quality. It feels intimidating because of the height and ideally you want more than a couple of pads to feel happy.”
James had spotted the highball in early August while soloing above the Idwal Slabs. Since then it had become the prime focus of his efforts, in-between work at the BMC, recovering from Calum Muskett’s wedding and trad routes at Gogarth.
“I’m not sure of the grade, it feels like 8A, and Dan McManus who has been on it agreed. It could be harder but we'll have to wait for the consensus after it has had a few ascents. It’s surprisingly skin friendly for this level of problem but the footholds are poor”
“Starting on the arete, the holds lead you left to an obvious large undercut and a couple of pockets above. From here you attack the arete. It’s a three star 7B+ to the undercut and the hard climbing involves getting to and leaving the pockets, with thankfully a much easier finish.”
A ten metre Nick Dixon E6 (Open Heart) takes the slab wall to the right - p. 274 of the Climbers’ Club Ogwen guidebook. The block is roughly level with the top of Holly Tree Wall and directly above the Idwal Staircase. To reach it, walk past the Idwal Slabs and Homicide Wall, then follow a path in the scree on your left for a short distance, before scrambling easily leftwards up a narrow gully. This brings you out in a bilberry meadow just below the block.
James McHaffie hasn’t been the only person to take advantage of cooler conditions as the Indian summer temperatures have dropped away in north Wales. At the start of the week, Tim Peck also put to bed a project in the mountains he’d been keen to finish.
On the Ta’r Ogof boulder below Llech Ddu in the Carneddau, Tim Peck linked the crimps in the roof left of his impressive 7B+ arete (Here’s to the Kings), to give The King, a relatively short but powerful 7C+. While it had been too warm to try it, Tim had spent the previous couple of months finger strength training with this goal in mind.