Angus Kille repeats The Meltdown (F8c+/9a) in Twll Mawr
- Thursday 8th June 2023
Angus Kille has made the fourth ascent of the North Wales slate test piece, The Meltdown (F8c+/9a); celebrations were somewhat tainted however as Angus ‘blew’ a finger tendon in the process!
The Meltdown is reckoned to be the hardest slab route of its kind in the UK. Originally, ‘envisaged’ by Johnny Dawes, The Meltdown went unclimbed until James ‘Caff’ McHaffie finally made the first ascent in 2012. Since then it has only been repeated by a handful of climbers; Ignacio Mulero in 2018, Franko Cookson in 2022 and now Angus Kille.
Angus first posted about his attempts on The Meltdown back in early April. By then Angus was already fully down the ‘rabbit hole’ as he explained alongside an image of himself on the crux – a high, right-foot step-up. ‘It took me nine sessions to do all the moves, with this one being the hardest for me. In the end, it was a combination of stiff shoes, cold conditions, thick skin and - the final ingredient - flexibility.
‘The Meltdown (8c+/9a) is a historic route that has already taught me a lot about climbing. I've honestly felt really grateful to have this strange bit of rock to escape to over the past few weeks and I'm really learning something new every session.’
By mid-April repeated attempts on the route had chewed Angus’ fingers to pieces but his progress was ever upwards. ‘Given the state of my fingers I won't be getting any further for a while, but it's dead exciting to have come this far. I haven't even been on lead on this route and I already feel like I've learnt tonnes as a climber. I'll miss this process when it's over, but maybe not the sharp crux hold 🤔🩸.’
At the end of the month, Angus had revised his beta and reverted to his original method on the crux. ‘I've resorted to the (very) original method of doing this crux move. It's a beautiful bit of climbing, keeping hand on foot until the balancy pop. As it turns out, it really is the easiest way (once you've get the flexibility).’ Angus signed off that report saying he’d be getting on the lead as soon as his skin had recovered.
Continuing the battle, despite the rising temperatures in May and the pressure of a hard redpoint, Angus persisted. ‘A few burns on Meltdown last night.’ he wrote on May 26th adding ‘It's exciting being this close – sometimes I think I want the process to be over after all the work I've put in, but then all the golden nuggets of rarefied learning come in and I'm glad to be going back session after session.
‘I'm now building breaths and focussing tools into my sequence. This got me smoothly through the first crux every time last night, then progressively higher into the top crux. Psyched.’
Late Monday evening Angus finally topped out. It’s clearly been a battle royal but those are the ones that climbers remember the most and subsequently come to matter the most. In this case, however, the route have one little final poke at Angus – even as he pulled through the final hard moves he realised he’d ‘blown’ a finger tendon!
‘After falling off the final hard move of The Meltdown F8c+/9a five times, I opted for a strenuous but more secure finish. Last night I led the route smoothly through all the hard climbing, until an audible *pop* on this move.
‘Of course, I wasn't going to let go. I climbed the final run-out with one finger down, quite terrified of dropping it on my final chance to climb the route.
‘It's been an absolutely epic journey trying to master this curious bit of rock – I've got loads to reflect on and lots I've already learned. For now I'll be nursing my little finger and saying thanks to everyone that supported me.’
Climber asked Angus what got him interested in the route in the first place, “I only went to look at the route because I was curious at how a slab with holds could be 9a (or 8c+). Some of the moves are really unique – you wouldn't find them anywhere else. There aren't many routes you can find where there are multiple moves you've never done before. I got sucked in as the weird (or perhaps absurd) climbing became more and more possible the more attention I paid to it.”
And what about all that ‘learning’ had he enjoyed it? “ I really enjoyed the process. I've never learnt so much from one route, and this was really motivating. All of those intricacies and the attention to detail were a really gap in my climbing, so I had loads to learn. I had a project the year before that was a similar grade but a completely different style – overhanging limestone. I didn't need to get fitter or stronger for this one but I had to pay a lot of attention (and get a bit more flexible). I also got to learn a lot about focussing in the moment – there's not much room for being distracted on a low-friction slab like that, and so much of my work at the moment is around mental training, so it felt like the perfect project.”
Finally, Angus told Climber that his finger is pretty swollen still and not good at the moment, “My finger is ruined! I'm still waiting for the swelling to go down to get a prognosis, but it's not looking good! As it's my little finger, hopefully, I can still train or do easy climbing. Honestly though, it was worth it.”
The Meltdown isn't Angus’ first slate rodeo; in June 2020 he made an impressive ‘in-a-day’ ascent of The Quarryman also in Twll Mawr. Since then, he’s added number of hard routes to his CV including Mission Impossible (E9 7a), Skyline Buttress, Gallt Yr Ogof in Owgen (Sept 2020) and Esclatamasters (F9a) at Perles, Spain (March 2022). Hopefully, his finger mends quickly!