Franco Cookson repeats The Meltdown
- Tuesday 8th March 2022
Franco Cookson has repeated the North Wales slate test-piece, The Meltdown.
Writing about his ascent Cookson described The Meltdown as: “A sequence 10x better than any other. From bottom to top it is acrobatic perfection, chock-a-block with unique moves, improbable steps and contorted arms. It is everything that is great about hard climbing, distilled down to a gauntlet that requires surprisingly little of modern power style. If you want to purely test how good you actually are at climbing, this is the one.”
The Meltdown was originally conceived and bolted by Johnny Dawes back in the mists of time. Despite Dawes’s best endeavours, and being able to do all the moves, he wasn’t able to piece it all together on lead and it remained unclimbed until Caff – ie James McHaffie - took it on. Finally, Caff succeeded on the infamous test-piece in July 2012.
Located in Twll Mawr, the biggest of the slate Dinorwig quarries, The Meltdown climbs the wall to the left of The Quarryman (E8 7a/F8a). Originally discovered and explored in the early 1970’s by Joe Brown and friends, Twll Mawr has some of the hardest slate climbs in the country.
Caff’s original ascent came after his second ascent of The Big Bang (F9a). Not unusually for slate, The Meltdown has some pretty “pokey” sections not least the run-out to the lower-off. Although widely accepted as the hardest route on slate and one of the hardest slab routes in the country, Caff wasn’t sure whether The Meltdown warranted F9a, and so settled for the more conservative F8c+/9a. At the time of his ascent Caff commented: “As for the overall sport grade, I'm not sure, it's around F8c+ or 9a. Not sure about 9a as it didn't take me as long as I expected."
Cookson is well-known for his face-climbing so being attracted to The Meltdown seems a reasonable objective. Remarkable however, Cookson – despite having number very hard, technical trad climbs to his name – isnt a sport climber and had never climbed F8a!
Cookson commented further about his ascent of The Meltdown: “Ever since I heard of Caff's ascent a decade ago, I've really wanted to climb this. To have one of the world's greatest slab challenges in the UK is a massive privilege and when you add in the history and the slight backwater nature of the place, you have yourself one very interesting line. Huge respect to Caff doing the first ascent and Dawes for figuring out the beta and having the vision. It was a very much easier experience repeating an established line for once - I kind of see why people do it now! ? Taking this thing on, not knowing if it was possible or not, must have been quite a mental trial.”
The second ascent of The Meltdown was done by Spanish ace, Ignacio Mulero in 2018. Prior to repeating The Meltdown, Mulero made the first ascent of Territorio Comanche F8c+ at the Madrid slab-climbing mecca of La Pedriza.