McClure climbs UK’s hardest route

Steve McClure has finally managed his magnum opus at Yorkshire’s Malham Cove after a huge effort with well over 100 days of effort spread over 10 seasons from 2010. The route tentatively named Rainman starts up Raindogs (8a), continues up Rainshadow through the crux bulge (font 8a) to where it traverses left (8c+ to that point), but then goes straight up via a crimpy wall (another 8c+) to join the last section of Bat Route to finish on the sit down ledge.

Steve McClure working his mega project – whose working title was the ‘Easy Easy’. Copyright Ian Burton

Steve didn’t immediately grade the route although he acknowledges that everyone else is assuming 9b (the UK’s first at that grade). What he did say was “it’s harder than Overshadow I genuinely believe. Ondra said Overshadow was absolutely at the top of the 9a+ grade. So there we go! I’m not qualified to really grade anything 9b, and am too old and weak to climb hard stuff, so I’m blaming him if I get it wrong!”

Look out for a special look at the making of Britain’s hardest route in a future edition of Climb, in the mean time we caught up with Steve to find out more about his incredible effort.

Steve McClure on the crux bulge of Rainshadow (9a) an 8A sequence that forms just the start of Rainman’s hard climbing. Copyright Tim Glasby

Congratulations Steve – you’ve just completed you mega project at Malham. What are your feelings at the moment?
Right now I’m in a bit of a daze, I’m pretty tired, we didn’t get back till after 11.30pm and I didn’t sleep well, a mind full of thoughts! It won’t sink in for a while that I climbed this route. It’s a part of my life. I’m so used to it being there, like part of the family. I don’t know yet what it will be like for it not to be there

You’ve spent a lot of time at Malham, what is so special about that place?
So many things. See attached pic for a start. Before we even begin with climbing its one of the most beautiful places in the UK, its a national treasure. The fact that we can climb there is such a privilege! Late in the day when all the tourists have gone, and the air is crisp and clear, the silence reigns (good name??) and the view stretches out ahead its just amazing. The climbing scene is awesome too, never really busy, but some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. And there is the climbing, its so technical, you can’t just thug it. It’s the best sport cliff in the UK, one of the best in the world.

Steve’s photo from atop Malham Cove. Just before his final successful red point Steve walked to the top of the cove and sought inspiration from this view Copyright Steve McClure

Was working on your new route different to your previous big routes there – Rainshadow and Overshadow?
It’s the next step up. Rainshadow and all my other ‘9s’ I knew straight away I’d do them, they may take a while, years maybe, but I knew they were within reach. Overshadow was the next step, it was out of reach. But looking back, relative to this one it was close. But overshadow was special as I had to raise my game to meet the target. It wasn’t a given, it wasn’t a matter of just trying. It was out of reach but I felt I could raise my game to meet it. This route was the next level, it was out of reach for sure. I didn’t know if I’d ever manage it. Even last year I still didn’t know if I’d ever do it. But I guess there was an underlying motivation, I guess I felt it was somehow possible, or I’d have given up. But it was so obviously gonna be right on my limit if I ever got there. I feel like its right on the line. I doubt I’ll climb harder. But its given me so much

Were there any moments where you thought it was impossible, that you might give up?
I’ve been up and down but never thought of giving up, which is almost surprising considering how many years I was not up to it. I guess for hard redpoints that is part of the journey: you start the process, and at first you can’t do it, and you slowly work towards doing it. But generally you’ll know its gonna go fairly soon. Each year I made gains, so I guess I just figured if that kept happening I’d eventually reach the belay, but gains were smaller and smaller, my improvement curve was flattening each year. I didn’t know if it would reach the target. But that’s just the start. Years can go through injury, bad conditions, work. I’m 46. How many years do I have, how many years can I get better, or not get worse…
Ironically the stress really hit once I knew I could do it. So 3 or 4 weeks ago it came into view, the game changed. Wow I’d forgotten how hard it can be mentally.

A determined Steve McClure Copyright Tim Glasby

How did you celebrate?
So far, not at all. I climbed it late on, lowering down was amazing to so many smiling faces. Jordan Buys, Big Al, Simon Lee, Rich Waterton, people that have been there with me for years inspiring me with their efforts. I just burst into tears! A lap of a 7c+ was awesome, then it was the 2hr drive to get back at 11.30pm. I’d always had this image of a few pints and a meal in the Listers with mates. Will have to save that till the next hard route…..

Steve is sponsored by Petzl, Marmot, 5.10, Rock City and is a BMC Ambassador.

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