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“Strong” Steve McClure coming out of the Rainshadow.
McClure storms Rainshadow
If British limestone is better known for difficulty than beauty, position, or overall fine grimping, the exception is Malham Cove. If Malham were in France, the Brits often say, it would be one of that country’s best crags. The huge, 300-foot-tall amphitheatre of black-streaked limestone combines wild exposure, fantastic rock, and beautiful Yorkshire scenery. Not surprisingly, the crag has long been one of Britain’s main proving grounds for hard sport climbing, as evidenced most recently by Steve McClure’s Rainshadow.Rainshadow extends one of the Britain’s classic 8a’s, Raindogs, itself one of Malham’s best routes. First climbed in 1986 by Dave Kenyon Raindogs featured a “visionary” lunge for the just-out-of-reach anchor chain — the crux of the route and the scene of many failures. Mark Leach first tried the obvious extension in the late 1980s, when climbers bolted numerous outrageous Malham lines (most still unclimbed). The extension has been tried by some of Britain’s best. The business of Rainshadow — which McClure finally linked on June 18 after 17 days of work spread over two years — first requires climbing Raindogs without grabbing the chain or getting too pumped. A poor rest by the anchors leads to an extremely bouldery (V11/12) crux bulge on pinches and crimps, leading directly into a technical 5.13b/c wall, then a final 25 feet of big moves on undercuts, which stopped McClure several times only inches from the top. After 100 feet the route finally comes to its logical end at a no-hands rest. Last year McClure spent seven days wiring the line and felt close, though after seven more days this year his optimism faded. “Once I got the bulge sorted out I thought the 5.13b at the top would be a formality,” he says. “I was wrong!” A few more days battling this south-facing wall finally led to success on a more typical cold, windy summer’s day. McClure snagged the redpoint right before leaving on a month-long trip to Greenland. The grade? “I’d like to not grade it, as that seems to be the fashion,” says McClure, “but everyone would grade it 9a anyway. Who knows?” Though Rainshadow is definitely a contender — along with McClure’s other two British 9a’s, Northern Lights at Kilnsey and Mutation at Raven Tor — for the country’s hardest route, he says this one is the finest.