McClure Climbs Possible 5.15a

Steve McClure has redpointed a possible 9a+ (5.15a) at Malham Cove in Yorkshire, creating what could be the hardest sport climb in Great Britain. McClure, 36, completed an extension to Overnite Sensation (8a+/5.13c), pushing the route through a huge bulge of limestone after about 30 days of work over three years. McClure has established three 9a (5.14d) sport routes in the United Kingdom, and he said the new line, as yet unnamed, is harder than all of them.

Only one other route in Britain has been given 9a+: John Gaskin’s Violent New Breed in North Yorkshire. This short climb is protected by only two bolts.

In response to the inevitable grading debate about his new route on’s forums, McClure posted an eloquent reply:

“What grade is this new route? How important is it to get it right? I’m not qualified to really say for sure. Others like Graham, Sharma, Andrada, Patxi, and Ramon would have a much better idea; their track record of hard routes is greater. All the hard routes I’ve done are my own, and they are compared to confirmed 8c+ routes, but that doesn’t mean they are 9a. This new route felt way harder than my “9’s,” but that doesn’t make it 9a+; perhaps I was doing it wrong, it might be 8c+, but then maybe I was doing it perfectly and it’s even harder…..

“It seems important to stick a number on things these days. If you don’t, everyone else will anyway. I suggest it could be 9a+, an estimate based on effort and experience. But then how important is it to get it right? Not important at all! What’s important is honestly suggesting a level. If it gets downgraded so what; if it gets up graded, so what again. What counts is it’s a great route that tested me right to my limit. Had it been 9b or 8c, the journey from start to finish would have been no more or less rewarding.”

Date of Ascent: May 28, 2007

Source: Mick Ryan,

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