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McClure's new 5.15a Plus Q & A

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Steve McClure on his super-thin extension to Northern Exposure at Kilnsey, Yorkshire, UK (shot prior to his successful redpoint). Photo © David…
Photo © David Simmonite Photography — courtesy of
Photo © David Simmonite Photography — courtesy of

On May 20, 2008, Steve McClure, 37, freed his super-sustained 100-foot crimpfest project on the North Buttress at Kilnsey Crag, in Yorkshire, U.K., on his second redpoint attempt.

With a proposed grade of 9a/9a+ (5.15a), the route extends Steve Dunning’s Northern Exposure (8b+/5.14a) from its halfway mark on the face, works up another 30 or so feet of CD-edge-sized holds, and leaks into the last ca. 20 feet of Jerry Moffatt’s Progress (8c+/5.14c).

On his third day of effort this year, in perfect weather conditions and with only minimal power-endurance training prior, McClure sent. The new route adds to McClure’s list of unrepeated UK 9a and above first ascents, including: Mutation, at Ravens Tor (9a; 1998); Northern Lights, in Kilnsey (9a; 2000); Rainshadow, in Malham Cove (9a; 2003); and Overshadow, in Malham Cove (9a/9a+, 2007; Overnight Sensation extension). McClure has yet to name the extension of Northern Exposure and link into Progress.

McClure said he felt a “combination of elation and slight disappointment,” after completing the climb. “In fact, I felt it was almost premature, I was just getting my teeth into it!”

Video footage from the PSYCHE DVD of Steve McClure’s 2007 attempts filmed by Alastair Lee courtesy of

To find out what’s next on his project ticklist, Climbing caught up with the routesetter / writer / coach / lecturer / labourer / dad / DIY expert / dishwasher / TV watcher:

Climbing: What highlighted this project for you, or interested you the most about this climb?

McClure: The North Buttress is one of the biggest and most overwhelming bits of rock in the UK, with a load of tough routes on it. This was the last big gap, and had half a route up it with the top already bolted. I reckon it’s the last great line in Yorkshire — an obvious challenge.

Climbing: What was the hardest part of this climb (mentally and/or physically)?

McClure: Physical in this case. I knew I could do it, unlike when I was trying Overshadow, at Malham; I was not sure I could do that one. Psychologically, this route was much easier. It was almost like I didn’t HAVE to do it — if it didn’t go I would still be happy with everything. Maybe that helped.

Climbing: How long did you work this project?

McClure: Five days two years ago, a day last year, and three [days] this year.

Climbing: Did you train specifically for this line?

McClure: Power endurance — kept on pulling on small crimps for about two minutes. I used a campus board with foot rungs.

Climbing: It’s unnamed at the moment: do you think you’ll name it?

McClure: I’ll think of a name, but sometimes it’s harder than the climbing! I won’t wait till someone repeats it. Just look at all my other routes — only one has been repeated, and that’s the easiest! (Mecca extension, 8c)

Climbing: What went through your mind when you clipped the chains?

McClure: A combination of elation and slight disappointment. No relief. Relief shows it had become a chore, so none of that. In fact, I felt it was almost premature. I was just getting my teeth into it!

Climbing: What skill do you think is most pertinent for this climb?

McClure: Tenacity rules everything. After that, you need lots of finger strength and endurance, as well as good skin, as the holds are small and sharp!

Climbing: What appeals to you most about sport climbing?

McClure: The flow. A head full of movement. Purity of thought.

Climbing: What’s your next project?

McClure: I was trying Rhapsody at Dumbarton Rock, Dave MacLeod’s E11 7a, the hardest traditional route in the world, apparently. It would be nice to do that….

Climbing: If you were a climb, which would you be and why?

McClure: A crazy question. Requiem in Scotland — an amazing crack slicing a massive face. Utterly pure and amazing climbing — one of the best routes I have ever done.

Sources: Steve McClure,

For more about Steve McClure read the CLIMBING.COM’S EXLCUSIVE EXTENDED FEATURE by Abbey Smith

Date of Ascent: May 20, 2008

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