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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!”
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:
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, Climbmagazine.com
Date of Ascent: May 20, 2008