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Steve McClure Opens Scary New Trad Pitch in U.K.

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British strongman Steve McClure has made the first ascent of a longstanding open project in Nesscliffe, Shropshire, England, dubbing it the GreatNess Wall and giving it a grade of E10 7a (something in the realm of 5.14c very R).

The 18-meter route largely follows pockets in the first half on slightly easier climbing than what’s to come. After reaching a large horizontal with a pre-placed thread-through about 12 meters up, the climbing gets very serious: the next six meters extremely marginal protection, and consist of unrelenting, desperate face climbing, replete with slopey edges and technical footwork.

[Also Watch VIDEO: Steve McClure Climbs Britain’s Hardest, Rainman (9b/5.15b)]

Just recently, British climber James McHaffie, who was also gunning for the first ascent, took a near-disastrous fall from this upper section (video below.)

Caff’s Fall on GreatNess Wall

McClure talked with the folks over at UKClimbing about the climb, and expressed the tricky caculus that goes into deciding to go for the redpoint of a dangerous climb like GreatNess Wall:

‘The headpointing game is a tricky one. It’s a balance between the danger element and how close you are to your limit. On a sport redpoint, you’ll try when there is only a 10% chance because a fall is no problem. If it’s a death fall headpoint, personally, I’ll be looking at a much higher per cent chance of success (like 100!). When it’s not fully dangerous it becomes blurred. How much margin of error is acceptable – what are the chances of hurting yourself? How much will you hurt yourself? You juggle with the balance, trying to make it fit with drive and desire. I’d taken the fall from pretty high, came away with a sore back and a bruised palm, but it was nothing compared to a lob from the final move. But Caff had survived it fine, surely I would too. I’d not dropped the last move once on top rope, but then I’d probably only done it 5 times – was that enough?”

When he was actually runout on the top third of the climb during his redpoint burn, McClure suddenly felt everything just a bit more intensely. He wrote on Instagram the day after his send, “On lead it was all just a little harder and that final stretch was horrifyingly close. Just about recovered today and got my heart back in the right place after it ended up in my mouth.”

Greatness or Madness? Decide for yourself.

McClure has been one of the top British climbers for years, but the last few have seen him in exceptional form. In 2017, at the age of 46, he made the first ascent of Rainman, which—at 5.15b—stands as the U.K.’s hardest sport climb. Among other hard climbs McClure has repeated is Dave MacLeod’s testpiece Rhapsody (E11 7a), Dumbarton Rock, Scotland.

[Also Watch Weekend Whipper: Steve McClure on Rhapsody (E11)]

To read more about the McClure’s send, check out his full interview over at UKClimbing.