Steve McClure - 2012 Interview

© John Evans
Steve McClure is one of the strongest climbers in the UK, first ascensionist of virtually all of Britain's hardest sport routes, no slouch on trad, and to cap it all off, he's a friendly and personable chap too. Luckily for the rest of us, he's been injured this year... Only joking Steve!

Here at UKC we caught up with him to hear a bit more about his finger woes, his rehab and how he's got so unfit he can only climb 8c whilst placing all the quickdraws... the mind boggles.

Steve McClure  © Mick Ryan UKC/UKH
Steve McClure
© Mick Ryan UKC/UKH

Steve McClure onsighting ‘Treblinca’, an awesome 8b on crimps at Banyang’s Cave, Getu, China  © John Evans
Steve McClure onsighting ‘Treblinca’, an awesome 8b on crimps at Banyang’s Cave, Getu, China
© John Evans

INTERVIEW: Steve McClure - Fingers, holidays, cakes.

Jack: September is upon us and summer is drawing to a close (thankfully, that might mean it stops raining!), what has Steve McClure been up to this summer? Anything to tell us about?

Steve: Not much in terms of what you'd like to hear about! It's been a year of injury so far! Last Christmas I was in the best shape of my life and then three months later I was in the worst! I injured a ligament in my middle finger in January whilst route setting, and then broke another finger also route setting a month later -bashing it into a hold, and then just after Easter I tore my knee meniscus in a nasty fall doing a daft publicity stunt.

Jack: Oh no. That sounds unlucky! But you have been climbing a little bit no? You were in the Frankenjura a few months ago for a festival, and also in France for a Petzl RocTrip - how did they go?

Steve: They went really well, I wasn't exactly cranking, but in a way that set me up better to see the places for their beauty. Often I can be too focused on climbing and not even see the surroundings. Knowing I wasn't up for big numbers I could immerse myself in the scenery and the vibe. The Frankenjura really is a lovely spot, though as it turned out, at 29 degrees it was a tad hot for hard stuff. I did some work for Marmot, got involved in a DWS competition, ate some cakes, drank beer, sunbathed and even managed some classic routes. The Rock Trip was their 10th anniversary and a monumental party and festival for 3 full days, staying up till after 4am every night. I still managed to scrape my way up a bunch of 8a and 8a+ routes onsight on both trips, but to be onsighting 8b+ I need to be on it really!

Jack: Not bad for being injured... And last time we spoke you said you were off to Germany to see a finger specialist? What was that about, what was the outcome, and can you fill us in on the details?

Steve: After a few months of a sore finger I realised that my usual approach of a bit of rest and then just climbing through it wasn't going to work so I saw a UK specialist. He found nothing wrong so suggested I had a cortisone injection and just got on with it! So I did, but after a few months my finger was swollen and sore again.

I went off to see another recommended UK specialist but after two trips to Blackburn (they'd got my date wrong for the first visit!) I found that my 10 minute consultation was gonna be £250, followed by very expensive scans. I figured if I was gonna pay that much I'd see the best, so went out to see my friend Volker in Germany.

Funnily enough, after lots of scans and poking around he also found nothing wrong. Cartilage, bone, pulleys, tendons, ligaments all fine. Most likely some kind of scar tissue causing aggravation. He suggested a month off to let things settle and then gradual re-introduction.

Jack: How was it having a month off? Is it normal for you to have some time out?

Steve: I've been pretty lucky with injuries really, I've had loads but never that bad, I've climbed through them all except for elbow tendonitis 20 years ago! It could be wear and tear but most of my current injuries seemed like bad luck, or luck just catching up with me. Anyway a month off was easy, I have a 6 month old and a 6 year old and a few proper family holidays in the sun with no climbing were easy to cope with! However, after that I was starting to go a little crazy, I need my fix! I doubt I've had more than a few days off in the last 20 years. But it's not like I'm always having really hard days, an easy week of trad plodding or a bit of winter stuff is a good way to recharge a battered body.

Jack: And how the rehab is going?

Steve: In terms of rehab, the broken finger seems fixed and the knee needs an operation but it's very minor and very common. Actually I could probably get away without one but since I'm in the queue.... I felt a bit guilty at the hospital the other day meeting the specialist having gone there straight from a 30 mile off road bike ride! The sore finger is still a bit sore, but seems to be improving, so fingers crossed, but just not the dodgy ones!

Jack: Are you properly getting back into climbing now?

Steve: I've had seven weeks without touching rock, and about five with zero exercise. Last week I went out and onsighted a few 7b+ routes, and then a few days later climbed Mecca Extension (8c) at Raven Tor in the sun placing the draws as I went! So yeah, I'm getting back into it. [Jack sighs with dismay...]

I've found this kind of thing in the past, still managing to crank it out after a lay off from the hard stuff. But what really goes is the volume and fitness! First go might be good, but second is rubbish. It will be interesting to see how long it takes me to get back to lapping Mecca five times.

Steve McClure on Mecca Extension (8c) during the filming of 'Magic Numbers' from the Psyche dvd.
Alastair Lee, Jul 2007
© Alastair Lee -
Jack: Have you been climbing much on the classic sport venues this year (Malham, Raven Tor etc?) if so - any hot gossip from those crags? Who's been tearing it up?

Steve: It's been a really tough year for everyone due to the weather. Probably the most common thing I've heard this year is 'you chose a really good year to be injured'. That's close to the truth! With life commitments increasing and running out of routes my options and opportunities are thinning out. This year I was mad keen for a few projects at Malham, plus some trad stuff in the Lakes and Pembroke. As it turned out they never really dried. Injured or not, I'd probably still have the same score sheet!

Jordan Buys gets my vote for perseverance this year on Rainshadow. He's been plugging away, rain or shine, freezing or boiling for most of the year and inching closer. He really wants it and really deserves it. I'm really psyched for a Brit to repeat one of my 9a's, they have been holding out for 14 years!

Jack: Just the other day I was writing a news report about your friend and fellow Sheffield climber Neil Mawson climbing 2 8cs recently. Give us a bit of goss on Neil, anything to say about his climbing?

Steve: Neil is very understated about his performances. 8c may be no big deal really, especially on a world stage, but 8c in this summer's weather is a good effort! It shows that basically Neil is totally on top of this standard, well above it. He's climbing in rubbish conditions and still crushing. But the really impressive thing about Neil is his all round ability. He is even better on trad than he is on sport...

Jack: Yes, he's not weak is he! Anyway - what's in the pipeline next Steve - any trips planned, routes in mind?

Steve: My pipeline is the same as it was at the start of the year, it's just shifted by half a season! I've pretty much finished Peak and Pennine Sport climbing but Malham holds a few gems that keep me super motivated. One of these will be a wild addition but not that hard, and the other will push sport standards to a new level. And Pembroke has so much potential. I've a date with some of Gresham's DWS routes. In November I'll be out in South America too on the Petzl Rock trip. And there is no doubt that will be amazing!

Jack: Thanks Steve - good luck with the rehab and have fun on the Petzl RocTrip! Also - looking forward to hearing more about these Malham routes...

Marmot , Petzl , Beal , Five Ten


Steve McClure is one of the best rock climbers in the world, having climbed the hardest sport route in the UK at 9b, numerous new routes at the grade of 9a and onsighted many at 8b+. Despite being better known for his...

Steve's Athlete Page 41 posts 13 videos

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10 Sep, 2012
Nice one, an interesting little interview. Cheers. I'll second your last comment, too. And good luck to JB on Rainshadow...... he's been really tearing it up over the last year or two, but this'd be mega!
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