Jack: Rhapsody - three redpoints. Awesome. It went quickly - did it suit your style, or was it just a few grades easier than your max level?
Steve: Of the 3 redpoints, one was a total flop where I got tangled up in a quickdraw climbing the crack when I wasn't even tired. I got the route after a quarter hour rest. The route really suited me, and it was also a few grades below my max level. I was up there for 4 days in total, driving up in the morning and arriving after 1pm on two different weekends. This only gave me one real look on the first days of the weekend as once the sun comes round early in the afternoon its all over. I reckon I could have got it in just 2 days given full days.
Jack: Obviously you don't get to your level of expertise without doing routes of all styles - especially living in the UK. You've done The Big Issue (E9) and Chupacabra (Originally E9 - now possibly E8) in Pembroke - and you've done loads of trad climbing all over the place - so how did this compare to other trad routes you've done?
Steve: Climbing for me is about becoming involved, getting in the zone. The grit routes don't appeal so much as they tend to be short, and are often dangerous. There would be too much in my head to become absorbed by the movement. I've always been attracted to the longer routes, those in Pembroke, the Lakes, North Wales. Trad for me is all about the onsight, where as sport climbing can be onsight or redpoint. The hard trad routes that I have done (hard as in I didn't onsight them) are kind of redpoints, redpoints in terms of mental attitude. They are climbed like sport routes - without any bolts. I'm climbing in control and totally going for it. I know a fall will be massive, but it's not going to kill me. Once I've rationalised this I can give it everything and enjoy it. For me it may be one of the best styles of climbing, accepting the full challenge of the cliff (i.e. no bolts) but being able to really go for it on something really hard. Unfortunately there isn't much of it around.
Jack: You fell off Rhapsody. Was that scary? Dangerous? What was the gear like? Would you say that going for it on hard sport routes (sometimes with big fall potential) felt similar, or was this definitely more 'traddy'/scary/dangerous?
Steve: I took a big fall from Rhapsody, it was scary, but the fall was safe. This was still a long way from the top. A fall from the top would be another 6 metres. This could make a difference. I didn't take it so I don't know. I had this idea that if I topped it I'd drop from the last hold for a buzz, but when I got there it didn't look very inviting!! That gear is a looong way down. I've done some massive bridge jumps but didn't fancy that drop. The gear is good, but small, it won't come out - but it could break. A BD number 3, breaking strength 5kn is the bit that stops you. If this goes, then an RP 2 backs it up. If both go then the fall from the top would probably result in injury.
Jack: Lots of people are inspired and motivated by your ascents - what inspires you to climb and to push yourself so hard?
Steve: Plenty of people are on the same level as me in terms of climbing. The real marker is how hard you push yourself, how motivated you are and how much you enjoy it. Its all relative. Climbing is my passion, all the routes I try are routes that inspire me. It's important to climb for the right reasons.
Jack: Thanks Steve, good luck on any future projects.
Steve is writing a full article for Climb magazine next month.
Steve McClure is sponsored by Petzl, Five Ten, Beal and Fat Face.