"A few weeks ago I was on an 8c. On-sight. It went well. Hard moves read right, total commitment when it counted. After 40 metres I reached the last move, just an undercut separating me from the final finishing jug. This close to the top, this close to glory, I had to make the move count. It had to work. But it felt low percentage. Two minutes or more I was there, calculating the easiest method before suddenly pumping out and sagging on the rope without even getting the chance of glory! And only then did the obvious sequence come plainly into view. So blatant and easy.".. A few hours later on the redpoint it was easy. But that had meant nothing, a hollow victory, as was the onsight of an 8b+ I did another hour after that. These were levels I'd reached before. 8c onsight was not.
Steve McClure .. October 1, 2009 stevemcclure.petzlteam.com
Steve's unsuccessful onsight of an 8c, described above, was frustrating but last week the hard work paid off.
On a weeks holiday at Rodellar in Spain Steve McClure (aged 39) has finally achieved what he has been working toward for a while, an onsight ascent of an 8c sport climb.
Success came on a route called Amistad, a 30m 25 degree overhanging wall to a steep bulging boulder problem that Steve hit right, although he did tell us he was close to falling off.
In five days of climbing at Rodellar, Steve managed two 8c routes, one onsighted, one redpointed; two 8b+'s, one onsighted, one redpointed; two 8b onsights, five 8a+ onsights and one onsight of an 8a.
Not bad, for someone who works 40 sometimes 50 hours a week. He also worked a 9a for a while as well but got a bad knee ligament so had to bag it.
But, has Steve McClure joined the 8c onsight club? Steve claims that he is still not in the gang although the guidebook says 8c and the four people who have repeated the route say 8c. But that's not good enough for Steve. Just like a climber who has done one VS and wouldn't call themselves a VS climber until they had consolidated at the grade so it is with McClure. Steve said that his next goal is to onsight an 8c route that has a bigger consensus of repeats that agree on the grade.
Talking to UKClimbing.com last night and today he told us that now he has eight 8b+ onsight ascents he feels he is getting solid at that level. He usually onsights 8a's and 8a+'s and gets many 8b's. But to call himself an 8c onsighter he wants to do more 8c onsights.
A few days after this report some local climbers at Rodellar said that Steve used a tree hold on the route Amistad that is given a guidebook grade of 8c and has had four repeat ascents.
UPDATE FROM STEVE: 7 October 2009
Oops. Looks like I used an invalid hold! When I came off the route I doubted the grade, not my ascent. I didn't put myself down as a person that had on-sighted an 8c. News gets carried away and out of hand. Turns out I climbed the route using an invalid hold so the ascent is invalid. That's fine and makes sense, it's good to find out. I'm just pissed off that I was led a certain way and didn't get the chance to on-sight this properly.
However, I climbed the route following my nose and the chalk. There was a shrub less than a metre to my right with a well chalked branch and well chalked holds above it. It seemed natural to use it. I guess the only ethic is 'are trees in or not'. It's so rare to find them I usually say use what you can, use what nature gives. But that's funny really considering half the holds there are made of sika. There was only one branch that could hold my weight, its not a massive tree. After a shake out I pressed on moving through a bouldery section to the top. I'd been on-sighting 8b's and up to 8b+ that week and it felt similar to them.
The forums make out that I basically climbed up a tree to the belay. I'm not a complete idiot, I'd have known if I'd bypassed the entire route! Though I didn't see another method I am happy to admit that I might have missed a move, but it couldn't have been much more than this. But whatever, the rule for this route is the tree is out. The net is good for stuff like this. And where would we all be without 8a to govern us all and tell us right from wrong?
Oh – and somewhere it was reported I'd onsighted a bunch of 8a+ and 8a routes. Well the 8a and one of the 8a+'s were flash ascents. Better get that in before I get branded a total liar. And also I used a tree on a VS once.
Steve has had a great year so far, he narrowly missed onsighting an 8c last May (UKC News), his ascent of Hubble in August (UKC News), his onsight of Kali Yuga 8b in Chee Dale (UKC News), his onsight of the trad E7 Heart of Stone and his mega- link between Bat Route, Rainshadow and Overshadow at Malham Cove. Phew, have I missed anything?
Steve has a blog at stevemcclure.petzlteam.com and will soon have his own website.
8c Onsights On Video