39 year-old Sheffield-based climber and astrophysicist Stuart Littlefair has climbed his first 9a with a redpoint of Rainshadow (9a) - consequently making the 5th ascent of this iconic route at Malham Cove.
Commenting on the significance of Rainshadow, Stu told UKC:
"Rainshadow has been a long term goal for me ever since Steve [Mcclure] climbed it, as it's essentially the best hard route in the country. At the time though, I couldn't climb endurance 8a's, let alone 9a."
In 2011, Stu took on Tom Randall as a coach with the specific long-term aim of becoming fit enough for Rainshadow. Stu commented:
"Training with Tom totally changed my climbing; he made enormous improvements to my endurance but more importantly gave me the belief that I could actually get good enough and the psyche to work around the many injuries I've had along the way. Although I don't train with Tom at the moment, I wouldn't have done this route without him."
Describing the ascent itself, Stu claimed that he wasn't expecting to complete the route so soon without having made more substantial links on the climb:
"The actual ascent came as a bit of a surprise. I was still struggling to link through the Font 8a crux from the ground and above that is an 8a/+ headwall that most people fall off at least once. I'm usually pretty good at falling off easy moves, so I was sure I was going to fluff the headwall at least once but in the end I did it the first time I got through the crux! It was quite a bonus to be belayed on it by Steve McClure, who did the first ascent in 2003 - it's such a great route and a testament to his talent as a climber."
Stu also wanted to thank Alex Barrows for the friendly rivalry which spurred him on, adding:
"I probably wouldn't have done it without Alex Barrows either. My focus on Rainshadow got really serious in the middle of last year when Alex and I placed a bet on who would climb 9a first. Since burning off Alex is the most important thing in my life, I really started to knuckle down at that point. I suppose it was inevitable he would get there first, but at least my 9a has some hard moves that can't be knee-barred."
Stu's ascent is 5th in line behind Steve McClure, Adam Ondra, Jordan Buys and more recently Ben Moon.
Stu is sponsored by: La Sportiva