Rainshadow 9a by Buster Martin

21 year-old Buster Martin has ticked Rainshadow 9a at Malham Cove, marking a return to form after a 4-year break from climbing. Although it's only the 9th ascent of the line in 15 years, three of these have been made this year by Ryan Pasquill, Pete Dawson and now Buster.

Buster on Rainshadow in standard sport climbing attire: a checked shirt!, 214 kb
Buster on Rainshadow in standard sport climbing attire: a checked shirt!
© Alex Hartley

Malham Cove has long been an inspiration in Buster's climbing career. He told UKC:

'It's hard not to be in awe when you walk in to Malham. Still now, having spent a considerable amount of time there, it's a pleasure each and every single time. Since I saw pictures of Steve McClure climbing there in a national paper a couple of weeks after starting climbing, I've aspired to get on those routes. After climbing Bat Route in 2013, I had a quick go on Raining Bats and Dogs (which shares the same finish as Rainshadow). I had fun on the steep head wall, huge moves between big holds, brilliant moves in a wild location.'

Buster had climbed his first 8a at 14, 8b at 15, and Bat Route, his first 8c, when he was 16 five years ago, so Rainshadow at 9a was the logical next step. But it wasn't to be just yet.

'I took a break from climbing. Maybe I'd had too big an emphasis on goals, comps and training? It was all-consuming,' he commented. 'I never felt like I quit climbing; I was just taking a break, exploring other hobbies and enjoying just being a teenager.'

Buster Martin climbs his first 9a - Rainshadow., 223 kb
Buster Martin climbs his first 9a - Rainshadow.
© Alex Hartley

Slowly Buster rekindled his passion for the sport. 'Bouldering in India and South Africa reminded me of what it's all about, enjoying movement over rock, being in stunning locations with good people and conquering personal battles,' he said. 'It wasn't until last summer, during a trip to France that I got psyched to push myself again. In Ceuse I was falling off and getting scared on 6cs and 7as that had been warm-ups years before, that had become the usual routine for my trips around then. But I stayed patient, ticking away at classic routes, just enjoying movement, challenging myself, and getting pumped. Out there, I saw the way Jim [Pope] and Molly [Thomson-Smith] were climbing in a World Cup in Briançon and was amazed at the level these guys were at. I was inspired.

The training started again, with competitions in mind. 'I came way down the list in the BLCC last autumn, but it was good to see old friends and be back in the scene,' said Buster. 'I bumped into Steve at the comp and he invited me out to Malham with him the next day. I got on Rainshadow still a long way off being back at this level but I loved it, great moves, solid rock and a beautiful location. Goal set.'

After a winter's training, Buster was feeling stronger than ever. After a few sessions on Rainshadow, he'd done it in two halves and it was all feeling pretty steady, but the sticking point was proving to be fitness. 'It wasn't until I met Ben Moon at the School Room that I got the plan that unlocked the eventual redpoint,' he told us. 'Ben suggested I do laps on Raindogs to have it dialled, get the aerobic fitness and be able to be fresh for the crux and the finish. After 13 laps in a day I had it wired and refined my beta.'

Buster making the 3rd ascent of Rainshadow this year., 141 kb
Buster making the 3rd ascent of Rainshadow this year.
© Alex Hartley

This made all the difference and a couple of weeks later at the end of May, the day before he was due to head on a trip to Ceuse, Buster finally made it through the crux, only to fall on the burly upper headwall. However, the perfect conditions were long gone. After some deliberation, Buster decided to miss his trip to Ceuse. 'I didn't want to lose momentum. This is when the real challenge began. I was close but the season seemed to be over. The hot and humid weather came, and I couldn't even do the moves on those days.'

The Sheffield-based Malham devotees stopped going there, moving round to Gordale in search of cooler temps and a bit of breeze. Buster was struggling for partners and with the conditions, and started to feel the pressure.

'But I just couldn't leave it still the autumn, it was just too fun,' he said. 'I knew I could do it and couldn't give up. Eventually the stars aligned and perseverance and patience paid off. I got perfect conditions and 'Strong' Rich there to offer a belay. After months of effort, something so small as a bit of breeze made the difference. Dry hands was what did it!'

With his first 9a in the bag, Buster summed up the experience:

'The ascent was very enjoyable, climbing move-to-move without any doubt or judgement in my head. I'd done it, Rainshadow! One of the best routes, at my favourite crag. It's been great fun trying it, and cool to see a few people climbing at this level at Malham now. Often Rainshadow was the busiest route at the crag. Everyone has their own style and way of approaching the route and it's been good to learn from the other climbers at the crag. There are a few other people who look close, so I'm sure we will see another ascent in the autumn. It's going to be pretty exciting.'

Buster is sponsored by: La Sportiva and Petzl

Forums 21 comments

I've no doubt Rainshadow is tough. Pete Dawson took days to do it yet he did True North at Kilnsey, reputed to be a solid 8c, on his second go. So clearly it's far harder than 8c. I think all Steve's routes are tough....
Sorry I meant in the context of rainshadow. In that I mean the vast majority of people that are pondering which 9a to project have probably already done raindogs. So it becomes an obvious choice. And it looks ace of...
Do you mean familiar as in know of it, or have been on it? It perhaps depends what you mean by 'decent', but I definitely wouldn't say the vast majority of decent climbers have been on it!   It does seem that way,...
As Snoop6060 says there's not a lot of choice and it's one of the best, most accessible and probably more reasonable of the routes at that grade (though not a soft touch). Mutation at Raven Tor is reputed to be...
Well a) there are not that many 9as to choose from. b) it bangs right up the middle of malham and c) the bottom half is a 3 star classic 8a familiar to the vast majority of decent climbers in the UK.  And above all...
There's a good short vid of one of Will Bosi's recent redpoint attempts on Mutation at Raven Tor. Sounds like this will probably get upgraded to 9a+ at some point. Post...

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