16-year-old Josh Ibbertson has climbed his first 9a with an ascent of Rainshadow at Malham Cove, just one week after 15-year-old Toby Roberts ticked the line (UKC News). Josh has quietly worked his way through the grades over the years, ticking 8a at age 10, 8a+ at 11 and 8c+ at 13.
Josh told UKC:
'I didn't set out to get on Rainshadow this year, but like many people my plans had to change. I ended up on it at the start of October, and I'm really glad I did!'
Josh trained hard on his home board alongside his climbing parents and younger brother Jack - no mean climber himself - over the first lockdown, but came out of it with a minor finger injury. Josh explained:
'We originally planned to go on a climbing/surfing road trip around Europe for the school holidays, but decided to abandon it partway through and headed home. The rest of the summer was spent doing lots of routes to rebuild some fitness and let my finger recover.'
The family climbed at Kilnsey once Josh's finger had recovered, where he ticked Indian Summer 8b+ in a few goes and True North 8c along with other classics. Josh commented:
'I was just getting stuck into Progress 8c+ when the rain arrived and North Buttress was written off for the season. We turned our attention to North Wales where we spent our weekends surfing and climbing at LPT and bouldering in Parisellas. I was gearing up to try Pilgrimage 8B+ but again my plans were scuppered, this time due to travel restrictions. Luckily it coincided with bird bans being lifted at Malham. That's when I thought I'd give Rainshadow a go.'
Rainshadow had inspired Josh ever since he watched Ben Moon climb it in 2015 while he was trying Raindogs. He said:
'It was the first 9a I'd ever seen done and was incredible to watch! I really hoped to do it one day but Raindogs was a big enough challenge for me at the time.'
Josh managed to do all the moves and the crux fairly quickly, but knew linking the boulder from the ground was going to be the biggest challenge. He spent a bit of time linking it in sections, then started to redpoint. He commented:
'Unfortunately loads of rain wrote the crag off for my half term holiday and then I caught a bug which set me back. However, after a bit of rest and work I was soon getting into the crux from the ground consistently, but kept getting spat off the hard move out to a side pull. A major breakthrough for me was discovering a toe hook which depowered the move, but it took a few goes to be able to find it consistently on the link.'
With lots of snow and rain forecast, Josh thought he'd missed his chance for the season when he was too slow to find the toe hook and blew the top of the crux three times on what looked like the last good day - the same day that Toby Roberts climbed the route. Josh said:
'It was awesome to watch Toby send it on the last go of his last day and then belay my dad while he sent Bat Route (his first 8c!) just before dark. This made for an awesome day out climbing and probably one of the best December days in Malham history!'
Josh returned the following weekend in less-than-optimal conditions. He told UKC:
'I really wasn't expecting to send it when I did at all. We walked into the crag in the rain expecting it to be totally wet but luckily the crux had stayed dry enough and the top section had a couple of wet holds but was climbable. On my redpoint go I found the toe hook straight away and I found myself at the top of the crux. I couldn't quite believe it and really had to focus on staying calm enough to navigate past the wet holds on the upper section and clip the chains on my first 9a!'
Josh is the second-youngest after Toby to climb the line, but more importantly their ascents show a major step up in British sport climbing. Summing up his time on the route, Josh said:
'The whole process of climbing Rainshadow has been challenging but great, with lots of ups and downs: dealing with wet conditions and setbacks due to illness. The whole experience has been a positive one overall, though. I've really enjoyed heading out climbing with my Dad, even on cold damp days and sharing beta and encouragement with friends.
GB Junior Climbing Team coach Ian Dunn commented on the route's recent ascents in the UKC forums:
'Well done Toby and Josh, it has been really inspiring seeing you both trying so hard and encouraging and supporting each other at the crag. Especially with the poor conditions and short days and lateness of the season. A really mature and professional effort particularly as you are both so young, the future of GB Climbing looks bright in your hands.'
'The plan now is to get back into training after pretty much 5 months off and hopefully enjoy some sunny days out on the grit too.'