Superman Steve McClure talks risky projects

Posted by Peter Burnside on 01/12/2015
Steve McClure warming up his shoulders. Photo: Pete Burnside

BMC ambassador Steve McClure admits he's not had much success on sport this year and battled with a shoulder injury for the first half of 2015. We catch up with him to find out more.

Looking back, how do you think your year’s been?
It’s been a pleasant year but not a very good year in terms of success. I’ve only done a handful of routes that are 8a or harder, which for me is by far the least since I started climbing 8as back in 1995, or whenever it was. But that’s reflective of what I’ve been trying to achieve this year. I’ve thrown all my eggs in the Malham project basket and spent around 35 days trying one route. So, on sport, not many big ticks. But I’ve also done quite a bit of trad climbing this year as well. 
 
So getting back on the trad scene then?
It’s not like I’ve ever stopped climbing trad. My achievements just seem to be higher profile in the sport climbing world. I’ve done loads of E8s and E9s over the years and I repeated Requiem (E8 6b) and Dave MacLeod’s direct finish to it, Rhapsody (E11 7a), back in 2008. This year, I went trad climbing all over the UK. At Pembroke I did an E9 and E10 (Muy Caliente and Choronzon) and more recently I spent five days in the Lakes climbing loads of trad at different crags. I didn’t onsight anything harder than E6 but I’m having fun and getting some mileage in. 

WATCH Steve McClure's ascent of Choronzon on BMC TV

 
What do you think held back your sport climbing this year?
I’ve done so much sport in Britain that these days I tend to go more for hard projects. All my sport climbing this year in the UK has been just trying one route. Obviously with that you either succeed or you tick nothing. But Tommy Caldwell's talk at Kendal helped put it in perspective. He spent a vast amount of time trying that Dawn Wall project and it made me think that trying really hard projects is definitely not a bad thing. You have to be prepared that it’ll probably take a long time and there's no guarantee of success at the end. 
 
I imagine that could be very daunting.
That’s right. Tommy said he thinks it's the real boldness in top-end climbing. Instead of bold routes where you could fall and hurt yourself, the real risk is when you just throw yourself at one thing. There's the potential to go away with nothing after months of hard work, which could impact your profile. So I could risk that as well. But I still feel like I’m climbing at least as good as I’ve ever climbed, if not better. I'm just not getting any results. 

During the Tommy Caldwell/Alex Honnold film, A Line Across The Sky, Alex asks Tommy if he’s lost his edge considering he’s now a Dad and getting a bit older. Would you say that could be something that’s affected your climbing?
Nope. No, the main thing is that I’ve lost my ability to be able to climb whenever I want. That definitely goes out the window. Well, thinking about it from an identity perspective, before you have kids, really keen climbers often don’t value anything else at all. But when you have kids climbing becomes second-most important – maybe that’s a good thing.

How so?
If climbing was your number one value in life and it was taken away from you, who would you be? When I hurt my shoulder last year, I remember thinking: “This could be it.” But in a split second my next thought was: “Well at least I've got my kids. It doesn't matter if it is the end.” If I didn't have that, then my identity would be stripped away and I could have been nobody. It makes me really pleased that my brain worked it out like that. 
 
So does that mean there's less pressure to succeed? 
I don't feel any pressure to succeed – I'm not sure if there used to be but there certainly isn't any now – and that could mean you're more likely to succeed. My motivation comes totally from within and that's nice to know. 
 
Highlight of this year? 
Doing Choronzon was very good. However, in terms of how I felt after doing a route, Muy Caliente was a real highlight. It's such a good route, hard goey climbing on high quality rock; it's probably one of the best I've ever done. It was a really lovely day with really good friends. Perfect.
 
Were there any other enjoyable moments in the year?
I had a fantastic summer holiday in Croatia with the family, we've managed to get out loads. But I've also had some great days at work as well. There was the Kendal festival with the BMC and I get around the UK to routeset at various walls. 
 
What does the BMC do that's most important to you?
For me it's access. We have a small voice individually but the BMC's is much bigger and it can fight our corner. Access is not a right, it's a total privilege and we completely take it for granted. We have no idea about the battles going on, we just drive out to the crag and act as if it's our own back garden. So I think that's a massive part of the BMC.
 

Oh actually, I’ve just remembered I onsighted a few 8as in Spain earlier on in the year. Ha.

Haha, cheers Steve. Maybe your year wasn't as bad as you first thought. 


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