Rainshadow. Probably the best hard sport route in the country. The legendary 9a at Malham Cove has been climbed by just a handful of awe-inspiring names; Steve McClure, Adam Ondra, Jordan Buys, Ben Moon, Stu Littlefair – and now, adding his name to the list, 17-year-old William Bosi. Sarah Stirling looks back on the history of the route, and talks to Bosi about his speedy ascent.
Looking up at Rainshadow is somewhat intimidating for mere mortals. The route climbs smack-bang up the very centre of Britain's most famous testing ground for hard sport climbing; right through the steepest part of Malham's roof. It's no wonder that all the previous ascentionists (apart from Ondra) projected the route over several years.
Impressively, it took William Bosi, who hasn't previously done much outdoor redpointing, just a week to tick it. Sarah Stirling caught up with him for a quick interview, but first offers us some Rainshadow nostalgia.
Steve McClure and early history
It took first ascensionist Steve McClure two years of hard work and tenacious optimism, punctuated by occasional moments of despondency (17 days in total) to link it all together successfully, back in 2003. He described it as "perhaps the best route I have ever climbed".
Rainshadow is actually an extension of an 80s Malham classic, Raindogs 8a, which was first climbed by Dave Kenyon. The crux of Raindogs demanded a cutting edge, for the time, lunge for the anchor chain.
The continuation above was obvious, but wildly out of reach for anyone back then. It demanded finishing Raindogs without grabbing the chains, and then continuing for another 20m through a pinch crux which required you to feel fresh as a daisy.
WATCH: Steve McClure on Rainshadow
Unsurprisingly, Rainshadow didn't even see a successful second ascent until 2011, when Adam Ondra popped over and ticked it, in-between two other rarely-climbed classics, Overshadow (9a+) and Bat Route (8c). He agreed: Rainshadow is "honestly one of the best climbs I have done".
Inspired, Jordan Buys set his sights on the third ascent. In 2012, he had to postpone the dream due to injury. But in 2013, he determinedly watched his diet, carefully planned his training, and had a model of the crux made from wooden pinches.
Jordan commented: "It is some of the best rock I have ever climbed on; if any small section of it was a route or boulder problem on its own then it would be well sought after! As it is, you get one big classy beast."
Climbing legend Ben Moon, who, back in the 90s was the first to ever climb the mystical grade of 9a, watched Jordan Buys climb the route. "I felt so inspired," he told the BMC. "I thought: wouldn't it be incredible if I could do a route like that?"
Last year, he celebrated his 50th by making an impresssive comeback, climbing his second ever 9a, 25 years after his first. "It took me 18 days to climb Rainshadow," said Ben. "For four months I totally focussed on that route. I only climbed at Malham or trained indoors specifically for it. It's one of the best routes I've ever done."
Ben Moon climbing Rainshadow 9a. Photo: Steve Lewis / moonclimbing.com
Next up, Stu, who had set his sights on Rainshadow long ago, back in 2003, when Steve McClure first climbed it. "At the time though, I couldn't climb endurance 8a's, let alone 9a," he told UKC. In 2011, Stu took on Tom Randall as a coach specifically to train for Rainshadow, and finally ticked it in September last year; fittingly with Steve McClure holding the ropes.
Then along came William Bosi and casually ticked it in eight days. We asked Steve McClure what he thought about this:
"I'm super impressed with Will's ascent. At 17 it's amazing. However, only as amazing as Moon's ascent at 49 or Littlefair with an intense full time job. It's a hard route. For anyone to do it is great."
"Will is one of the next generation of stars. He knows the history of the sport, knows all about Moffat, what E9 means, he gets out and loves the sport. That's what impressed me about him."
"I know he built a replica, and in fact I 'set' the crux for him at Tom Randall's place! That's great focus. And crazy fast! Blows every one else away, except Ondra. I can't imagine climbing that well or being that strong ever! What will happen next? Exciting stuff."
"As a 9a, Rainshadow is becoming almost a trade route: six ascents is by far the most repeated hard route in the UK. But not surprising, its such a good route. One of the best anywhere."
WATCH: William Bosi climb the crux in slo-mo
William Bosi interview
SS: Watch out Ondra. How do you feel about being the youngest Brit to climb 9a?
WB: Aside from being the youngest, it feels absolutely amazing to have just climbed Rainshadow as it is such an iconic line!
What drew you to the route – history, moves, reputation?
I was first inspired by this route on my first trip to Malham when I was very young. This being because it is the central line and goes through the steepest and most sustained part of Malham's roof. Of course, there's also the history and reputation of the route as it's one of the most famous in Britain. Then last year when on a trip to Malham I tried Bats and Dogs, which went through the top of Rainshadow. I was blown away by the climbing and knew I had to try the full route.
You join an elite rank of high profile names who've climbed it – just Steve McClure, Adam Ondra, Jordan Buys, Ben Moon, Stu Littlefair ... and you so far! That must be exciting. What's your next goal?
I'm still in shock about actually doing it, so at the moment it's feeling pretty awesome! Now that I've got this done I don't have any particular project but I'm very keen to just get outdoors and enjoy climbing. I'd be keen to try Hubble and Hunger [both 9a].
Did the route suit your style – what's your favourite kind of route?
Yes and no, the route was a huge challenge for me as I'm more into crimps and jumping rather than pinchy undercuts. But I did absolutely love trying this route.
I hear you've not actually done that much outdoor redpointing previously, which is impressive.
This was the first route I've had to 'project' and I've spent by far the most time on it. Other than this I've climbed my other routes in about two days whereas this took eight!
Tell us about working the route and finally clipping the chains.
I only really spent the first day working the route and then went straight into redpointing, so I can't really say but all I found out is that working a route is stressful! Clipping the chain did make it all worthwhile though; it felt and still feels amazing!
You came third in the European Youth Championships last year. What do you prefer, comps, bouldering, sport – do you do any trad?
I used to prefer comps, but I definitely think that any sort of outdoor climbing is absolutely awesome and I am really enjoying it at the moment.
Is it all about climbing – any other hobbies?
Yes I'd say it's all about climbing really! I train about six times a week.
No matter what or how you do it, you have to enjoy it.
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