Steve McClure: championing Yorkshire climbing

Thursday 26 June 2014 11.23 AM

Steve McClure is one of the world’s leading rock climbers. Amongst other epic climbs, he has completed the UK’s most difficult sport route, “Overshadow” at Malham Cove, graded 9a+.

Steve McClure is one of the world’s leading rock climbers. Amongst other epic climbs, he has completed the UK’s most difficult sport route, “Overshadow” at Malham Cove, graded 9a+. Learning his skills at an early age on the North York Moors, he is now a professional climber, coach and route setter, and his sport takes him all over the world. I asked him how he got started, and what motivates him to attempt new challenges.

TOD: did growing up in Yorkshire inspire you to become a rock climber?

SM: I was brought up on the North York Moors, a lovely place, gently rolling hills with small sandstone outcrops. Its easy on the eye and feels friendly. Both my parents were keen climbers so we were out all the time, I was climbing before I could even walk! The rock type is perfect for kids, lots of small holds and lots of easy angled boulders all over the place, strewn amongst the grass and heather. It’s the perfect place to learn.

TOD: what are your favourite climbs in Yorkshire? The most challenging? The best for beginners?

climbing at Arbella De Conca, Spain © Georg Huhs

SM: There is a vast amount of climbing in Yorkshire, spanning the full spectrum of British climbing. These days Yorkshire is all about the big limestone sport routes for me. This is where the real challenges lie, the future of British Sport climbing, but the cliffs of Almscliff and Brimham are ideal for all levels and are just great fun to hang around in.

TOD: are there any new climbing areas opening up?

SM: These days there are few areas opening in the UK. It’s a shame, but we simply have found everywhere really! Occasionally a new spot will be found. But as a nation we tend to follow fashions, and old venues tend to come back in again and feel like new.

TOD: what are the best local climbing events through the year?

SM: There are many brilliant competitions all year round, the national championships in both lead and boulder are really good fun. But more friendly events and competitions can be enjoyed by all. Cliffhanger is a great gathering of climbers in Sheffield in June, and the Blocfest boulder comps in London are as good as they get with great problems and an in-situ DJ to keep up the psyche.

TOD: what motivates you to climb, and what do you enjoy most about it?

SM: I love being in the outdoors most of all. Climbing is an amazing vehicle to take us into the most beautiful places on Earth. But I also enjoy the movement of climbing, and how I become absorbed, with my mind completely free from anything else. It's like meditation I guess.

TOD: do you have any tips for new climbers starting out?
climbing Batman at Malham Cove © Ian Burton

SM: Make sure you get outside! There are hundreds of indoor walls these days, and they are great to start with. But many people don’t ever get outside, and this is where climbing really is special. Its not just about a physical exercise.

TOD: do you do any activities other than climbing?

SM: A little mountain biking – but climbing takes all my free time!

TOD: what are your favourite places in Yorkshire for walking and natural beauty?

SM: Malham cove is unparalleled for beauty and I love to climb there. But the hills surrounding are amazing and often really quiet. I recently did a 10 mile run around Burnsall and didn’t see a single person. Amazing!

Search site