Let’s Get Rocked – Interview with Rock Climber Steve McClure

Age shouldn’t be of any concern when it comes to rock-climbing, and Sheffielder Steve McClure stands as testament.

There is a lot to expect when you’re labelled one of the best rock climbers in the world. An immeasurable knowledge about the sport, an unwavering dedication to push through no matter the height of the cliff or what age you are, and the need to let others know that rock-climbing can be the best pastime you can do. Steve McClure gets a big, fat check for all these boxes. Despite being the sturdy age of 46, he has come from completing Britain’s first 9b route: Rainman, one of the biggest accomplishments a rock climber can achieve.

So, how was that Rainman climb?
It was an amazing thing to do, on a personal level. I’d been training for seven years for it. It was a huge time investment, but it never felt like a chore. Towards the end it started to become quite stressful, as it felt so hard that I didn’t know for most times if I would ever be able to complete it. I At some point you have to know when to draw a line on some things.

That persistence evidently paid off in the end, but what was that drive that kept you going?
A lot of people ask what my motivation to finish it was, and I say there must have been a little bark in there that said, “You can do this, just stick with it.” Although, there were quite a lot of times where I didn’t even think that, and thought… ‘I’m just going to give up.’ But it’s a gorgeous place, and I regulary went with a really good bunch of people and the actual climb itself was a beautiful. Those factors combined meant I wouldn’t lose my motivation, even though I spent 120 days climbing it, which is more than I care to add!

You think it’s a good hobby to get into, even though most people at that age wouldn’t even dream about doing such a feat?
No doubt. It’s the sort of sport you can do for a very, very long time but is so technique based and also mind based. You have to think about what you’re doing and get a grip with your fears. There’s a really high level of people staying with the sport for a long time, higher than most. When I go out for a climb, I realize I’m out there because I want to be out in the hills, for the views and being with my mates. You go in climbing, but there is so much more to it. More so when you’re an Olympic swimmer and just staring at the bottom of a pool for ages. Your day is so much more different from the day down at the gym.

With Sheffield branded as ‘The Outdoor City’, do you think it lives up to that name?
It terms of cities its certainly well up there, there are obviously some towns that are great outdoor places as well, but in proximity of the cities around it, you can’t beat it at all. It’s a real shame that quite a lot of people have never adventured outside the city limits. The scenery is beautiful, as opposed to the trappings of the city. People will be missing out massively. A lot of people don’t realize that it isn’t that hard to get out there, even if you don’t have car. It’s pretty easy and so close. Rock climbing is such a good sport, because you can try it any level. As long you’re trying your best, you can be someone who’s climbing for a year or someone who’s been climbing for 20 years, but you’ll be getting the same thing out of it. From the pleasure of the movements to the exercise hit, you’ll be getting absorbed by the technical difficulties before you know it.

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