Strawberries and a Big Mac
I'd waited a long time for this moment. In fact the entire British rock climbing community had waited a long time for this moment. Steve McClure had waited and waited, until finally on a sunny Friday afternoon in mid June all the elements necessary for Ste's attempt to onsight one of the most iconic "trad lines" in British climbing finally slotted into place.
So, what exactly is On-sighting and even more to the point, how exactly do you on-sight a Strawberry!
Strawberries was the name that climber Ron Fawcett gave to this thin, tenuous crackline that snaked its way up the headwall of the Vector Buttress of Tremadogs Craig Bwlch y Moch area (North Wales) way back in 1980. Since the first ascent Strawberries has gained a huge reputation for spitting off some of the UK's best climbers, including on-sight attempts from the likes of James McHaffie, Pete Robins, Nic Sellars, Hazel Findlay.
In the passing 34 years since "Big Ron" somehow managed to stuff his oversized digits into the brutally strenuous crackline, it has received only 3 on-sights from visiting foreign climbers including Stefan Glowacz (Germany) way back in 1987, followed by Jorg Verhoeven (Holland) in 2011 and finally Hansjorg Auer (Austria) most recently in 2012 - but nothing from the "home team" as it were. Until now and that previously mentioned sunny and warm Friday afternoon. Accompanied by a gentle breeze and one of his best friends (legend of British climbing) Rab Carrington, Ste made short work of the tricky, hard to read and blind sequence needed to unlock success.
Ste had this to say : "At last. The monster is slain. Strawberries onsight. One of the most legendary routes in British climbing. Saved it for years, then spent years desperately just trying to get on it, whatever the outcome. A route to do before you die, I wondered if it was going to slip away untried! And then everything just fell into place. Amazing route, as great as its reputation. But was it as hard?"
I asked Ste after his successful ascent what grade he thought Strawberries "really" was. Could it be only E6 6B, shouldn't this be a walk in the park for the likes of messrs McHaffie and Robins? He smiled that McClure smile I've seen so often, "well, I think Hells Wall (in Borrowdale, English Lake District) is harder" and thats about all he had to say on the subject.
Taking photos of Ste is always a pleasure. Over the years we've had some great adventures together and I always feel very privileged that he asks me along to take photos of his groundbreaking ascents. You'll be able to see his most recent efforts in glorious technicolour on the pages of the UK's climbing magazines Climb and Climber, as well as read a report of his ascent and an in-depth history of the route on UKClimbing. I'd also like to say a big thank you to Liam Lonsdale of Marmot (Ste's clothing sponsor) for co-ordinating all the logistics over the weekend, Nice one Liam and finally, Ste's now written a blog about his successful ascent, it's a great read and can be found on his website HERE