rainman josh ibbertson
Josh Ibbertson on "Rainman"; (photo/screen capture via MonoCulture Films)

Rapid Repeats on England’s Hardest Climb After 5 Years of Silence

No one could contend with ‘Rainman’ at Malham Cove, England, for 5 years. Suddenly, everybody’s clipping the chains.

Just about everyone thought “Rainman” (9b/5.15b) was the hardest climb in the British Isles when Steve McClure put it up in 2017.

They had to take his word for it until about 2 weeks ago. Now, two quick repeats confirm the difficulty.

Josh Ibbertson, 18, claimed the most recent repeat on June 3. Knees securely duct-taped against sharp kneebars where he recovered on critical rests, he topped it out after a measured effort.


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His success follows Spanish climber Eder Lomba’s May 13 redpoint, which concluded a 46-day siege on the project. Lomba milked the various rests extensively to tick the route, logging a full 18 continuous minutes on the wall.

“Rainman” gets status as the hardest climb in the land because it links up multiple other routes’ cruxes. The climb incorporates the most challenging parts of “Rainshadow” (5.14d/9a), “Batman” (5.14d/9a), and “Bat Route” (5.14b/8c).

Both climbers started trying “Rainman” with sends of “Rainshadow” and “Batman” already in their back pockets. Ibbertson launched his campaign in March and navigated around his final exam schedule to conclude it.

Previously, the route had deterred none other than Adam Ondra.

The U.K.’s MonoCulture Films shot footage of Ibbertson’s repeat. It’s unclear whether a full-length film will arrive.

“What a phenomenal effort — and all that in the middle of sitting his A-levels,” the small filmmaker remarked. “It was a privilege to watch him in the process of working the route.”

Alex Megos; (photo/filmmaker Ken Etzel)
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Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson is a staff writer at GearJunkie, and several other All Gear websites.

He has been writing about climbing, cycling, running, wildlife, outdoor policy, the outdoor industry, vehicles, and more for 2 years. Prior to GearJunkie, he owned and operated his own business before freelancing at GearHungry. Based in Austin, Texas, Anderson loves to climb, boulder, road bike, trail run, and frequent local watering holes (of both varieties).