It wasn’t the question while I was trying Rainman. The grade was unimportant, it was about just trying to do it. But after success, suddenly it was the question. Though the answer was simply assumed; surely it was 9b.

It’s a big number, and not one that fits with a creaking grey haired old dad. I’m not sure I even said it, but somehow Rainman just ended up with the badge. I wasn’t comfortable with it. After all I’m not qualified to confidently suggest it. I can base my assumption on other routes I’ve done, other routes I also got the first ascent of and based their grades on other routes I got the first ascent of. What if I’d started wrong? At Least Rainshadow was confirmed at 9a, and Rainman at least looked a bunch harder.

But of course you never know, until someone else comes along, ideally at a much higher level. Grading at your limit is likely to go pear shaped: one hard move aligning with a weakness and suddenly it feels a world harder than it should. A few grades below your limit and you have a decent idea. So who fits that bill, where 9b is just not that hard anymore, and 9a is approaching a rest!

Obviously it’s Ondra. And like back in 2010 when he turned up to try Overshadow I had that queasy feeling, unsure of the outcome, not really knowing if I was up to the level I’d suggested. It shouldn’t matter, and if there had been just Adam and myself on a desert island I would not care a jot. But for some reason the grade seemed important. Ben Pritchard’s Film of Rainman at Kendal was renamed ‘9b’. Everyone referred to it as 9b: “good effort on your 9b….”. If it had been downgraded I felt I’d be letting the side down. After Adam tried it for a day everyone asked: “did he do it????”, when I said ‘no’ they always cheered!

As soon as I’d completed Rainman I wanted someone to try it. Suddenly the journey seemed too good to be just mine. I wanted to share it, like after you’ve watched an awesome movie: you want to rave about it with someone else. Adam was the choice; someone I knew and respected, more than capable, and a real climber; I knew he’d love it. But also, for the grade. The most likely to know, and the least likely to stand on the fence: happy to say it how it is.

But then I had a bit of a moment when, after over an hour of working the moves, he finally came down and pronounced “right, quick rest, and I’ll give it a redpoint…”.

Really? What…. today? Now?

It should not matter, but somehow it did; that Adam could dispatch my pride and joy in less than half a day. I guess it would serve me right, I’ve spent many years on-sighting people’s projects, this would be a taste of my own medicine.

He went for it, but didn’t get it. Another hours rest and another go. Same place, not quite out of Rainshadow. Disappointed in my ego, I was silently relieved, though actually I did want him to get higher, into the real meat of the route.

So, 9b or not 9b? That was the question, the question which fortunately no one asked, but obviously everyone wanted to know. I think he felt it. “You can be relaxed. It’s definitely 9b”. And while onlookers sighed I was already wondering what it takes to get to the next level. Rainman had been so hard, but now it looked fairly straightforward. A bunch of not-that-hard moves with a few good rests on the way. I was starting to wonder what I was doing messing about for so long!  

On the day Keith Sharples was there, filming Adam. Check out the BMCTV footage

Adam On Rainman


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