British climbers on top of the world

Posted by on 02/07/2003

It is not only Britain’s mountaineers that are world leaders; British climbers in other disciplines of the sport are also continuing to set the standard.

Top all-round climber Lucy Creamer has climbed the hardest Mixed Route (ice and rock climbing) of any woman in the world. Steve McClure recently added his third new 9a sport climb, making him only the second person in the world to achieve this feat. British climbers Tyler Landman and Laura Griffiths recently won their age categories at the Phoenix Bouldering Contest, the largest climbing competition in the world.

And Sheffield climbers Katherine Schirrmacher and Matt Heason now hold the women’s and men’s climbing ‘dyno’ World Records – after enormous leaps of 1.9.m and 2.6m respectively up an overhanging wall. The tradition of British success in Climbing and Mountaineering dates back to the Victorian origins of the sport, when Edward Whymper succeeded in making the first ascent of the Matterhorn.

But nowadays the sport has changed almost beyond recognition. Millions of people from virtually every nation on earth now challenge themselves by attempting to climb mountains, rocks and walls around the world, the top climbers are highly trained athletes, and competition among the leading contenders can be fierce. But one thing that has changed little is the prominence of British climbers and British climbing achievements. The relatively new discipline of Mixed climbing, where ascents are made up overhanging terrain using a combination of ice and rock techniques, recently saw Lucy Creamer extend the world boundaries of what is possible. She made the first ascent in Colorado of a route she christened ‘Mighty Aphrodite’, which at a grade of M9 was harder than any other route of its kind ever completed by a woman.

Lucy is very much an all-round achiever; a multiple British Champion, she has also climbed – without rehearsal – a route graded E7, which is as hard as the top men have so far been able to achieve. There aren’t many World Records in climbing, but Britain can now boast two world record holders. Matt Heason and Katherine Schirrmacher both set world ‘dyno’ bests in competition against a strong international field, with Katherine leaping 1.9m up an overhanging wall, and Matt managing an incredible 2.6m flight. In the UIAA-ICC Bouldering World Cup series, Scotland’s Malcolm Smith is ranked no. 2, missing out on the world title last year by the narrowest of margins.

The younger generation of British climbers are also making waves in the competition world. Jemma Powell may only recently have turned 16 but she has already won international events and is a seven times British Champion. Tyler Landman and Laura Griffiths recently won their respective age categories in the prestigious Phoenix Bouldering Contest by a considerable margin, and ex-pat Wills Young finished a fantastic second in the Men’s Elite Category. No stranger to competitions either is British Champion Steve McClure, but he has also been busy making headline news within the international climbing scene with no fewer than three ‘first ascents’ of routes graded 9a, and unrehearsed routes of 8b+.

Steve is one of only 2 people in the world to have made three first ascents at the grade of 9a and is one of a handful who have ‘on-sighted’ 8b+. In all aspects of climbing, Brits are faring well against ever-stronger international competition, and there’s no doubt that British climbers will continue to travel the world in search of new challenges and top honours. Let’s hope they can obtain all the support they need to turn those challenges into more world-beating achievements.



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