Lianne, 33, tells us why she ditched her gym membership for a life of climbing. Less than two years ago she'd hardly set foot on a climbing wall but now climbing is a massive part of her life and social scene. We ask Lianne how she got into climbing and what she gets out of it.
How did you get in to climbing?
I was volunteering in the Air Training Corps (Air Cadets) as a member of staff and in August 2013 was due to head out to the Spanish Pyrenees on what was our first overseas expedition.
Conscious that our two week stay would involve some climbing, which would be my first outdoor climbing experience, and so not to completely embarrass myself with my lack of climbing skills, I booked myself onto an introduction workshop at my local indoor climbing centre in preparation for the expedition. This course kick-started my addiction for climbing!
The expedition was a great success and I learnt that I both loved the mountains and simply adored climbing!
Did you do much sport before you started climbing?
Whenever I had a spare weekend available I would often head out into the hills to assist with teaching the Air Cadets in leadership and navigation skills, mainly the Peak District, Wales or the Brecon Beacons, but I was not involved in any particular sport as such.
I was continuously wasting money by paying for a monthly gym pass, and rarely using it. I work full time and finding the motivation to go to the gym once I had returned home from work wasn’t always easy!
Climbing however provides me with ample motivation. Finding a sport that I enjoy is half the battle, there is very little that would stop me from climbing these days.
Many women cite fear of judgement of how they’ll look and whether they’ll be any good at it as a barrier to doing sport. How about you?
I undoubtedly had an amount of trepidation when I first approached the climbing walls, and indeed any mountaineering activity that I have been involved in. But all my fears have been unwarranted.
The climbing community is an unbelievably friendly place to be, people are really supportive to one another at whatever level you may be, it really doesn’t matter. I only wish I’d discovered it sooner! I have a huge network of climbing friends now that I couldn’t imagine being without!
The This Girl Can campaign is making quite an impact in celebrating women of all shapes, sizes, ability and experience getting sporty no matter how red their faces go. What do you think of the campaign?
I have followed the campaign since it first launched in 2014. It is encouraging and empowering women up and down the country to get out there and give sport a go and that is incredibly inspiring.
I support the campaign wholeheartedly and hope that it continues to be a huge success.
What are the best things for you about climbing?
Climbing provides an environment that allows me to challenge and push myself beyond my boundaries, whilst having fun and keeping fit, all in a social environment!
As a result of climbing, I have met some incredible people, made lifelong friends, and have travelled to spectacular places. In the last year alone I have climbed in Italy, Spain and at numerous locations across the UK and Wales. I can’t wait for what 2015 will bring!
What’s been your best uniquely climbing experience?
Wow, tricky question! There are so many to choose from! The most unique and stunning place I have climbed is in Macugnaga, Italy at the base of the Monte Rosa. But a route called Amtrax at Frontales in El Chorro, Spain has to top it as my best unique climbing experience, it is an eight pitch route reaching 201 metres high and graded 6a. The climb was spectacular, and at a push 6a was my upper limit, so to actually reach the top was a real achievement for me and a proud moment.
What have you learnt about yourself through climbing?
That I am capable of achieving more than I allow myself to believe. I never fail to surprise myself in climbing, which in turn enhances my confidence and encourages me to continue to progress further. I still have a long way to go and will always be learning, but I know I will have a lot of fun along the way.
It may sound cliché but it really has open my eyes to possibilities. As a result of my climbing I have also become involved in mountaineering and earlier this year summited the Aiguille du Midi, in the Mont Blanc mountain range in Chamonix, France. I have, on more than a few occasions this year, hopped on a plane, or driven out to Wales on my own seeking out climbing or mountaineering. I simply love to travel and the more I do it, the more opportunities become available. But do your homework ladies, I didn’t do this lightly, safety is a must!
I don’t ever want to stop exploring!
You’re a typical full time worker, how do you make the time to climb?!
I suspect I do more than I would expect the average woman to do as it is safe to say I have got the climbing bug! I essentially climb at every opportunity, generally 2-3 times a week. Either at the local wall or in the great outdoors.
I am exceptionally lucky that I am based an hour’s drive away from the Peak District and three hours from Wales, so when a free weekend comes along and the sun is shining, I hop in my car and off I go. I usually have a friend or two who are happy to join me.
Often I take charge and arrange weekends and trips away for my friends and I to climb, and with every holiday I always build in an element of adventure!
What advice would you give other women who would like to give climbing a go?
My favourite quote is ‘the greatest journeys all start with a single step’ and I truly believe it. In a nutshell what I am trying to say is that if you feel you would like to give climbing a go, then take that first step and give it a whirl.
There are plenty of ways to access the climbing world, from ‘induction to climbing’ courses at your local indoor climbing walls, through to more advanced outdoor climbing courses.
I attended a BMC Ready to Rock course at Plas-y-Brenin the National Mountain Sports Centre in Wales. The course was partially funded by the BMC and the accommodation is located in the stunning surrounding of Snowdonia - a mecca for climbing. The instructors were fantastic and catered for all abilities in climbing.
Any women wishing to start climbing should also check out Women Climb. They are a group of inspiring women, with different climbing skills, interests and aspirations, encouraging women of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and ethnicities to climb. Their blog and website provides lots of useful information. I have climbed with Women Climb on a couple of occasions, and found that Emily Pitts (founder of Women Climb) and the other people involved in the organisation are really supportive.
I have been told that certain climbing walls have women-only clubs and groups for those new to climbing or without climbing partners! So hunt one of these down! You can start your search here.
You have nothing to lose but everything to gain! So ladies who you don’t need to be a climbing expert, just get climbing and enjoy it! The rest will surely follow!
What do you think we could do to help women to start climbing?
Women Climb arranged a number of free women’s outdoor workshops on International Women’s Day last year in March, this was very early on in my climbing days. I attended one of the workshops in the Peak District with a company called ‘Mountain Monkeys’ and it was thoroughly enjoyable, I met a number of women in the same situation as I, and have since climbed with both Women Climb and Mountain Monkeys again. So similar workshops such as this would be beneficial, both indoor and outdoor.
Do you know about our special off one-off publications for beginner climbers ‘Get into Climbing’?
Yes I most certainly do, I own a copy!
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