Having recently become the first British woman to climb 9a (look out for our upcoming film, The Big Bang, showing at Kendal Mountain Film Festival this weekend), you'd be forgiven for thinking Emma might be taking a well-earned rest. Instead, she set off on a week's holiday to Oliana in Spain in search of a harder project.
A little bit of history:
Back in 2014, Hazel Findlay became the first British woman to climb 8c. The route was the burly 50m Fish Eye at Oliana (read more here). Later that same year, Emma became the second to climb the grade, and the first to climb a British 8c (more here): the route was Unjustified at Malham.
The line, however, was subsequently downgraded to 8b+. There was lots of buzz about this, but Emma herself commented: "I think people are making too big a deal out of it really. If there is going to be controversy, personally I'd rather just go and climb another 8c that won't get downgraded!" So she did. When Emma climbed Mind Control 8c in Oliana, in February last year, she was the fifth British woman to climb the grade (read more here).
Moving to the present:
Having just ticked her longterm project, and become the first British woman to climb 9a - a British one, too - you'd be forgiven for thinking Emma would be taking a well-deserved rest. However, with a week off from her physically demanding job, route-setting, Emma set off for Oliana to hang out with fellow top climber, Rhoslyn Frugniet. Her aim was a new, even harder project.
However, conditions had other ideas. As Emma wrote on Instagram: "Currently enjoying a week of sunshine in Oliana! Our original plan to try and find a project has been thwarted a little due to the route still being wet! Instead we climbed a little the first couple of days, on-sighting at Tres Ponts."
Emma decided to get on her old Nemesis, Fish Eye, interested to see if her power climbing had progressed. She told us:
"This route was not my favourite initially because it highlights a lot of my weaknesses. For me the hardest section was the burly big moves low down, though it has a heartbreaking finish at the top, which throws a lot of people off."
"I tried it a couple of years ago, after Mind Control, and maybe a couple of years before that I had a quick play on it but couldn't find the love to try it properly. I was more psyched to try it this time and, after a quick session reacquainting with the route, I was trying to redpoint it. My first go wasn't great, I was lacking some oomph and my second day was similar though I got my highpoint as it was going dark."
At this point in the redpoint, Emma commented on Instagram:
"I decided to return to look at Fish Eye in the time we have here. It’s my anti-style with big burly moves but I’m looking forward to giving it my best shot and just enjoying the process of turning something from feeling hard to almost possible. Most importantly I’m just enjoying a bit of sunshine, hanging out with Rhoslyn Frugtniet and a break from route setting!"
Following her recent success on Big Bang, Emma's friends in the climbing community were quick with the supportive banter:
The BMC's Youth & Equity Officer, James McHaffie, commented: "Come on Emma, after doing Big Bang a month ago, Fish Eye should feel piss!"
While Robbie Phillips bantered: "I remember you trying Fish Eye when I was there like six years ago? That’s taken you longer than Big Bang! #LongTermProj"
"It's like a brief fling every few years!" returned Emma.
"After a rest day," Emma told us, "I got the route on my fourth redpoint of the trip and first go of the day. I had some pretty bad flash pump, didn't know my sequence super well on the last 20 metres but somehow managed to recover and wing my way through it!"
After sending Fish Eye, Emma told us: "I started trying a 9a+ called Joe Mama on the last couple of days we had. I need to figure out some time for a return trip! It definitely felt possible if I can find time to not work so much!"
Emma comented on Instagram:
"I’ve just got home from a week in Spain, after doing Fish Eye. With only a couple of days left I decided to play around on another route. It felt hard but I found that I could do most of the moves even though I was tired. That glimmer of a project and another obsession is starting to come through as I fell in love with the style of this route.
"I laughed, I smiled and I got frustrated trying to figure out the beta but it got me hooked as I started to piece it together. Now I just need to work my weaknesses and plan a trip back somehow. I may never succeed, but that’s part of the beauty of trying."
Best of luck, Emma!
Emma's potential new project:
WATCH Emma Tywford climb Rare Lichen (E9) on BMC TV:
WATCH Our great interview with Emma by Niall Grimes on BMC TV:
Emma is sponsored by Patagonia, DMM, Scarpa, Frictionlabs and Climbskin.
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