Are you looking to climb E1 this year? We interviewed top climber Naomi Buys to find out how she went about climbing her first E1.
Naomi has been an avid rock climber for 18 years, since she was 12 years old. She tends to equally divide her time between trad, bouldering, sport and indoor climbing. She loves "visiting new places, executing improbable moves and overcoming personal challenges, preferably in beautiful locations."
When did you lead your first E1, and what was it?
My first E1 lead was "Cameo" at Wilton 1 in 1999.
Were you nervous?
I was very nervous, but super determined - it was my choice to lead it and I was mentally ready. I think this is important, that you climb because you want to. When you are in a scary situation, where the responsibility for your success and safety is all on your shoulders, you need to know that you chose to be there, otherwise it is easy to panic and think negatively instead of acting like the decision-maker you need to be.
Did you do any special training to prepare?
On that particular day I had already just seconded an E3 at Wilton ("Cheat"), which was basically a harder version of the E1 I was preparing to climb. That helped me to put the difficulty of that route into perspective. Previously, I had gained a lot of experience through the trad grades, both seconding and leading. I had also gained plenty enough strength and movement skills to cope with E1 by climbing a lot at my local bouldering wall over the years.
Did all E1s you lead afterwards feel easier than that first one?
No! The first few E1's I lead were all similar to Cameo - bold and relatively easy climbing for the grade. It was a bit of a shock to the system the first time I got on a hard but well protected E1.... But they gradually did start to feel easier, to the point where they now feel like a gentle warm-up!
Do you have any advice for climbers out there wanting to lead E1 this summer?
Find a climbing partner who is more competent and experienced than you are. Follow them up some harder climbs, then E1's will feel easier! I was fortunate to have a great partner when I started climbing: my brother. Joel was very confident and allowed me to gain lots of practice with trad gear placements and tough climbing when I followed him on his many adventures. Thanks to him letting his little sister tag along, I was used to the hard trad environment before I ever decided I wanted to push myself on lead.
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