Meet the BMC Ambassadors

Posted by Tina Gardner on 29/11/2013
Star line-up of BMC ambassadors: Chris Townsend, Molly Thompson-Smith, Fran Brown (front), James McHaffie, Steve McClure, Hazel Findlay, Calum Muskett, Shauna Coxsey

All sports need role models and climbing and hill walking are no exception, so we’re excited that seven of Britain’s top climbers, one of Britain's most well respected hill walkers, and Britain's well-loved TV archaeologist turned adventurer, have all agreed to be part of our inspiring team of BMC ambassadors.

The nine BMC ambassadors are: Fran Brown, Shauna Coxsey, Hazel Findlay, Steve McClure, James McHaffie, Calum Muskett, Molly Thompson-Smith, Chris Townsend and Mary-Ann Ochota.
 
The ambassadors are helping the BMC raise its profile by acting as role models to inspire and engage young climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers. The initiative aims to encourage more young people to join and get involved with the BMC.
 
So keep an eye out for our ambassadors at BMC events, on social media, and participating in short films on our video channel BMC TV.
 
In 2014, the BMC ambassadors been getting involved in all sorts of ways, largely through filming for BMC TV and spreading the word of the BMC through social media. To name a few specifics, Molly Thompson-Smith spoke at the BMC Equity Symposium and inspired kids by visiting a school, Chris Townsend helped us engage hill walkers through a BMC promotional film and how-to films, Steve McClure gave a talk and masterclass at the BMC Injury Symposium and Shauna Coxsey headlined at the BMC Coaching Symposium.
 
James McHaffie did a day on the rock with young winners of the Youth Climbing Series, Fran Brown attended the Outdoors Show, and amongst other things, Calum Muskett ran masterclasses at WiltonFest and alongside Steve McClure at the BMC Portland Festival (AGM). Calum has also recently joined the BMC International Committee. We've even let the ambassadors loose on BMC Instagram, spearheaded by Hazel Findlay.
 
The BMC ambassador scheme is funded by Sport England to inspire more young people to participate in climbing, hill walking and mountaineering.  The initial focus has been on climbers in the first phase of the scheme to help attract more young climbers, however we're now delighted to have Chris Townsend on board as our first BMC hill walking ambassador.

Watch the BMC Ambassadors series trailer on BMC TV

Meet the Ambassadors

Fran Brown: paraclimber

Age: 30

Fran was born in Cornwall, learning to climb as part of a school club and competing at junior level. Growing up in Cornwall meant she was introduced to outdoor climbing, learning to trad climb in her early teens on the sea cliffs of Land’s End and Bosigran. Drawn to the outdoors Fran gave up competing and concentrated on bouldering particularly on Dartmoor. 

At the age of 22, Fran suffered a spinal cord injury following an industrial accident that left her a C4 incomplete tetraplegic and a wheelchair user. With limited use of her hands Fran took a few years out from climbing to concentrate on rehab and a career change before returning to rock climbing indoors and re-learning how to climb with her disability. With dedication she rapidly progressed and also returned to outdoor climbing, bouldering and sport initially, and more recently trad.

In 2012 Fran trained for and competed in the BMC Paraclimbing Series, winning each round and becoming overall British Paraclimbing Champion. This lead to selection for the GB paraclimbing team for the 2012 IFSC World Climbing Championships in Paris. where she was crowned World Paraclimbing Champion. In 2014 Fran added another world title to her belt, becoming Paraclimbing World Masters Champion for her category: WOMEN Neurological Physical Disability B.  

When she is not training or competing Fran is studying physiotherapy and is a professional percussionist.  

Fran says: "the BMC has been instrumental in promoting paraclimbing and climbing for all and I wouldn't have been able to compete without its support"

Find out more about Fran at www.franbrown.org.uk

WATCH: the inspiring story of Fran Brown, on BMC TV

 

Shauna Coxsey: boulderer

Age: 21

Shauna started climbing at the age of four and competing at seven. Competitions have been her passion for most of her climbing life with bouldering becoming her focus in recent years. Shauna is a multiple British champion in lead climbing and bouldering at junior and senior level. In 2012, her first year competing on the world cup circuit, she placed 3rd overall. Shauna is determined to push herself as far as possible both in competition and on rock. In 2013 she became one of a few women in the world to climb V13 (8B).  

2014 has been a massive year for Shauna becoming the most successful competition climber in British history, gathering a haul of Bouldering World Cup medals, including a couple of long-anticipated golds, coming fourth in the World Champs and closing the season ranked second in the world. 

Outside, Shauna has also crushed this year, sending New Baseline at Magic Wood in Switzerland to become the third woman in the world to boulder 8B+.

Shauna says: "From personal experience I can say the BMC's travel insurance is amazing. I would never leave the UK without it!"

Find out more about Shauna at www.shaunacoxsey.co.uk

Follow Shauna on Twitter: @shaunacoxsey

WATCH: your backstage pass to Shauna's Bouldering World Championships 2014 experience in Munich, on BMC TV


 

WATCH: an interview with Shauna at Kendal Mountain Festival 2013, on BMC TV

 

Hazel Findlay: adventure climber

Age: 25
 
Hazel Findlay has been climbing since she was seven, with early traditional style beginnings on the Pembrokeshire coastline with her dad. She was also a successful indoor competitor until the age of 16. Since then she has focused on climbing outside and travelled around the world in pursuit of adventures on rock! For the last few years she has been a full-time climber on The North Face team. 
 
In 2014, after spending the winter walking in Patagonia, Hazel turned her hand to sport climbing and headpointed Fish Eye at Oliana, Spain, winning the 'race' to a British female F8c.

Hazel says: The BMC is a great organisation that quietly gets along with all things that we as climbers wouldn't have the infrastructure to do ourselves. Such as dealing with annoying access issues, organising competitions and events, supporting young climbers and expeditions and providing useful information regarding crags, safety in climbing, conservation and a vast number of climbing and walking related subjects.

Find out more about Hazel at www.hazelfindlayclimbing.com

Follow Hazel on Twitter: @hazel_findlay
 

WATCH: BMC Ambassador Hazel Findlay on BMC TV


 

Steve McClure: sport climber

Age: 44

Brought up on the North York Moors, and with both parents keen climbers there was no escape from the sport. Climbing from the moment he could walk, his first extreme was at 11, his first E3 at 13 and first E5 at 16. With a traditional background, and onsight ascents up to E8 and E11 headpoint. He has since broadened his interest and excelled in sport climbing, with the hardest sport route in the UK at 9a+, numerous new routes at the grade of 9a and many onsights at 8b+. You might also find him picking his way up an ice field in the Alps or sleeping in a portaledge on a 1,000m wall in Greenland. Despite this he is still weak, but has mastered the art of the cunning…

In 2014, Steve made the first British on sight of Strawberries (E7 6b) - the 30-year-old Ron Fawcett testpiece at Tremadog, North Wales.  

Steve says: “Rock climbing: the best sport in the world. It’s easy to take it all for granted and the continual work of the BMC in negotiating and securing access is essential.  The cliffs and beautiful spaces that we enjoy so much are not ours. It’s not our right to be there, it’s a privilege.”

Find out more about Steve at www.steve-mcclure.com


 

James McHaffie: trad climber

Age: 33

James, known as Caff, grew up in Keswick in the Lake District, the son of Ray McHaffie, a prolific climber and renowned upland footpath builder. Caff embraced the outdoor lifestyle fully in the Lakes onsighting routes such as Camouflage E7 6b on Cam Crags, Flattery E7 6b on Flat Crag and De Quincy E7 6b on Bowderstone Crag as well as soloing many of the easier extremes. In 2002 he moved to Wales to study environmental science and continue in a similar vein. Highlights of the last few years were climbing Careless Torque a few times, Longhope, Big Bang, the first ascent of the Meltdown and lots of trad climbs.

In 2014, Caff spent seven days free climbing the Salathé Wall on El Capitan, Yosemite. In June, Caff soloed 100 Extreme climbs in one day, racking up an incredible total of 160 E points and 2,976m of rock climbing. Possibly the biggest day out in UK climbing history.

Caff says: “I think the BMC are great for a huge number of reasons from great insurance, accessing cliffs when Britain went mental over foot & mouth and they even employ people like Niall Grimes....”

Find out more about Caff at www.jamesmchaffie.com

WATCH: Winners of the BMC Youth Climbing Series 2014 on a day out climbing with BMC Ambassador James McHaffie on BMC TV:


 

WATCH: BMC ambassador James McHaffie taking a fall from the Headwall Pitch of Salathé Wall on BMC TV:



 

 
Calum Muskett: alpine climber
 
Age: 21
 
Calum was born and brought up in Bethesda in north Wales, a simple fact which has been hugely influential in his development as a climber. At 13, Calum discovered climbing and was instantly hooked by the adventurous traditional rock climbs of Snowdonia. Since his first outing on the Idwal Slabs, he has travelled all over the world climbing difficult alpine routes as well as free climbing big walls such as El Capitan in Yosemite. Calum has a real enthusiasm about all types of climbing; he’s as happy cragging in the Llanberis Pass as he is on a committing alpine face and has a raft of new routes to his name up to E8. Calum is still as enthusiastic about his climbing now as when he started and is always planning the next adventure! 

Calum says: "The BMC's travel insurance gives me peace of mind every time I head to the Alps or further afield on a climbing trip allowing me to concentrate on my climbing and having a fun time."

Find out more about Calum at www.muskettmountaineering.co.uk
 

WATCH: BMC Ambassador Calum Muskett on BMC TV:


 

Molly Thompson-Smith: competition climber

Age: 17

Molly Thompson Smith is the current Youth A and Senior female British Lead Climbing Champion as well as captain of the British junior lead team. She is an all-round climber and member of the junior lead and bouldering teams as well as the senior lead team.

Her performances in international lead events in recent years have seen her take 7th place in the 2013 World Youth Championships in Canada ans 18th in 2014. In 2014, she finished season ranked 1st in the World and Europe for her age category, having won gold in the European Youth Cup and silver in the European Youth Championships. In her first complete season in the GB Senior Lead Team, Molly made the semis of a senior World Cup event in Kranj and came brilliant 20th place, beating some noteable climbers en route.
 

Molly says: “The BMC has allowed me to pursue my dreams of testing myself against the best in the climbing world in some of the most beautiful places and locations on the globe. The organisation itself inspires both young and old and is so supportive in the way that it makes you feel special and appreciated.”

Keep up with Molly at twitter.com/Mollytheclimber

Follow Molly on Twitter: @Mollytheclimber

WATCH: Portrait of a Champion, on BMC TV

WATCH: Molly climb in the 2013 European Youth Championships, on BMC TV


 

Chris Townsend: long-distance walker

Age: 65

Chris Townsend is the first hill walker to become a BMC ambassador.Chris is one of the world’s most respected experts on long-distance walking and backpacking. He's chalked up more than 15,000 miles in the wild places of North America, Scandinavia and Scotland through a dozen huge solo walks. A renowned writer, photographer and gear expert he's authored 15 books and recently starred in the stunningly-shot films ‘The Cairngorms in Winter’ and 'Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike' by Terry Abraham.

Chris says: "Having been a member and supporter of the BMC for over 30 years I am honoured to be the BMC's first hill walking ambassador. In this role I hope to promote hill walking and inspire and inform hill walkers and show them why the BMC is important. The BMC's work on access and conservation is essential for the future of hill walking and should be supported by all hill walkers."

Find out more about Chris and keep up with him on his blog.

Follow Chris on Twitter @townsendoutdoor
 

WATCH: Chris Townsend backpacking in the Lake District, on BMC TV


 

Mary-Ann Ochota: Archaeologist turned adventurer

Age: 35

Globe-trotting archaeologist turned adventurer Mary-Ann Ochota is the latest signing to the team of inspirational BMC ambassadors. Mary-Ann is a British broadcaster and Cambridge-graduated anthropologist whose TV credits include the BBC’s Time Team, Channel 4’s Unreported World, and ITV’s Britain’s Secret Treasures.

Mary-Ann first teamed up with the BMC to present the Great Walks series on BMC TV, a spectacular short film series made in association with Marmot documenting five of the finest hill walks in the Lake District. She becomes the second BMC ambassador with a particular focus on hill walking, alongside renowned wilderness walker Chris Townsend, and aims to help the BMC reach more young people and women with a message about the power of getting outdoors.

Mary-Ann says: “It’s fantastic that the BMC are reaching out to the huge community of people who love walking in our hills and high places. The mountains are for everyone, and I’m honoured to be asked to do my bit to get that message out there.”

Expressing her love of the British landscape, she says: “There’s something about the green-and-pleasant that makes my heart sing. That view of Wasdale's field systems from the top of Kirk Fell in the Lakes, or tumbling into a Snowdonia village after a long day on the hill, or sitting at the top of Cairngorm in a snowstorm eating a pork pie.”

Find out more about Mary-Ann at http://www.maryannochota.com/

Follow Mary-Ann on Twitter: @MaryAnnOchota

WATCH: Great Walks: Scafell Pike on BMC TV

 



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1) Anonymous User
06/12/2013
Thiss "Ambassador" business seems to be becoming rampant these days. Some think it is organisations and manufacturers trying to climb on the backs of celebrities. Some that they are just paying for publicity.

That may be unfair in some cases. But even if so, these are not exactly impartial comments, are they..
2) Anonymous User
03/01/2014
An "Ambassador" helps to promote the sport to varying age groups, despite the obvious link to celebrity status which you rightly point out. However, these are not celebrities, these are normal people who have excelled and become known within their own small world, community.

It takes a lot for a National Governing Body to find these people and what to use their talents to showcase the sport to a wider audience and an audience that wouldn't normally commit to. In order to encourage growth in sport you have to find advocates, ambassadors, normal people who will naturally encourage others to take part and get involved.

The government is failing to do this, if you hadn't noticed obesity is at an all time high in this country. It's time for a change and I for one are behind any organisation that is willing to promote natural skill and talent to others. In order to encourage those individuals to take up the sport. Any sport.

Your comments aren't unfair, there just based on a lack of knowledge.
3) Anonymous
02/07/2016
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
4) Anonymous User
31/05/2017
I very much appreciate the work done by ambassadors and other staff but the roll and the CVs seem to reflect the ongoing disproportionate attention to climbing interests. I have nothing against climbing and wish its adherents well, but the BMC's own surveys state that climbing is not the activity of greatest interest to its members.

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