Interesting outdoor careers: Sam Williams interview

Posted by Tina Gardner on 17/01/2014
Sam Williams on Alabalik (6c) at Geyikbayiri, Antalya, Turkey

Not your average student; Sam Williams is at university in Sheffield, runs the university competition climbing team, studies Aerospace Engineering, works as a climbing coach and plans to on-sight 8a at Easter. Luckily he found five minutes for a quick chat so we could ask him about his busy life and how he started climbing.

How did you get into climbing? Have you ever done any other sports with as much enthusiasm?  When I was five, Dad took me to Awesome Walls in Liverpool, then I got into Kids Club, then became an instructor and it all progressed from there. I’m also a Kayaking Level 2 Instructor which I did through youth club, but I didn’t take it that seriously because I didn’t find it as enjoyable.

Where’s your favourite place to climb inside/outside?  Inside: Awesome Walls Sheffield. I’m stood in front of the new competition wall now and it’s absolutely amazing. Plus it’s not as cold as Ratho (Edinburgh Indoor Climbing Arena).  Outside: It’d have to be Antalya in Turkey – I spent 3 weeks climbing in the sun there last Easter. By the end it was too hot to climb in the sun but the start of the trip was perfect. We were getting pictures of our friends sent to us and they were knee deep in snow back in Sheffield. We were climbing in shorts and a t-shirt!

Do you wish you’d started climbing outside at an earlier age?  I would have liked to but it’s not as easy when you can’t drive. 

What inspired you to set up the Sheffield University climbing team?  There are lots of people who climb really hard in Sheffield and most of them just climbed with friends. So I thought, ‘let’s get us all together’, because I know from training in Liverpool that you always get better when climbing with others who climb hard. We train four times a week.

Who are your biggest rivals on the uni competition circuit?  Definitely Sheffield Hallam.

You’ve already got your Single Pitch Award, do you plan to do the new Mountain Training Coaching Scheme?  Yes, I’m trying to organise that at the moment.  I’m definitely very interested in doing it.

What are you studying, and how do you balance climbing and coaching with your studies?  Very chaotically. I’m studying Aerospace Engineering and I just about manage to fit it all in. Awesome Walls are quite lenient with hours so I can fit in my shifts more or less depending on how busy I am at uni. I still plan to climb during exams, I’ll just cut down on the longer shifts.

Have you formulated a post-uni work plan yet?  My life plan at the moment: graduate, work for four years as an engineer, then freelance as an engineer in Thailand/Vietnam so I can work and climb in the sun on the sea stacks out there.

What are your personal climbing plans for the future?  I’m hoping to go to Catalunya at Easter, with the aim of on-sighting 8a. Training at the moment involves a lot of bouldering and power work, then I’ll add the fitness, then I should be on course.

If you weren’t a climber, what would you be?  A freestyle kayaker.

This article is part of a series of articles celebrating Mountain Training’s 50th anniversary year in 2014.



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