Natalie Berry: making the Transition to trad climbing

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 17/11/2015
Natalie in Fontainebleau. Photo: Minerva Design
View 1 of 5

Natalie Berry has been a British Champion eight times and World Championship finalist twice. But could she learn to climb hard outside? That's the focus of Hotaches new film, Transition. Supported by BMC TV, this visual feast is premiering at Kendal Mountain Festival this weekend.

In a nutshell, why should we go and see Transition?

I think anyone who has struggled to overcome fear, been intimidated by something new or anyone who enjoys watching climbing films for the story and the scenery rather than for the grades and numbers would enjoy this film. Also, I reckon it could appeal to younger climbers and anyone who might be interested in making the move to outdoor climbing. Rather than being a film about someone ticking off hard routes, I start off as a nervous beginner and learn lots of things along the way!

What were the most important things you learned over the two years making the film?

I learned that the mind has much more power over success and failure than I ever imagined. The trad process really highlighted mechanisms you can use in controlling fear. I also rekindled my passion for climbing over the filming process - I'd had a tough few years dealing with injuries and changes in my life as I finished university and moved into the adult world.

The main skills were technical - racking up, placing gear, using ice axes, building belays and I also learned to ski. However, the confidence I gained through pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learning to fight hard again was probably the most valuable skill I relearned through the filming process. The confidence I had naturally as a kid came back.

Where did you travel to, and what were your favourite places?

We travelled to the Outer Hebrides (Lewis and Harris), the Isle of Skye, Torridon, Ben Nevis, the Arrochar Alps and North Wales. It was nice to focus on climbing in my home country and get Scottish climbing on the map. Topping out on Ben Nevis after leading my first winter pitch was also a great feeling.

I really loved climbing in the Outer Hebrides as it was my first big filming trip with Dave, and at first it felt pretty remote and intimidating, but soon enough I was onsighting my first E4 high above the sea on a multipitch with amazing surroundings. I really grew in confidence on that trip.

Dave MacLeod and Lucy Creamer were my mentors and I couldn't really have asked for better people to guide me through all the technical aspects and for keeping me relaxed and safe! I also have to thank Chris Prescott and Paul Diffley for their support - I think they were more scared than me at some points!

What's next for you?

I will probably do some more climbing in Scotland early next year and maybe go on a ski trip and some sport trips abroad at some point. I'd also love to do more dry-tooling and ice climbing, as well as some Alpine routes.

I have just started a new training plan and was recently reselected for the GB Lead Team after the BLCCs, with a view to doing some internationals next year. It's great how things came full circle - I rediscovered my motivation for training and competitions, which I was struggling to manage just before the film started. 

Competing to a high level as a senior demands a lot more time, commitment and dedication to one individual discipline than competing as a junior, but I am really keen to put more effort into training now that life has settled down a little. Trad, winter and alpine climbing have opened my eyes to different aspects to our sport - I'm not sure how far I will push myself in each of these but I guess I'l have to see!

Where did you come from, how did you start climbing?

I started climbing when I was eight years old quite by chance. I had a go on a mobile climbing tower at a shopping centre in Glasgow and loved it. The next weekend I was at the local climbing wall joining the kids’ club.

At the time I was taking swimming lessons and had tried tae kwon do, but nothing clicked like climbing did. I loved the movement, the people and the lifestyle. Climbing is a very individual sport but at the same time people are generally very encouraging and there is a good sense of community – apart from when people obsess over grades, ascents, ethics and so on.

I didn’t have a coach but my dad belayed me for hours on end, and my enjoyment fuelled me to improve. Getting lots of easier mileage in and not having a strict coaching regime worked well for me. I learned in a very natural way without pressure. I’ve retained this love for just moving and doing what I want. Anything systematic or repetitive puts me off.

I think it’s important to carve your own path in climbing. No matter how much someone tells you how to do a move there is nothing better than taking time to think about how your body moves by yourself, and too much focus on strength takes away the intuitiveness of movement.

When I was purely focusing on competitions I would climb three to four times per week. I travelled to compete as a teenager – China, Australia and all over Europe. Now I’m a student in Edinburgh and, with my studies and other distractions, train a lot less. I never liked using the term training anyway, I’d rather call it climbing!

On women climbers...

I hang around with boys a lot and have always been a bit of a tomboy, but I come across more and more girls at the wall and outdoors too. It’s great to see this development, although I don’t think it helps to differentiate between gender too much – just go and climb!

I never consider myself as a woman climber. I think that’s because I grew up within climbing. When I was 8 or 9 it was irrelevant whether you were a boy or a girl. I was stronger than most of the boys anyway, and so were some other girls, or we would find a more technical way to climb.

As I got older I simply had faith that I was a climber and I’d happily walk into a room full of guys (as long as the unnecessary toplessness and power screaming is kept to a minimum!) and climb without thinking that I was different or in any way inferior.

I get frustrated when people belittle a woman’s achievements by downgrading a route or problem, or claiming an ascent is impressive because it was done by a woman. Irrespective of gender, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and an individual physical make-up, which will be both a help and a hindrance to our climbing, depending on the nature of the route or boulder problem.

What’s Natalie up to now?

I graduated from Edinburgh University last year with a Masters in French and German, and am now working for UKClimbing.com as an Editor with a bit of climbing instruction and translation on the side. In the future I’d like to live in the Alps.

Natalie is sponsored by Mountain Equipment, Scarpa, Petzl and Beal.

LEARN: to climb outdoors

Check out our range of subsidised courses.


The BMC TV Women in Adventure Film Competition is back and accepting submissions for 2022. So dive in, if you have a story to tell or a cause to share it's time to do so!

We want to see your adventures captured on film and keep the cycle of inspiration rolling as we head into the eighth year of the competition, supported by Montane.

WATCH: All the entries to the Women in Adventure Film Competition 2021 on BMC TV

FIND OUT MORE AND ENTER: Submit an entry

WATCH: Women in Adventure Film Competition 2022 Trailer on BMC TV

Need inspiration?

WATCH: All the 2021 winners and entries

WATCH: All the 2020 winners and entries

WATCH: All the 2019 winners and entries

WATCH: All the 2018 winners and entries

WATCH: All the 2017 winners and entries

WATCH: All the 2016 winners and entries

WATCH: All the 2015 winners and entries

 

« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 1864 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Ready to Rock: outdoor climbing courses 2016
13
Ready to Rock: outdoor climbing courses 2016

Fantastic value, BMC-subsidised outdoor climbing courses at Plas y Brenin are there to help everyone – adults, young people and families – make the move to climbing in the great outdoors.
Read more »

Breakfast Club: with Niall Grimes
0
Breakfast Club: with Niall Grimes

Join us at Kendal Mountain Festival for another morning of mayhem. For the second year running, we’re letting Niall Grimes off the leash and setting him loose on all our latest BMC TV films, personalities and star ambassador climbers.
Read more »

Ready to Rock: Outdoor Days 2022
0
Ready to Rock: Outdoor Days 2022

Ready to Rock courses are designed to help indoor climbers make their first moves onto rock by having a fun day out as well as covering the use of some key skills and equipment.
Read more »

Post a Comment

Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
0

There are currently no comments, why not add your own?

RELATED ARTICLES

Ready to Rock: outdoor climbing courses 2016
13

Fantastic value, BMC-subsidised outdoor climbing courses at Plas y Brenin are there to help everyone – adults, young people and families – make the move to climbing in the great outdoors.
Read more »

Breakfast Club: with Niall Grimes
0

Join us at Kendal Mountain Festival for another morning of mayhem. For the second year running, we’re letting Niall Grimes off the leash and setting him loose on all our latest BMC TV films, personalities and star ambassador climbers.
Read more »

Ready to Rock: Outdoor Days 2022
0

Ready to Rock courses are designed to help indoor climbers make their first moves onto rock by having a fun day out as well as covering the use of some key skills and equipment.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £16.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »