We chatted to Emily at the This Girl Can Climb photo shoot and found out about her climbing experiences, how she started and her first experience of it and, what and who inspires her.
Can you remember when you first started rock climbing?
I had tried climbing a couple of times with friends and really liked it. In January 2013 I made it a New Year's Resolution to start climbing regularly so I bought some rock shoes and ventured out to my nearest climbing wall. After that first session I actually came away feeling discouraged, I struggled on the easy routes and stumbled awkwardly falling off a bouldering problem. I just felt really uncomfortable on the wall and wasn't sure whether I'd made a horrible mistake investing £40 in shoes. Given that I made the New Year’s Resolution, and really wanted to stick to it, I decided to persevere and gradually I started to make more progress and feel more confident. Pretty soon I found that I was having sessions where my physical strength ran out long before my enthusiasm did and I couldn't wait to get back to the wall.
Do you think rock climbing is something everyone can do?
I do think climbing can be for everyone, I love that climbing is challenging both mentally and physically. It's not just about being physically strong and hauling yourself up the wall, it's about learning techniques and figuring out the puzzle of how to do the moves. I also love the fact that it's not a highly competitive sport. You're just competing with yourself and it doesn't matter at all how you compare to other climbers, as long as you're having fun. I don’t tend to pay too much attention to grades, but I do feel satisfied when I know I’ve pushed myself a bit harder. As you climb more you'll probably find that you'll have fun climbing harder grades but it's a hobby not a competition. I remember being so excited and proud of myself the first time I climbed a 4b. Just because it was a lower grade than other people were climbing didn't mean it wasn't a great and satisfying achievement for me when I was a beginner. It's just about doing what's fun for you. As my instructor always says, “Everyone's challenge is different.”
There's definitely a style of climbing to suit everyone whether it's bouldering or roped routes, overhangs or slabs, crimps or slopers, there's definitely something for everyone.
Emily climbing at Manchester Climbing Centre. Photo: Jessie Leong
What inspires you in climbing?
My first inspiration was my old housemate, Jen. She was the one who first took me climbing and taught me the basics. She was so patient and encouraging with me and she gave me the foundation for my climbing style. I love climbing with the Rock Chicks too. It's amazing to see how much we've all improved over the years both in confidence and skill. Those girls definitely inspire me and of course we all get together and have a great time as well.
I also really enjoy watching films of professional climbers on You Tube, BMCTV or at film festivals like Real Rock, Banff, and LlaMFF. I've got into watching the IFSC World Cup competitions too. I honestly think I climb better for having watched these amazing athletes doing things I could never dream of doing. Seeing their techniques and how they move on the wall is really inspiring and actually helps me when I pull onto a route that must be at least 7 grades easier than what they're doing.
What do you think about the This Girl Can campaign?
I love the premise of This Girl Can; that it doesn't matter what you look like or whether you're particularly athletic, sport is for everyone. I think a lot of people (not just women) feel that they can't get involved in sport because they'd look silly wobbling around in the gym or because they didn't enjoy PE at school. The message of This Girl Can is that it doesn't matter what you look like or if you have obstacles like a disability or impairment or if you're overweight, there is a sport for you and a way for you to get involved. I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to get involved in this campaign, I met some really inspirational women and got to climb with them for the day, it was a lot of fun.
Emily packing the ropes away at the end of the session. Photo Jessie Leong
Living in North Wales we're guessing you probably climb outdoors too, how does it differ to climbing indoors?
Yeah, some friends were kind enough to take me outside and teach me the ropes, literally. Climbing outside is a very different experience. It's so much fun to be outside in beautiful locations and to feel natural rock under your fingers. It can be a bit scarier and I tend to climb lower grades. I'd rather keep it safe and fun when I'm outdoors rather than taking any big risks on routes that I'd find really hard. Climbing outdoors definitely requires more practical skills too like lead climbing, maybe placing gear, re-threading the rope, maybe even using two ropes at once; so it's more complicated because you need a group of people with the right skills to make it safe. Joining a social group, or climbing club, or signing upto an outdoor climbing course can help you to learn these new skills. In some ways outdoor climbing is more relaxing, you tend to take longer over setting up and enjoying the view and chatting. Plus you're less restricted to the set route, if you can't reach the next big hold, you'll probably find some little ledge or pocket to use instead, whereas indoors you might be restricted to the coloured holds. If the sun is shining I'd always choose to go outdoors rather than indoors. But the climbing gym is a great place to train and escape the weather!
This Girl Can
Get the adrenaline buzz of reaching the top. Keep fit without feeling like you're doing exercise. Socialise and build strong friendships. Tempted to give climbing a go? Find out more about This Girl Can Climb.
WATCH: This Girl Can Climb on BMC TV
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