This Girl Can: Get back into climbing

Posted by Joanna Rowbottom on 15/05/2017

At the recent This Girl Can photo-shoot we met Nikki who used to climb in her 20’s but then work, family and new hobbies came along and she hasn’t climbed for a few years. We caught up with Nikki to find out more about her climbing plans.

I first went climbing through a Camp America summer programme where I volunteered as an Adventure Counsellor. This involved taking youth from the inner city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the high/low ropes course, the climbing wall, zip-line and outdoor bouldering, as well as going on overnight camping expeditions. We had a week’s intensive course which really took me out of my comfort zone. I stayed for the summer and loved working outdoors every day; setting up the high ropes course early in the morning as the sun was coming up, and seeing the positive impact on the children of learning to climb.

'There is such an adrenalin buzz when one minute you are up high and then the next safely back on the ground'.

I like the way climbing uses the whole body, but that it’s also not about being really strong or fit but learning a skill and often training the mind not to panic when up so high. 'There is such an adrenalin buzz when one minute you are up high and then the next safely back on the ground'.  Since Camp America, I have only climbed sporadically but each time I climb I feel so alive when I come off the climbing wall.

Watch: Stronger on BMC TV

I have always loved feeling fit so when I stopped climbing I took up other activities. I was a runner for a few years completing half marathons and then a full marathon but I damaged my knee and ankle. So I then took up road cycling and completed the Prudential Ride London 100 mile cycle which was amazing. During my pregnancy I still cycled but also did more yoga. Since having our daughter 18 months ago I haven’t done any exercise. I had a caesarean section which was the first time I’d had any major surgery and I felt quite fragile for a long time after.

Through social media I became aware of the This Girl Can campaign and the stories really inspired me, especially the ones about climbing; in particular at that time I was really inspired seeing women who were pregnant climbing. I thought climbing is also something we could do as a family, my husband climbs and I want my daughter to have the opportunity to experience the outdoors, so I decided I wanted to try and get back into it again.

Watch: This Girl Can Climb on BMC TV

I signed myself up for a taster session at my local wall, it felt exhilarating to be climbing again and pushing myself. Then I went along to the This Girl Can photo-shoot but I had a confidence crisis on the wall! I put really high expectations on myself and instead of being ‘Yes I can’ I kept thinking ‘No I can’t’! So during my roped climb I just froze 3/4s of the way up and couldn’t go any further although my body felt fine, it was all in the mind. I think part of it was because I was surrounded by these amazing women who were so incredible and I didn’t feel I had as much to offer. Then I suddenly realised that that’s the whole point of this campaign, ordinary, everyday women who are trying to give climbing a go or get back into something even though it’s not necessarily easy.


Nikki top roping at Manchester Climbing Centre. Photo: Jessie Leong

Nikki's ready to 'Unleash her inner beginner.'

Before I can climb regularly I need to do an induction so I can be signed off as a competent, and they let me loose on the ropes. I have found a couple of courses that are local to me, one in the evening and one at weekends.  I plan to sign up as soon as I return from our holiday. I will also try to get a weekend climb in before that though to keep up the momentum!

I know there are going to be a lot of challenges to getting back into climbing. One challenge will be having the energy in the evenings to go out and climb or to use the weekend to go off on my own and complete a beginner’s course. Another will be fitting climbing around family and work. I plan to set dates in my diary to climb and include climbing as part of a family day out, I recently did a climbing taster session while my husband took our daughter to play football in the hall next door to the climbing wall. They then both came and watched me climb after the football had finished which was so much fun, I had the best day.

Nikki is going to keep us updated on her journey back to climbing so look out for more articles from Nikki telling us about her experiences and how the course has gone.


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

WATCH: Shauna Coxsey in This Girl Can Win on BMC TV

WHAT'S NEXT? Get the psyche!

Boost your confidence by familiarising yourself with some of the basics skills and knowledge you'll be learning. Read our special edition magazine for new climbers Get into Climbing. Buy your copy from the BMC shop for just £5 (£3 for BMC members).


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