Unjustifiably psyched: Emma Twyford braves Hurricane Bertha to climb 8c.

Posted by Claire Jane Carter on 12/08/2014
Emma Twyford. Photo: Alex Haselhurst.

On Sunday, despite some very British weather, Emma Twyford made the first female ascent of a British 8c, becoming the second-ever British woman to climb this grade.

Her line of choice, Unjustified, is an 8c sport route on the notoriously stiff limestone of Malham Cove, North Yorkshire.

Before this weekend, the hardest female sport tick in Britain was Mina Leslie-Wujastyk's 2012 redpoint of Mecca, 8b+ at Raven Tor.

Hazel Findlay became the first British woman to climb 8c with her ascent of Fish Eye in Spain earlier this year, but no-one had broken the grade boundary at home.

Already a climbing headliner, Emma was the second British woman to climb E9, had repointed 8b, and was recently in the news for an impressive flash of Bucket Dynasty, a Lakeland E7. After that you'd have thought she wouldn't mind a rainy rest day!

Claire Carter finds out what on earth got her out on the rock on such a soggy Sunday:

How did you come to try to Unjustified?
I first tried it in 2011 after doing Predator (8b) whilst I was still living in Sheffield. I really loved the climbing on it, but knew it was a big step up in terms of difficulty and effort. At the time it felt mega hard but I knew it was possible to do it with some hard work.

Malham is a bit of a schlep from North Wales, what was it about this route that made it worth the journey?
I stopped trying it in 2012 for this reason, I got sick of trying the route and felt like I was just trying it for the sake of doing a hard route. I only came back to it in March this year and got psyched for the intricacies of the climbing again. Knowing I could do it gave me the motivation to do the long drive.

What allowed it all to fall into place?
Earlier in the week I'd finally got through the crux from the ground for the first time. I managed to do this three times so on Sunday I knew I could do it but I was nervous about it being wet as it was raining heavily on the drive. I almost turned round at Chester because it was so grim. This took the pressure off though as all I could do was give it my best shot in average conditions.

Hazel Findlay was the first British woman to climb 8c earlier this year, do you follow the activities of other women climbing at your level, and if so what do you take from it?
Yes, I follow a lot of people. It makes targets seem possible, and one of the amazing things about climbing that you can see a 13-year-old crushing but also a 50-year-old crushing. It's why I love climbing. It's great to see a lot of UK girls climbing well and pushing things forward.

Do you have a goal plan, or are you just taking climbing life as it comes?
At the moment I'm taking it as it comes. I had a car crash on the M56 a month ago which left me with bad whiplash. I was lucky to escape it in one piece but it gave me a new appreciation of life and living in the moment. I've also just joined the Rab team which now gives me the opportunity to plan trips that I never thought possible before. My first one being to spend a couple of months in Spain this winter.

WATCH: Emma Tywford climb Rare Lichen (E9) on BMC TV

What are you hoping to experience on a longer trip away that you haven't managed on short trips or in the UK?
I’ve only been away for two weeks at a time but I've still been flashing 8a on those trips, so I'm pretty excited. I'd love to do some hard multi-pitch routes and go to places that I'd never dreamt of being possible such as Africa and Yosemite. I'm so excitable that I want to do them all at once.

You are coaching at the Women’s Climbing Symposium in September, what do you try to pass on in your coaching?
I try to focus a lot on footwork and body positioning. I also try to stress that the biggest gains come from working on weaknesses and getting on stuff that doesn't suit people but trying to make it a sandwich, so do some stuff that makes you feel good, then work some problems that are difficult for that person, then finish off on feel good problems.

The WCS are using the hashtag #bebravebebold, where in your life might you apply this other than climbing?
I apply it a lot to my personal life. I've had some tough times and had to bounce back to get to where I am. This year I have been proactive in making my work as a route setter a success.

So what's a typical Twyford 8c week like at the moment?
A typical Twyford week is pretty scatty with last-minute plans. I've been enjoying lots of girl time and film nights. Going out climbing with friends when I have some days off but mixing it up with fun sessions and my project.

Do you think your climbing partners affect your performance?
For me it’s important as you have to trust that person. They have to pay attention the whole time, give you slack when you need it but be aware when you might fall. If find if I don't trust my belayer then I don't commit to the moves in the same way.

You can pick any climbing partner from history, who would it be?
That's a tricky question - can I have two? I'd love to climb with Catherine Destivelle as she is one of the truly inspirational female climbers. The other person I would love to climb with is Pete Livesey as he was one of the pioneers of his generation.

Thanks Emma, Well done


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