As climbing heads into the Olympics, we look at the team powering the development of elite climbing performance in the UK: GB Climbing.
“Our aim at GB Climbing is to create the support, culture and facilities that will make GB Climbing the world’s leading sport climbing nation by 2032. That might seem like a big goal – it is – but everyone, from the athletes to support teams, to volunteers, all believe we can work to make it a reality. It’s a really exciting time.”
So says Zoe Spriggins, BMC competitions programme manager.
What is GB Climbing?
It is many things. It’s the department of the BMC dedicated to participation and organisation of climbing competitions in the UK. It’s there to spot and nurture talent, to put on national events. It’s there to coach and inspire the country’s elite competition climbers and support them as they travel and compete internationally.
Their remit is quite broad and covers bouldering, lead, speed, paraclimbing, ice climbing, even ski-mountaineering.
“The journey starts at grass roots level,” says pathway manager Lucinda Whittaker. “Through the Youth Climbing Series that we organise, to open events such as the British Bouldering Championships, British Lead Climbing Championships and Welsh events, we are looking out for potential medal winners. The successful ones then get onto our GB National Development Squad.”
This squad gives the junior athletes access to top-class coaching, competition experience and access to elite training venues.
Those who go through this program then move onto the adult teams: male, female and paraclimbing. Here the input steps up with the team seeking not just to make stronger climbers but to invest the athletes with the team’s core values of health, performance and respect. To grow the individuals together into a unit where everyone can teach and learn. To get better and have more fun.
The culture in the group is all important: “As a team we celebrate our differences and our similarities and we work together to create an environment where everyone can thrive,” Lucinda explains.
READ: We are GB Climbing - Athlete Profiles
“It’s been fantastic to see the athletes thrive, to watch them go through our events at the British Bouldering Championships and British Lead Climbing Championships, then to see them go abroad and really flourish on a world stage,” explains GB Climbing’s head coach, Tom Greenall.
“It’s not been easy through Covid, but we’ve done it. We’ve put on events, we secured an elite training venue in the form of Unit E in Sheffield, we’ve brought the athletes together in a safe way and even got them abroad, and that is all down to the team working together.”
What about the future?
“Great Britain has a long history of performing in World Cups. If you think of climbers like Jerry Moffatt and Simon Nadin in the early 90s, then onto Ian Vickers and Jamie Cassidy later on. Today we have Shauna Coxsey and looking forward we are looking to Molly Thompson-Smith and Will Bosi. Not only do we have that heritage, but it feels very much like we are on the launching pad for a great and exciting journey ahead.”
Exciting times. For anyone interested in this journey, now is the time to get on board. Follow the team as it grows, meets and addresses challenges, learns and innovates and celebrates success. Discover what it takes to be a world-class athlete, and see how a group of athletes, coaches and support members come together to form an elite team.
“It’s really cool to get to see behind the scenes of what it takes,” Zoe Spriggins thinks. “It’s not always easy, but it is fun.”
Check out GB Climbing’s social media, or keep an eye out for an event near you in the future:
DISCOVER: How to watch climbing at the Olympics
DID YOU KNOW?: 6 things you didn't know about climbing and the Olympics
WATCH: We Are GB Climbing
🧗♀️ FOLLOW: GB Climbing's Instagram for exclusive photos and results
⛰️ JOIN: Become a BMC member and support GB Climbing
📺 WATCH: GB Climbing YouTube playlist
🐦SCROLL: GB Climbing on X for live updates
👍 LIKE: GB Climbing Facebook for even more news and photos
👀 VISIT: GB Climbing website and see who's on the team
GB Climbing is supported by the BMC, Mountaineering Scotland and Secur-it. Many UK walls also support the GB Climbing team through free or subsidised entry.