Women that climb

As part of #WomenOutdoors Week we've caught up with two avid climbers and got their views on why more women should get involved in climbing and outdoor recreation.

Liz Robinson

What inspired or motivated you to first take up climbing?

I have always had an interest in the outdoors since completing my Gold Department of Education Award as a teenager. Following University, I began helping with the Gold Award scheme and back in 1985, I registered for the Summer Mountain Leaders scheme (MLS) – it was to be nearly 30 years before I eventually had the courage through the assessment!

At the grand age of 54 I became a Mountain Leader. Soon after, my partner Simon suggested a trip to our local climbing wall.  I thought that it might be fun so I was prepared to give it a go. Little did I know that I would enjoy it so much and that it was to be the start of another passion of mine.

Was there a barrier that first stopped you trying climbing?

A while ago I had major knee surgery for a ruptured ACL and with this injury, followed by being a mother of three, meant that I had far less opportunities at the time to venture into the “great outdoors”. Throughout the nineties I spent much of my time as a busy mum, driving my daughters to their various activities! It was well into the millennium before I rekindled my drive and found the time to get outdoors again. 

At first, I did not think that I would be able to climb as I was not sure my knee would be strong enough to land if there was any impact. However, I did not realise that with roped climbing you could be lowered carefully to the ground to minimise any impact. What I have found is that I have improved my overall strength and that my knee has held up well!

What would your advice be to anyone who is considering trying climbing, bouldering or hill walking?

Get down to your local climbing wall and give it a go – the atmosphere is very friendly and there are plenty of people to help. The great thing about climbing is that you can do it at any skill level and still have a great time. 

The climbing club will “show you the ropes” so you can try different ways of climbing or go to club nights if they offer them. You can rope climb or try bouldering (climbing without a rope). There is also partner climbing where your partner acts like an anchor or belayer, or you can use an auto-belay (a device that will lower you to the ground in a controlled way) so you are able to climb as a single.

My local wall runs a ladies night and this is a great way of meeting people to climb with.

What has surprised me about climbing is that it is possible to start at any age and it is a great sport with brilliant people. The sport has improved my fitness and given me and Simon some great adventures! 

What is your one piece of essential equipment / kit you can't live without?

Well this has to be my rock boots! They now live permanently in my car so I can pop into climbing after work!

How do you feel climbing, bouldering or hill-walking has helped your mental well-being? Has it helped you to develop new friendships?

Climbing is great - it totally focuses the mind and I forget everything else when climbing a route. I always feel very relaxed after a climbing session – it is a great workout too!!

Simon and I have made some good friends through climbing and we always find people very friendly wherever we go!

Are there any good blogs or people on social media to follow for more information on where to try climbing, bouldering or hill walking?

BMC and UK Climbing are good with loads of information and articles on climbing, I also use the information on Mountain Training and some independent providers such as Paul Poole Mountaineering and Robin O'Leary Consulting

Liz Robinson BMC Blog Image ()


Ellie Fuller

What inspired / motivated you to first take up climbing?

I first started climbing at University nearly 3 years ago now. I joined the University of Leicester mountaineering club because I wanted to do something active, and I was desperate to get out of the city. They were a pretty entertaining bunch and I managed to go out climbing a lot.

Every other weekend the club would go to the Peak District, the Lakes, Yorkshire, North Wales, Pembroke and soon enough, I found myself at the end of my first year having not missed a single meet and with the realisation dawning that I may have unexpectedly fallen in love with this climbing lark.

Knowing almost nothing about climbing before University, it was definitely my club that inspired and motivated me when I began climbing.


Was there a barrier that first stopped you trying climbing?

I never experienced any barriers to trying out climbing or walking. I think I was lucky to have a very beginner-friendly University club where the committee really put in the time and effort to teach me. Right from the start we went lead climbing and I was taught to lead myself on my second meet. Having never climbed indoors, my very first experience of climbing was in a traditional climbing environment and that's just what climbing was to me and it felt normal.

What would your advice be to anyone who is considering trying climbing/bouldering or hill walking?

Try it! Climbing is incredibly rewarding in so many ways, physically and mentally. It can test you if you're looking for a challenge, but equally, it can be amazing as a way to chill out and enjoy being in beautiful places. 

It's an amazing sport that's accessible whatever age you are. You don't need to be strong or fit either to start, just start climbing and you'll get strong! 

The beauty of climbing also is that it has so many forms, scrambling, bouldering, sport, trad, winter, alpine there is something for everyone. And of course there is hill walking too. 

What is your one piece of essential equipment / kit you can't live without?

My climbing shoes (and chalk - they belong together)! I almost always have them with me, which means that even if I don't have a climbing partner or gear, I can still go bouldering or enjoy a solo climbing session.

How do you feel climbing has helped your mental well-being?

Climbing has definitely become my way of de-stressing and finding some quiet moments in life. Multi-pitch belay stances have given me some of my favourite thought spaces -particularly sea cliffs, there is just something about them. They can be pure moments of calm and 'presentness'. I love it when you're sitting there, quietly pulling up rope with a golden sense of satisfaction after the physical and mental exertion of the route. 

I think it's because climbing requires you to be present in the moment. It doesn't give you a choice, you simply have to be fully aware and not distracted by any other thoughts. The physical difficulty and the mental challenge of route finding and placing you gear, forces you to find a kind of 'presentness' that I don't know exists anywhere else in life. 

Has it helped you to develop new friendships?

Well I think I can count my non-climbing friends on the fingers of one hand now! Recently, almost all my friendships have been developed through climbing and it has given me some of my most important ones too. Climbing creates a community of like-minded, slightly crazy people  - and I love that. Be careful, climbing is something that takes over! Before you know it you have a room full of gear, a house full of climbing friends and a head full of the next climbing trip! Your family probably won't understand.

Do you feel more relaxed after a climbing or bouldering?

Experiencing the 'presentness' I mentioned, regularly through climbing I think has been really beneficial to my mental wellbeing. I always feel happier and that the things I'm worrying about don't matter quite so much after climbing. This can happen with an indoor session also, it's about enjoying the physical movement and focus too. I'm not sure how well I could function without climbing now!

Are there any good blogs or social media handles to follow for more information on where to try climbing/bouldering or hill walking?

BMC #womenoutdoors week - lots going on!
I am organising the Women's Trad Festival 2016 as a way for anyone (not just women) to get into climbing outside.

A number of club’s take novices https://www.thebmc.co.uk/climbing-wall-finder#clubs
Women's climbing symposium 2016 is on in October.

Join coaching sessions at your local wall, often they offer some free.

Ellie Fuller BMC Image ()