Emily Roo rocks; a strong, independent person, with an untethered passion for climbing. She’s 5ft 4’s worth of fun, laughter and motivation, hiding a serious commitment to alpinism and exploring untouched areas of the planet. In 2016 she featured in the winning film for the Women in Adventure Film Competition, Kosmos before taking on some wild adventures this summer. We caught up with her to see about her take on life, climbing and more.
Tell us about starting climbing:
I went rock climbing with school in year 6 and loved it, found the movement came pretty naturally and the adrenaline was fun. And I beat everyone else at traversing… Reading books about expedition climbing and exploring unknown mountain ranges fuelled my obsession. After this taster, I tried many groups out in the hope that I would get to go climbing – cadets, DofE etc but then eventually discovered that our local sports centre had Monday night climbing sessions so became a regular there instead! It’s a proper 70s affair and features concrete, cut away bricks and metal rings – definitely not like walls today. I learnt a lot from the instructor Chris and then went on a couple of trad climbing courses when I was 17-18.
“I learnt a lot from taking my friends out and trying to teach them how to climb.”
When I was younger, I struggled to find people to go out climbing with, I ended up doing a lot bouldering on my own and route soloing as a teenager. Once I started going to Awesome Walls in Liverpool I did a lot more climbing indoors. Though when I tried to join the local climbing club aged 18 I was told ‘we don’t really have any young people in the club…’
And what sort of climbing are you into?
I do every sort of climbing. Though my favourite is mixed climbing and soloing easy ice/snow routes. I do a LOT of bouldering too, sport climbing is probably my least favourite and I get super scared trad climbing. I climb across the world, splitting most of my time between Chester/Manchester/Glasgow/Chamonix if I’m not in the greater ranges. At some points of the year I’ll be climbing every day and at other times once a week.
So, why do you climb?
I enjoy the feeling of the movement the best, particularly when a sequence just ‘clicks’. I also really enjoy a good battle, when you get into the fighting headspace to push through and climb something unexpected. The best thing about climbing is getting into the moment where nothing else matters.
Climbing regularly gives my very transient life some routine. I spend a lot of time outdoors, but sometimes you have to remind yourself to stop and look at the view instead of worrying about nightfall, how the descent will go or how hard the next pitch will be. The world is bigger than me!
How do you share your passion?
I really enjoy teaching people, especially taking friends out winter climbing for the first time. It’s really fulfilling sharing an activity that I think is amazing (even if they don’t entirely agree, we always have a good day out!).
What’s been most difficult for you?
Getting injured by doing silly things and then having to start from scratch again. I need to train to climb well, mainly because then I believe I am strong enough to climb hard. My psyche and fear levels tend to be all over the shop; trying to ignore my imagination/memories of falling off pain can be difficult.
Do you have any health issues or disabilities?
I got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 when I was 23. I’ve had the works treatment wise! Operation, chemo, radiotheraphy, hormone injections into my stomach and am currently on daily hormone therapy pills. After being in and out of hospital so much over the last 10 years with injuries and illness, I’ve found that I’ve become very impatient and fill my life with as much climbing and adventuring as I can. Having cancer made me realise that time and being around good people are the most important things in life; it’s definitely made given me a lot of focus and drive!
Do you care for anyone or have children?
When I’m at home in Chester, I help my Dad look after Mum. She is very disabled with MS and needs round the clock care. It just makes me more determined to do cool things whilst I can!
So, how do you fit climbing into your life?
I make my life fit around climbing.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Alpinism/expedition climbing is what I want to do with my life. Being away for a couple of months at a time means that I can’t work a ‘normal’ job. Fortunately climbing instructing and freelance archaeology work can fit around my expeditions easily enough.
Your best climbing experience…
Getting up at midnight to solo a new route in Kyrgyzstan and climbing in time to see the sunrise on the summit.
Last piece of advice:
Go on an expedition or a dirtbag trip to somewhere new for a month, it will open your eyes to the world beyond normality!
You can find out more about the awesome Emily Roo on her website.