If you’re someone who worries about how strength could affect your climbing, then you’re definitely not alone. So many beginners and more experienced climbers feel this too. This week, we’ve got a wonderful bio of Steph Heeley, who talks about all this stuff and tells us where she’s at now.
My first experience of rocking climbing, as with many people across the UK, was on a year 6 trip to an Outdoor Education centre. Along with trips in year’s 7 and 8 at school and a 12th birthday party at Redpoint in Birmingham, these were my only experiences until I was 19. At 19 and working in a bar after completing a Foundation Art Diploma I decided on a drastic lifestyle change. I chose to go to University to study Adventure Recreation Management, with the hopes of heading into the Outdoor Industry. It was at this point, starting University, when I met like-minded and active people that I began to climb.
How did you learn to climb?
Through University, friends and trainee jobs in the Outdoors I learnt and climbed with anyone who would come outside with me. I built up my skill level and knowledge base over years rather than months.
In terms of life experiences a lack of academic and team sport achievement throughout school led me to try outdoor sports. Climbing is what I do for myself, I set my own goals and I make sure that I achieve.
Was there anything that you found difficult when you started climbing?
My upper body strength and confidence has always been a huge issue from the start for me. Indoor bouldering 3 or 4 times a week during my first 2 years of University soon helped me get stronger and gain confidence in my own balance and movement.
My favourite type of climbing is trad multi-pitch. Not only because I love learning new rope work skills, but because very quickly you climb so far away from the ground that you can’t hit it! This is what has always held back my grade at single pitch and sports level. The constant nagging feeling I have about hitting the deck.
What sort of climbing do you do?
Even with my preference for trad climbing I still take part in every type of climbing I can. From mountaineering in the Alps last summer, to learning to winter climb this season in Scotland and just returning from a sport climbing trip in Mallorca.
The best thing about climbing is….
The company and community. We have all had similar experiences and we have all started from the ground.
What has been the most difficult thing for you during the time that you’ve been a rock climber?
Injury has set me back in climbing a few times. Not only effecting my physical ability, but also my psychological strength. It’s all about taking care of yourself. If other people experience the same thing, I would say rest, take recovery time, seek medical advice and keep up with your stretching.
At the moment I have a few things going on health-wise: torn right shoulder muscles, slipped disk and currently a right leg that I’m not really sure what is going on with. All from climbing and mountaineering.
My best climbing experience:
Passing my SPA assessment. It was the starting block to achieve higher qualifications, push my own grade and technical ability and to help more people have their own adventures on rock.
What tips and tricks would you like to pass on to people?
Feel comfortable to cruise at your current grade, then attempt the next. This works for some, but not all people. From personal experience of trying to push my grades harder and harder before feeling totally settled on easier ground, it knocked the confidence out of me.
Remember to warm up!
Climbing ‘hard’ is all relative. Just make sure that you are enjoying yourself.
Why do you climb?
I climb because I can.
I climb because I am scared and only I can help myself, but yet I always manage to achieve and come out of a climb feeling heady and ecstatic.
Each time that I do this it only reconfirms to me that I am capable of anything.
What Steph says to people wanting to give climbing a try:
Start from the ground and keep going. Every climb you do is an achievement for yourself. Whether you complete a climb or not, lead or top rope, climb a V diff or an E2 route, top out or back off. Each time you climb, you have progressed.