You probably remember UK-based climber Hazel Findlay from our recent National Geographic magazine story, Impossible Rock, where a team of climbers went to Oman to test the country’s deepwater soloing. Some of the photos from that assignment, captured by Jimmy Chin, became instant classics. You may also have seen Findlay featured in the Reel Rock film Spice Girl.
Here the trad climber, one of the best in the world, shares insights on being a woman in the male-dominated sport, what she’s up to in Tasmania, and why the climbing gym beats mindlessly hitting the treadmill and weights.
What advice do you have for girls or women to get over being scared of climbing or heights?
My advice is to try and get out of the mentality that being brave is something you’re born with or just given. It’s actually something you need to train and practice and work at. Only if you accept this will you ever get better at being mentally strong.
Photo courtesy of @katy_whittaker – we’ve been friends a long time! Here I am learning the subtleties of mantling in #fontainebleau aged 11 (??) on a British Junior Climbing Team trip. We were so lucky to have found climbing at a young age and amazingly a lot of us are still friends and still climbing @blackdiamond
What types of climbs interest you most now?
I like to keep things varied, so I’m interested in everything from short sport routes to big walls in the mountains.
Do you have any big projects that you are working on?
I’m currently recovering from a shoulder injury at the moment so I don’t have any major projects on the cards, but I’m still able to travel and climb a fair amount. At the moment I’m in Tasmania trying to climb a cool sea stack called the Totem Pole (see a photo of it being climbed). Then my friend Alex Honnold is coming out, and I’m sure we’ll climb heaps of fun routes. (Editor’s note: We’ll report back on what Findlay and Honnold climb in Tasmania.)
Another top climber, Sasha di Guilian, recently said gym climbing was the hot new workout—at least in New York City where she is student at Columbia University. Is that true in the UK too? Do you climb much in the gym?
When I’m at home, I’ll train in the gym but I’m not home very often. I think it’s a great substitute for a normal gym because it’s way more social and fun. Instead of mindlessly running or lifting weights on your own you can work the same muscle groups in a much more cognitive way with your friends.
Where is your favorite place to climb?
I still have a soft spot for the place where I learned to climb: Pembrokeshire sea cliffs in South Wales.
Do you still live in the UK? Would you ever move closer to better climbing?
At the moment I live in Sheffield. There is a lot of amazing rock in the UK, but often not the weather to match. I have considered living elsewhere, however I travel so much that there hasn’t seemed like much point so far.
How do you stay fit for climbing? Do you cross train?
I run, do yoga, and also core exercises.
Is there a big, ambitious climb on your list for someday?
I’ve got a few, but I wouldn’t like to say!
We’ve recently seen some rock climbers enter the world of alpinism. Does mountaineering interest you at all?
Not really. Rock climbing in the mountains, or being in the mountains in general, is something I love, but actually bagging high-altitude peaks via snow slope slogging isn’t something I’m interested in.