6 Inspiring Women In Climbing
I love climbing, as is fairly evident from the content of this blog. But, like any sport, it can be frustrating. The internal well of intrinsic motivation is a wonderful thing when it’s full, but occasionally the water level drops, and the bucket brings up nothing but dregs. Whether you’ve hit a plateau and feel like you’ve not improved for ages, or you’re injured and growing tired of the many rehab exercises that fill every free minute you have, sometimes you need to look to others to inspire you.
For me, this inspiration comes in the form of my fellow female climbers. These women climb at different levels, both indoors and out, and have different strengths and preferences when it comes to climbing styles and disciplines. However, they all share a love for the sport and produce inspiring and enjoyable content that makes me laugh, cry, and want to climb harder. This list covers everyone from beginners, to mid-level climbers like me, and professional crushers so hopefully there’s something for everyone in this list. Look out for more posts like this in the future. I couldn't fit all my favourites in just one list or it would have been far too long. There will have to be a sequel. Inspiration Women 2 Fast 2 Furious or something like that.
Please feel free to mention your own sources of inspiration in comments below. I’m always looking for more content like this to keep me motivated and balance out all the true crime in my content repertoire!
Hannah Morris (@_hannahmorris_)
I stumbled upon Hannah’s YouTube channel towards the end of last year when the second UK lockdown was announced and the timing really could not have been better for my mental health. I was gutted that the climbing gyms were closing again and disappointed that the Cumbrian weather was severely limiting the amount of time I could spend on the home wall. Her videos really cheered me up and kept me smiling when I was feeling pretty darn gloomy.
Hannah’s top bouldering grade is slightly higher than mine and that means her content hits the sweet spot of showing boulders that would challenge me but that I can still imagine myself doing one day. This is, for me, the perfect level for inspiring content. There’s also a lovely mix of indoor and outdoor videos so whether you're more of a gymrat like me or a fan of outdoor climbing, there’s something for you on this channel.
I find the style of Hannah’s videos very comforting. There’s plenty of try-hard action and she speaks very honestly and candidly about her personal struggles with body image. But I find her approach to climbing and the way she puts the videos together very soothing. Whether she’s talking about difficult issues or dissecting the finer points of a particular boulder, she does so in a very matter of fact yet affable way, which just sits really well with me. I’m struggling to find the right words to sum this up, so I’ll just say that I always feel better after watching one of Hannah’s videos. You’ll get what I’m trying to say when you go and watch some of her videos yourself. I’m definitely not doing them justice here!
My favourite content:
Who can climb this mega bouldering project first?
I almost always climb with Husband and the best boulders are always the ones that we both find equally challenging, despite our different heights, strengths, and styles. This video shows just how much fun this can be as Hannah and her 6ft plus partner, Nathan, tackle a boulder on an overhang but with a giant huggable volume in the middle of it. I find it really fascinating to see how they each tackle the boulder and enjoy seeing a bit of friendly competition between a climbing couple.
Bouldering DabRats (@boulderingdabrats)
I’ve been following the adventures of the DabRats, Annie and Di, pretty much since they first started making videos in May 2018 and it’s been lovely to watch this channel grow. They filled what I considered to be a gaping hole in the YouTube catalogue, everyday female climbers. Their videos show the adventures of women climbing. Plain and simple. It’s fun to watch super strong people doing remarkable things from time to time. But it’s also important to see the experiences of people like ourselves and realise that they can be just as exciting as those of advanced climbers crushing the higher grades. That’s what the Dabrats provide and they do it extremely well.
And these two are hilarious! Not only are they producing great climbing videos, but they also make me laugh, and laugh hard. The amazing friendship between Annie and Di is a huge part of what makes this channel great. The way they banter with each other and support each other through climbs is lovely. It’s just straight forward happy climbing content. I find it difficult to come away from watching a DabRats video without a smile on my face.
As they’re based in London, the majority of their climbing indoors but they have some videos of outdoor trips to legendary bouldering areas including Fontainebleau, Albarracín, and Magic Wood. They cover the important topics like periods, climbing with a hangover, and how the bendiness of thumbs affects climbing ability. You know, all the important stuff.
My favourite content:
ALBARRACIN LOWER GRADES PART UNO (and Di gets stuck)
LOWER GRADES IN ALBARRACIN PART DOS
Although overall I prefer their indoor videos because I prefer indoor bouldering, these two videos have a special place in my heart. Husband and I lived in Spain for a while and took our first ever proper outdoor bouldering trip to the beautiful Albarracín. I find outdoor climbing much harder and more intimidating than indoor climbing so I was a bit nervous before we went that we’d just get lost and find no boulders to climb and the whole thing would be a disaster. Fortunately, Di took a trip to Albarracín just before we did so I basically copied all the boulders she did in these videos. She should get commission as my tour guide really. It reassured me greatly to see someone nearer my level bouldering outside and making it look like excellent fun.
Beta Magazine (@betamagazineclub)
Beta is another reasonably new addition to my collection of things to read and watch as it’s still very new itself. It was established by Emily Ankers, Annie Martin (also of DabRats fame), and Catherine Evans. It sounds like the setup for a bad joke but it turns out what you get when you combine a researcher, a film maker, and a designer is a top-notch piece of content.
Beta is an online climbing and outdoors magazine that is mainly aimed at women but is also focused on opening up the world of climbing and making it a safe space for all. It’s packed full of articles about experiences in climbing from the perspectives of people that you really should hear about but don’t often get the opportunity to do so. The articles in Beta have covered body image, the relationship between climbing and femininity, the perils of climbing in your 30s compared to your 20s (relatable for me!) and so much more. They also give a well-deserved shout out to small businesses making climbing themed kit. They've only published two issues so far but I’m already very excited to see what’s to come in issue three.
I will have an article of my very own published in the fourth issue of Beta, which will be coming out in May so check them out and keep your eyes peeled for that.
My favourite content:
Let’s Talk About What Makes You a ‘Real’ Climber by Faye Hine (@hellafaye)
If you want to read this article you’ll have to buy the magazine, which I highly recommend you do anyway. I’ll give you a sneak peek by telling you why I like this article so much. I’ve often worried about not being seen as a real climber. I prefer indoor to outdoor climbing, I have no desire to live in a van, and I dislike almost all climbing that involves a rope. Three things that are very unclimberlike at first glance. But this article addresses the faulty preconceptions we have about what makes someone a climber. It shouldn’t matter what you climb, how hard it is, where you come from, or who you are. If you feel like a climber and climbing plays an important role in your life, then you are a climber. Faye writes about this subject very eloquently and pulls apart established beliefs about who the ‘real’ climbers are.
Women on the British Climbing and Paraclimbing Teams (@gb_climbing and gb_paraclimbing)
I will obviously never be as good at climbing as any of these professionals, but I can certainly still be inspired by their incredible skills. We haven’t necessarily got the biggest and most dominant team compared to countries like Japan and Slovenia. However, the British team still includes some of climbing’s top talent and regularly wins medals at the world’s most prestigious competitions.
The top name in women’s climbing in Britain is undoubtedly Shauna Coxsey and she was the first female climber that I properly fangirled over. Shauna has been the overall World Cup champion in bouldering twice (2016 and 2017), won basically every competition there is to win in the British bouldering scene, and qualified for the 2021 Olympics to compete in climbing’s first year as part of the games. When Shauna is on top bouldering form, she is not far off impossible to beat. She’s also an absolute joy to watch. Not only is her climbing incredible but she also has such a fantastic attitude. There’s a great honesty about Shauna. She pulls funny faces, laughs along with the venue MCs, and even when she’s falling off the same move over and over again, seems to find the whole thing an excellent laugh. The other thing I love about watching Shauna climb is her determination to climb things her own way. If she thinks she can find a different method to top a boulder she will make it work and I really admire that. I remember the final boulder in the semi-final round of the Vail World Cup in 2017 (yes, I’m getting nerdy here), which had been set with the intention of making the climbers go from left to right, up a bit, then right to left again to the top hold. Shauna managed to basically skip the whole traverse and just go straight up to the top hold. I’m not sure most people would have found this method easier, but she made this unusual method work as she so often does.
IFSC Climbing World Cup Vail 2017 - Bouldering - Semi-Finals - Men/Women
Other notable female competition climbers in the GB team (including youth and paraclimbing) include Molly Thomspon-Smith, Hannah Slaney, Leah Crane (now a coach), Michaela Tracey (not competing for the GB team anymore but she always celebrated in a very exuberant fashion when she topped boulders and this made me feel better about my own shouty outbursts at the end of certain hard-earned tops), Abbie Robinson, Hannah Baldwin, Emily Phillips and many more. There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of British climbing with these super strong women on the team.
Marte Knibe aka Normal Girl (@marteknibe)
Marte is a regular on the YouTube channel run by Norwegian climber Magnus Midtbø. This channel is one of the most successful climbing channels on YouTube and even non-climbers really enjoy the videos that Magnus is putting out. In my opinion, this channel got even better when Marte got involved. She first appeared in a video (titled Teaching Normal Girl how to Climb) that was basically a date in an empty climbing gym and has thankfully been a regular on the channel ever since. I genuinely feel invested in this relationship as the videos with both Marte and Magnus are definitely my favourites on this channel. They’re very funny together and make a great climbing team.
However, my main reason for including Marte in this list is how brave she is. She really put herself out there as a beginner climber by being involved in these videos. The most successful videos on the channel get millions of views. That would have scared the crap out of me as a beginner climber, especially if I had to share the screen with Magnus, who is a world-renowned crusher. But Marte just goes for it. She throws herself into everything she does no matter how many people are watching. She’s done bouldering, lead climbing, fitness tests, strength tests, and ridiculous world record attempts. All in front of a camera and mostly with a smile on her face. When I’m having a self-conscious day at the gym, thinking about Marte and the awesome things she’s done in front of millions of people while stood next to Magnus Midtbø makes me realise how silly it is to worry about a few people watching me at a gym in the backstreets of Cumbria.
My favourite content:
I let my Girlfriend remote control me
Marte doesn’t do a whole lot of climbing in this one but it’s an extremely funny video. Magnus has to climb the boulders as instructed by Marte with a laser pointer and it’s safe to say she comes up with some creative beta. Get ready to hear a lot of Magnus asking, “Why would you do that?”, saying “no!”, and getting gradually more pumped as Marte thinks long and hard about what his next move should be. Check it out if you need a good giggle.
The Curious Climber Podcast (@hazel_findlay and @minaclimbing)
https://www.hazel-findlay.com/podcast and https://anchor.fm/curiousclimberpodcast
I love a good podcast. Alongside shows about murder, politics, and scandals of every shape and size is The Curious Climber Podcast. The show is hosted by professional climbers Hazel Findlay and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and each episode is an in-depth conversation with fascinating people from the world of sport, usually climbing but they’ve also spoken to cold water swimmers and endurance runners to name but a few. The episodes are between an hour and two hours long, so you really get the chance to dig down into whatever they’re discussing that week.
Like many of the recommendations I’ve given you in this list, the focus isn’t just on the people climbing the hardest stuff. As they said in their introductory episode “Some really good climbers are really boring”. It's funny because it's true. Being really good at something doesn’t necessarily make you interesting! They shine the spotlight on people who have something interesting to say rather than those who climbed the hardest grades.
The style is conversational and relaxed but they’re not afraid to tackle the meatier issues like inequality, body image and eating disorders, and climate change. Both presenters seem to relish hosting the show and using it as an opportunity to learn from their guests, which definitely rubs off on me as a listener. I always come away from each episode a little better informed and, as the title says, a little bit more curious.
My favourite content:
Natalie Brown: Periods. A bloody nuisance or bloody brilliant? and Anoushé Husain: Not your average climber
I struggled to pick between these two, so I went for both of them. Natalie Brown is a researcher who focuses on female athletes and the menstrual cycle. In this episode, she shares some of what she’s learned over the course of her fascinating research. I enjoyed this episode because it was great to hear two women talking very matter-of-factly about menstrual cycles and the impact they can have on the lives of professional athletes. It was something I, somewhat naively, hadn’t really considered that much, despite the fact have a menstrual cycle of my own.
The episode with Anoushé Husain was the first episode I listened to and I picked a great place to start. Anoushé is a para-climber, who was born missing her right arm below the elbow and has dealt with more health problems than any human body should have to go through in a lifetime. She’s won numerous awards for her work bringing more people with disabilities and from different ethnicities into the world of climbing. In this episode, Anoushé and Hazel talk about how lockdown has affected people with disabilities, inspiration porn (that was a new concept for me!), diversity in climbing, and refusing to conform to the limiting expectations society may have of you as an individual.
All images are taken from the websites or profiles listed for each person/company featured in this list. Check these out for more information about the content I've talked about and the images featured (and to be inspired!).