What is your role within Climb Cornwall?
I’m Climb Cornwall’s owner, director and internal technical advisor. I’m responsible for the safe operation of all Climb Cornwall activities from staff recruitment and training to internal quality assurance, making sure any service we provide is the best it can be.
It used to be just me and even though we now have a small team of coaches I continue to actively deliver a lot of our services, mostly in the development of outdoor climbing skills and performance coaching.
All of the BMC and Adventure for All courses we run, such as Ready to Rock, Climbing for All and BMC Skills, are staffed by me (as it’s my name on the contracts!). I also oversee the technical services we provide for climbing walls, ropes courses, and clubs.
What do you do, professionally, outside of Climb Cornwall?
I am one of the GB Climbing Team Coaches, primarily working with the GB Development Squad (although I have done a little bit of work with some of the Para-Climbing Team and could be allocated to coach at any Senior, Para or Youth international event).
This takes me all around the UK to selection and training events in the winter, and then to the international competitions coaching the athletes representing Great Britain.
As a Course Director for Mountain Training, I work for several of their Providers running National Governing Body award training or assessment courses.
I really enjoy working with and for other individuals and organisations alongside running Climb Cornwall as it stops me becoming too inwardly focused!
I currently sit on the committee of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (a professional association for those who hold the higher-level qualifications for climbing in the UK), in the role of CPD Representative, making sure all the members stay current and up to date.
Outside the adventurous activities industry, I work with individuals looking to develop their performance, either at work or in sport.
I also provide team building activities for groups of professionals who want to improve co-working and communications.
I have some specialist experience with inclusive and adaptive climbing activities for people with disabilities and impairments as well as therapeutic coaching - working with individuals coping with addiction, anxiety or depression.
What got you into climbing?
I was a slightly short, slightly rotund and slightly short-sighted kid. I’d always enjoyed climbing trees and getting out for long walks with my family, but I was completely unenthusiastic about competitive team sports.
My secondary school soon realised that I was an unwilling (and not entirely excellent) rugby player who was near incapacitated by the migraines caused by afternoons spent without my glasses.
Fortunately, there was a tiny climbing wall - just some bits of rock mortared into a red-brick wall - and a teacher willing to keep an eye on me and a few other non-team-sports types.
I joined a local climbing club, got my first pair of climbing shoes for my 12th birthday, and that was that.
I really enjoyed the fact that achievement in climbing was (mostly) measured by how close to your limits you were, rather than how you compared to another person.
What gives you the biggest sense of satisfaction professionally or personally?
Regarding my personal climbing, my adventures in the Alps have given me so much excitement, good memories and even better friendships.
The process of progressing through the grades of sport and trad over the years has been really enjoyable too, as well as becoming increasingly involved in the professional side of my industry - from starting out as an instructor to now delivering instructor training.
On the professional side of things, without a doubt my greatest sense of satisfaction is garnered from seeing people achieve something they didn’t think they were able to do and supporting them through that journey.
Whether that’s coaching climbing performance, finding an adaptive solution for a climber with an impairment, or guiding someone on a route they thought was beyond them – I enjoy it all.
People often ask whether I get bored climbing the same routes or teaching the same thing all the time, but I’m always doing them with different people, so I’ve never really seen it as the same thing!
Why did you choose to work in the adventurous activities industry?
Adventuring on the beach and cliffs of Cornwall as a child and then climbing and walking on Dartmoor as an adolescent was formative for me.
At 18 I couldn’t really imagine anything else I wanted to do though my school was less than thrilled by my decision not to pursue an academic career.
I’d been a member of a Cadet Force and most enjoyed the elements of teaching and instructing involved.
Combining the activities I loved with instructing others seemed a good thing to do, although along the way I’ve pulled my fair share of pints, worked in restaurants, been a cleaner, a delivery driver, dug holes and built walls to make ends meet.
What do you do when you’re not climbing?
When not climbing I tent to read a lot, I’m a bit of a fantasy and science fiction fan, though I still find a lot of non-fiction interesting too. I tend to have anywhere up to 10 books on the go at once, dipping in and out depending on what interests me at the time. I’m more than capable of sitting up all night to finish a book I’m into though.
I really enjoy cooking, whether it’s just for me or for a group of friends. I live full time in my van, so I have to get quite inventive about what I can achieve with just two gas hobs – it’s always a treat to check into a hut for a night and have an actual oven!
I’m a pretty keen board game player – I find there are several interesting similarities in the mindset required for climbing and for strategic game-playing. I can usually be tempted into a hand of cards too.
... and then there’s coffee, I’m pretty keen on coffee, especially when it comes with cake.
What’s next for you?
A bigger van at some point! I’m looking forward to having enough space to have friends round for dinner and being able to separate the sleeping and living spaces.
I’m really excited to see the coming developments in competition climbing – with climbing in the Olympics, this is a really exciting time to be involved in the industry.
I’ve watched climbing grow from a niche pastime into a popular activity in the UK, now I’ll get to see how things change and develop as it is recognised worldwide as an Olympic sport.
We’re already seeing an increase in the popularity of indoor climbing walls – we’ll see how that impacts on the outdoor disciplines over the next 10 years.
As a professional coach I’m also psyched to be involved with the GB team, particularly with those competing at international youth events. I can’t wait to see what happens for them in the coming years.
As if I didn’t have enough to do, I’m becoming more and more interested in some longer academic study – I expect an Open University degree will be on the cards at some point soon, something part time, likely in the field of psychology, that I can undertake whilst still running Climb Cornwall.