Kieran is a core member of our team who works with a range of our clients from, in his words, "the teeniest teeny weenies who’ve never been on a climb before, along with their apprehensive parents, to those wanting to experience real rock for the first time and up to more experienced climbers looking for some development and maybe movement coaching." We hope you enjoy getting to know Kieran as much as we enjoy working with him!
How did you get into climbing?
My mother actually took us climbing when we were small, not super often, just now and then and only indoors. I carried on trying it occasionally, until about four and a half years ago, when I went on a fairly exciting trip to the Dolomites with my dad. Suffice to say we ended up having a really exciting week which involved some fairly rapid learning curves, certainly around decision making… I was one of those people who climbed on and off and then after that week was like right, shoes, harness, let’s go, I am now a climber, this is what I do!
I went on to climb only indoors for about a year before getting a job at a local climbing wall, just as a general desk-person with in-house training to become an instructor – I later went on to become duty manager and started climbing outdoors around the same time.
Why do you love climbing?
I love the forced mindfulness element of it… when I’m trying hard, especially something that’s near my limits, it pushes everything else out of my head.
I love the feeling of being in the flow, of just moving, which is one of the things I love about redpointing - especially something that’s near my limit. I love learning the moves really really well and then executing them fluently, being able to focus on climbing as technically 'perfect' as I can manage in that moment. I love that feeling. Also the community. I really love the [climbing] community, it’s the best.
I think this willingness to consistently put yourself in quite uncomfortable positions both physically and mentally is quite a strong character quirk that seems to run through the core of everyone who is a part of the climbing community.
Why did you choose to make your hobby your career?
I’ve always worked either in education or support.
I know that I really enjoy being able to provide an environment that’s going to help people develop and that I can support people through.
Being able to tie that in with something that I already enjoyed personally was a really great opportunity.
I didn’t know if it was going to kill my love of climbing, and it did actually, for a while. The first six months I worked at the wall I barely climbed. I just couldn’t go into an indoor climbing environment and enjoy it until I learned to separate work and recreation.
How did you become involved with Climb Cornwall?
When I was working at the climbing wall, I was really aware that it was just a stepping stone. What I really wanted was to be outdoors, so I spent a lot of time trying to find ways to develop that.
I tried quite hard to make good connections, trying to figure out who the right people to talk to were, who seemed most ‘current’ and really interested in what they were teaching and really knowledgeable.
That’s why I bought my first outdoor climbing experience with Jay (Climb Cornwall director).
It was a sort of trad skills/intro to trad day and I just knew this was someone I was going to a have a really good day out with. He came across as someone who really cared about what he was teaching.
Up until then I just knew of him as the ex-manager of the second climbing wall I worked at, though I did climb there recreationally whilst he was manager and he was really good and thoughtful when giving advice to the friend who initially taught me to climb and belay there.
After that, I did my Rock Climbing Instructor training with Jay (through another provider) after which I asked if there were any sessions I could shadow for experience.
I shadowed a few BMC Ready to Rock (introduction to outdoor climbing) sessions and I guess he liked what I was doing enough to start giving me some work once I qualified.
Do you also work outside of Climb Cornwall? If so, what do you do?
Yes, yes I do!
Outside of Climb Cornwall I freelance for two other providers.
One of them is quite similar to Climb Cornwall and I do a similar kind of work and with the other I do primarily outdoor education and therapeutic youth work.
Young people are referred to the second provider where we provide them with the opportunity to experience some different environments, and to be exposed to managed risks, which in turn provides the opportunity to work through a variety of feelings, emotions and sensations associated with that risk that can then apply to their lives, more broadly - in a nutshell.
What gives you the biggest sense of satisfaction, in relation to climbing?
Personally, it's the times I’ve managed to keep my head together when leading trad at my limit that’s given me the greatest sense of satisfaction. That ability to still make good and safe decisions and to climb well when I’m really very scared applies so much to my life, more widely.
Working on my head game has been very satisfying. I’ve gone from being very goal focused and judging myself and my performance purely on grades to a much more wibbly wobbly holistic view of like “cool, that wasn’t at my limit but I climbed it really well” or “I was scared but I did the thing”.
Professionally, its being able to – and I appreciate this is a requirement of the job – really efficiently put in place everything that’s required for people to have the best possible experience, but without them necessarily being aware of how much is being done behind the scenes. So that they can just focus on their aim, whatever that may be, and have a really good session.
What is it you enjoy about your work?
I absolutely love developing people, or rather helping people to develop.
Everyone’s so different and has such different strengths and difficulties. I really enjoy being able to facilitate an environment where someone can develop in whatever way that concept makes sense to them – it might be going 3ft off the floor, or it might be learning a new technique…
There are so many different ways to succeed and I just love adapting to each individual situation.
The whole process of figuring out what someone wants to achieve and how to best get that out of a session is really exciting. I find that really appealing as an instructor.
What do you do when (heaven forbid) you’re not climbing (or working)?
Oh and I play board games…
I go out walking on Dartmoor a lot and I’m trying to get up onto the mountains as much as I can for ML (Mountain Leader) consolidation, though planning that’s a little difficult at the moment!
I also spend lots of quality time with my dog, Blaze, and my partner.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Recreationally I am looking primarily to improve my sport and trad climbing – specific goals I hope will be out of date by the time anyone reads this!
Essentially I want to carry on becoming comfortable in particular grade bands whilst still really pushing my top end limits.
Professionally, getting my ML, and after that I’m in two minds, as to which qualification to do next, but currently trying to plan things is pretty hard, with the way the world is, right now.
Any professional development will let me develop further within Climb Cornwall, too, as it will allow me to deliver a wider variety of sessions which I’m looking forward to. We’ll see..!