Sunday, 20 September 2015


Two years ago I went to see Tom Randall for an assessment. I told him I wanted to climb Supercool, and even I could see at the time that that was an unrealistic goal. The hardest I'd climbed was a 7c, the year before, and it'd taken four or five sessions to even do all the moves, then another four or five to redpoint it.

It was an amazing route, Polifemo, still one of the best I've climbed, with a very reachy crux - but nevertheless, a long way from 8a+.

Not one to discourage, however, Tom wrote a year long training plan to bring me closer to Supercool. I was super psyched. And then, four days into the plan and three days after my summer holiday had stared, I snapped both bones in my lower leg in what felt like a devastating blow.

Aside from the impact on my climbing, it rocked my student life: I was starting the final year of my degree, and I was stuck at home in bed. I lost my part-time job, because I couldn't move around easily. I missed my "day-to-day" friends: the people you don't know that well but that you see regularly and chat to and that become a surprisingly large part of your life.

I didn't even know Tom: I'd met the guy once and paid him to do an assessment. And yet high as a kite and feeling very lonely in LGI he seemed like the obvious person to email.

"Tom... Everything's f**ked"

As I started to recover, Tom used his wisdom to translate the training plan from 3D to 2D, and so I trained on a fingerboard for several months. It was a period of time which if you were bored enough to read the entire blog can be summarised as fairly miserable and took every ounce of motivation I could summon.

It was also a period of my life during which I was very dependent on my boyfriend Alistair, without whom I would never have achieved what I did academically - nor would I have been able to train. I know that at times this was incredibly stressful for Alistair, both emotionally based on the impact it had on our relationship but also in terms of juggling this with his own career. However, I will be forever grateful for all his care, love and support.

When I started to climb again, I battled a combination of leg pain and fear as I tried to remember why I loved it. 18 months after the accident, I still felt like things would never be the same. I was crippled by fear and I was surprised that I could still be feeling the physical effects.  Even two months ago, things were much that way. Tom suggested I climb Aberration as it was a similar style to Supercool, albeit sideways rather than up. I still keep finding knew things that I didn't realise I could do until it hurt too much to do them, usually relating to heel hooks, and I still do certain things in stupid ways because I can't do them the way other people do (or the way they're set).

I was both surprised that I climbed Aberration so quickly and kind of disappointed that I wasn't excited as I felt like I should be. I thought that I'd be super excited about climbing my first 8a, but then when I did it it felt like I'd passed the point where it was the hardest I could climb. It wasn't magic like Polifemo.

During August I was trying Supercool at weekends while working down South during the week (in Henley-on-Thames, no less). I was starting to get close to doing it, but it kept raining, and I was really tired, and I could just never get a good session on it. I started to get very frustrated. Towards the end of August, Jules Pearson redpointed the route and spent the following week sending me weather updates. I was pitifully grateful to her as I'd developed an unhealthy addiction to the weather forecast (I'm getting help for it).

Jules is really cool, but she doesn't realise how good she is so she's very unassuming, very down to earth and awesome to climb with. And it was nice to be rooting for each other as I rarely seem to be projecting things at the same time as someone else (I remember with Polifemo everyone just kept flashing it).

The day I climbed the route was the Sunday of the August bank holiday, and I think it was really because I'd spent most of the Saturday snoozing. I was knackered from my crash introduction to the watch industry in Henley and all the commuting that had gone with it. I didn't feel amazing, but it's the sort of route where you don't have to feel super strong, as long as you just keep going and rest where it's appropriate. Nevertheless, when I pulled through the final crux onto the somewhat technical head wall I was terrified. Like Jules the week before, I knew that it would be all too easy to slip on a smear and fall off.

Somehow I topped out though and for a sport route it felt incredibly profound. Goredale itself is an awesome place, and many rainy and oppressive days there (not to mention the odd falling rock from the sheep at the top) have given me a healthy fear of the place. I didn't feel like celebrating, I just felt happy to be there. A tourist later summed it up when I was explaining what we were doing with "It must be the most wonderful feeling". Sitting there, in the cave, looking at the beautiful view was very inspiring. It finally felt like all the pain and effort of the last two years no longer defined my climbing, as though achieving the goal I set before I broke my leg and overcoming the fear in order to do so had freed me of some of the mental hang-ups I had.

The next day, Alistair climbed the route in a poetic team send. I doubt we'll ever share a project again, as we normally have very different climbing styles, but it was a fun team send!

We felt that the route deserved a video, so we went back for this:


  1. Lisa Skills and tenacity well done for sticking with it and ticking the route, fantastic, I know I didn't tick or stick with it, from carl (nice socks) I tried it with you for a couple of days x

  2. Lisa Skills and tenacity for sticking with it and ticking it , x