A Girl Who Climbs

A blog of bouldering


Advice & Tips

Climb Through Your Life Cruxes

So I’ve had a few really crummy days due to issues in work and some personal problems. These things left me feeling anxious and sad. Add in constantly having a bunch of conflicting thoughts running through my mind, the very last thing I wanted to do was go and climb. The thought of having to be around people (by my own choice) was horrifying. I actually wanted to make myself into a blanket burrito and sit in a dark, quiet room. In retrospect and a more positive frame of mind, it’s easy to see how secluding myself is never going to be the right thing to do in situations like that, but at the time it’s very difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Luckily I was encouraged to go and climb and be around people by my partner. I didn’t feel like talking, but listening to people and hearing positive things that were happening in their lives really cheered me up, and made me feel a little less gloomy about everything. Actually bouldering was also a great stress buster. The fact that I was already having a bad day made climbing easier as I had no expectations of it being amazing. Also it forced me to stop thinking about all the bad things and just concentrate on the climb. Needless to say it was a good climb!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you’re having a bad day, go and climb. It might help straighten things out in your mind, or lift your mood just enough for you to see the light. There’s something mentally helpful about trying to work out a climbing crux, when you can’t fix what’s happening in life. All your energy doesn’t feel wasted, and you will get that climb eventually.

We all have bad days, which means we are never really alone in the darkness.

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Psyching Up Your Psyche

Forgive me climbers for I have sinned, it has been 6 days since my last climb…

There’s no real reason for this, sometimes things get in the way of what I want to do because 1. I let them and 2. I feel like I have to do other things first. It’s kind of stressful and makes me anxious. Also I’m a creature of habit so when my routines are disrupted it takes me a little time to adjust, and I think this is why I’ve not been climbing regularly this week. In retrospect, climbing would of been a flipping good idea to distract and de-stress! So in light of this I’ve made a list of things to help get me motivated, or psyched as the climbing world would say:

Watch others climb. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but we are in this magical age where we can whip out a phone and watch anything our hearts desire (get your mind out of the gutter). So using this amazing technology to watch some lead or bouldering World Cup hi-lights, catch up on the latest achievements, or enjoy an Epic TV video can help to get inspired.

Listen to your song. We all have that guilty love for a cheesy song, and music is one of the few things that can change my mood. Whack it on, turn up the volume, and bask in the glory of the sound. Livin La Vida Loca anyone? Gangam style? No? Okay, I’ll stop.

Just go to the crag or gym. This is the main thing I guess, just get up and go there! Even if I don’t end up climbing it can be good for the mind and soul. I find the climbing community one of the most accepting, and a crag or gym are some of the few places where you can find people from so many different backgrounds  all bonding.

Happy vibes.

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Climbing Hacks

Like life hacks but specifically for climbing to make things a little easier and cheaper. I posted a short video on Instagram and Twitter of me using hair ties for finger exercises and it got a lovely response, so I thought I’d share some more…

  1. You can buy a pack of soft bristle toothbrushes to brush climbing holds in the gym if the owners are okay with it, this is way cheaper than paying for a single boar hair one.
  1. To stretch your synthetic climbing shoes you can stuff them with some fabric like an old T-shirt or fluffy socks. Make sure the shoes are filled right up and bulging, then heat them up with a hair dryer until the whole shoe feels warm. Quickly take the fabric out, put them on, and let the shoes cool down on your feet. This will help the shoes stretch and mould to your foot shape.
  1. If you can’t get your new climbing shoes on, you can put a plastic bag on your foot to help slide it into the shoe without degloving (or would it be desocking?) your poor heel/foot. Also, if you down-size like crazy in your climbing shoes you can combine tips 2 & 3, and maybe add some moisturiser/Vaseline to the inside of shoe by the pull tabs. Or just buy a size that fits…just saying.
  1. To look after your hands post climb, use any kind of hand cream and add a little blob of an antiseptic cream to it, like Germaline or Savlon. This will moisturise and heal your hands so they’re ready to go next time.
  1. Lastly as I mentioned before, hair ties or elastic bands can be used like little resistance bands to warm up/strengthen your fingers. You can also use a big lump of Blu-Tack or hard putty, and squeeze it in your palm to work your fingers the opposite way.

That’s all I’ve learnt for now but I’m sure I’ll find some more hacks along the way. Feel free to add yours in the comments too!

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Climbers Mental Block

So you’re working on this problem or route, and you just can’t get the move. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as you are trying your best. I’m speaking from personal experience, as it has taken me nearly a year to actually try hard instead of chickening out!

In my mind there was a constant negative monologue because I was scared of falling and failing. The problem was too scary with the little foot hold, or the height, or the wall angle, maybe even all of the above.

“I’ll never make that move…I’m too short…I’m tired from work…I’m not strong enough”.

Thinking these negative thoughts approaching the wall will only help you fall off, and can even make matters worse. Being scared should not stop you from trying hard or make you fall off purposely so you don’t have to face the scary bit! Now I find it grounding watching someone climb and seeing them come off at a move without actually trying it. I know that was me previously, so I sympathise because I know what it feels like to have that block, but at the same time I want to see them really try and do well! So why wouldn’t others feel the same watching me/you?

So what can be done, how can you break through the wall and stop being scared? Honestly you can’t I’m afraid, but you can learn to stop over thinking and turn that fear or excuse into useful energy.

When you get stuck in a negative mind set you just need to snap out of it. Simple as that. Go and sit down and have a snack, get inspired by watching some climbing videos, chat to a friend, grab someone you’re comfortable climbing with or listen to a song to get you psyched. You need to get out of your funk so you can approach the problem positively. If it’s a permanent feeling that you can’t seem to shift, sometimes it’s better to leave and come back fresh. This isn’t defeat, it’s accepting that now is not the time and you’re saving yourself from further frustration and/or possible injury.

If you’re struggling with anxiety or fear when climbing, thinking less is better. Ignore what you think the people around you are thinking of you or your climbing. They are probably focused on themselves trying to climb as hard as they can!

Another tool I like to use is beginning to sing a song in my head as I start the problem. At first it was ‘incy wincy spider’ because that was easy to remember, I have now progressed on to some Taylor Swift or Eminem (diverse, I know). This distracts me from my fear of falling or over thinking the problem just enough to allow me to naturally try hard without thinking about it.

Remember to take enjoyment in the progress you make. One week you can’t reach the hold or make the move, then next week you can fly to it like you’ve always done it. That’s progress and shouldn’t be ignored just because the problem/route didn’t get finished.

For anyone struggling with the mental game, I hope this has helped you know you’re not alone and can do it! I’d love to know how you (safely) push yourself to climb at your best 🙂

– A Girl Who Climbs

Indoor Climbing Tips for a First Timer

Going climbing or bouldering indoor for the first time can be a little unnerving, especially if you don’t know what to expect! Here are a few tips that might help.

smileyWear comfortable clothing. Whatever you would be happy to wear for the gym is normally pretty good for indoor climbing. Tracksuit bottoms/yoga pants/leggings are good because they are tight at the ankle and won’t catch on holds. As it’s generally always cold here in the UK, I found layering tops handy so you can take them off as you warm up.

Trim your nails. There is nothing worse than catching your fingernail on a hold! Also, specific shoes are worn for climbing that help you get friction on the holds, they are uncomfortable but not painful. Trimming your toe nails is a good idea too, and also bring socks if you’re wearing rentals.

Warm up. As in any sport, warming up is very important. At first I’d feel a little self conscious trying to warm up by climbing set problems, so I like to traverse (climbing across the walls using any holds) if the gym is quiet enough. If not, normal cardio exercises like skipping followed by stretches are also a good way to start.

Just go for it. Start on something you feel comfortable with, and feels achievable. It might be scary, but the more you relax the easier it is, and the less likely you are to hurt yourself. I still hold my breathe on climbs, which doesn’t help anything! Breathing is what keeps us alive after all, so don’t deprive your body of oxygen. Sometimes it’s good to sing a song in your head as you climb, or think ‘foot, foot, hand’, and focus on the foot movement.

Have fun. Enjoy the climb, whether it’s getting higher up than you’ve been before, playing games on the walls with friends, or reaching the last hold in a problem. Take satisfaction in the progress and achievements you attain!

– A Girl Who Climbs

Buying Your First Pair of Climbing Shoes

When you’ve got the climbing bug and become tired of paying for rental shoes, it’s time to go purchase your very own boots! Exciting. I’m sure you’ve done your research and know what you want, but it can be overwhelming. Downturn or flat, lace or hook and loop, Evolv or Boreal? Overall, your first pair of shoes will take a beating as you learn, so cheap and cheerful with a good fit is the best place to start. Here are a few points to consider to try to make the shoe shopping stress free…

Try them on. The Internet may have the better variety and prices, but I can’t stress how important it is to go out to the shops and try a bunch of different shoes on. Your foot shape can make or break a pair of climbing boots. Personally I have small, wide feet so I find it harder to fit into brands with slimmer designs, or even female specific shoes.

shoe calculator
Climbing Shoeculator!

This leads nicely into sizing. Bouldering particularly seems to be a contest of who can downsize the most (depending on the brand). Downsizing isn’t always necessary, but sometimes a shoe can hurt more if it’s too big. There’s not really a set rule for sizing in each brand, as every shoe is as different as every foot. Bare in mind that climbing shoes will be uncomfortable, because they make your foot into a little claw, but they should not be painful. For bouldering you want a tight, glove like fit so you can get feedback off the holds.

If in doubt, use the banana fingers shoe calculator, it’s extremely good at giving you a gauge of what size you’re looking for in each brand and fit.

Another way to check if the shoe is a good fit, is to physically measure it against your foot. A rough guide for the length of the shoe can be tested, by holding the sole of the shoe against the bottom of your opposite foot. Make sure the shoe heel is level with your own. From this position you can see where the toe of the shoe lines up with your big toe. A good guide is to have the tip of the shoe toe, come halfway up your big toe. This will give you a tight performance fit, perfect for bouldering.

These were my first pair, Evolv Elektra

Also check what material the shoes are made from. If the shoes you are buying are leather, they will stretch by 0.5 to 1 full size once worn in, where as synthetic shoes will hardly stretch (if at all). Remember that the first few climbs will break in your new boots, so they will get more comfortable!

For a beginners first pair of shoes an all-rounder with a flatter shape is probably the best, so long as they have a tight fit. As for fastening systems, lace ups are good for adjusting the fit of the shoe, where as velcro/hook and loop are easier to take on and off. I’d suggest getting whatever you’re more comfortable with as they both have pros and cons, plus most shoes come in both options.

So, that ended up a longer list than I anticipated, but I just wanted to try and touch on everything! Hopefully this has helped, but if not and you were just looking for a list of shoes, here are a few starter recommendations:

Boreal Joker, Evolv Defy or Elektra, Red Chilli Lady Spirit or Durango, and of course the excellent Five Ten Anasazi, if the heel fits and you have some extra cash.

– A Girl Who Climbs

Bonus Tips

* Cotswolds will price match a website in store, if you can show that your size is in stock online.

* Banana fingers have amazing customer service, and will post you out more than one pair of shoes to try for sizing, and sending the shoes back is easy enough.

* Epic TV shop is extremely well priced, and have free shipping to the EU.

* Check out EBay, you can get brand new boots for a fraction of the price once you know your size.

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