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Running into Ropes – Discovering the World of Climbing

Adventurer and TCA staff member Emma Marple shares the joy she has experienced climbing and exploring cultures around the world. She also offers advice on how the wild at heart can keep spirits high during lock-down.


“On belay!”…. my heart fluttered. I quickly double-checked my knot and harness, smiling, I filled my lungs with forest air… beaming with joy I yelled, “climbing!” before setting off… on a journey that will last an entire lifetime, that’s right, the adventures of climbing.

My journey began back in September 2017, when a sheep farm volunteer experience went sideways and led me to flee on a whim to the mountains. Trail running was a big focus in my life at that point, so I was in search of forest single tracks and mountains to run free in. I ended up volunteering at a hostel, in a small town where a giant granite monolith soars out from the evergreen forests, and the low rolling clouds nestle in the mountains, drifting gently across as the seas meet the sky. This wasn’t just any town I stumbled across, it was Squamish, British Columbia. The self-proclaimed “adventure capital of Canada”… a giant outdoor, wild playground!

While running up the Stawamus Chief a day after arriving, I was in total awe that people could climb mountains using rope, rubber (aka climbing shoes) and some bits of metal (cams, nuts & bolts). But it didn’t take long before my curiosity and love for adventure set in. Within the first week, I met some folk and started tagging along to the local crag, the Smoke Bluffs, which is where I tied in and climbed my very first route, up a granite crack. Then, a few weeks after getting myself up my first route, and learning the ropes, I embarked on my first multi-pitch adventure, up The Apron of the Stawamus Chief. Over-stoked and ever so keen, I set off after buying my own harness, an ATC, adopting a pair of old climbing shoes, full of holes, that someone was throwing out. That’ll do I thought. I didn’t even have a chalk bag. I guess you could say I was a dirtbag from the start. I learned how to clean gear on my way up and how to abseil from the top. The beginning days of my journey were full of crack climbing, learning rope-work and knots, and heading out to the smoke bluffs every chance I got. Tagging along with and learning lots from more experienced climbers, always beaming with joy and in total awe of mother nature.

A world of adventure

Since my early days in Squamish, I have been very fortunate to travel the world and climb in many parts of this beautiful planet earth. From living out of my van (Bluebell) in British Columbia, exploring the vast beauty of that province, and driving through various states in America, climbing in places like Smith Rock and the Sierra Nevada mountain’s. To packing my backpack, and flying around the globe, immersing myself in different cultures from Europe to Morocco. I got the chance to climb in Switzerland, Spain, U.K, and New Zealand.

Now my journey has taken me to the land of green hills and sheep – Scotland – where I have been living for the past 11 months, exploring local crags like Dumby, and further afield to Glen Etive as well as the Lake District. I have also been lucky enough to go back to Spain twice for climbing, and Kalymnos, Greece, since basing myself in Scotland. During my time here, I’ve also been fortunate to become a part of the TCA community, while working at the two walls here in Glasgow, The Newsroom and The Prop Store.

Firing passion for mother nature

Climbing to me is so much more than a sport. It is a way to connect with nature, challenge my mind, connect with people, be a part of a community and a reason to experience different parts of the world. From deep valley crags to sunny limestone with the Mediterranean Sea crashing below, to goat bells clanging on the side of cliffs as prayer calls echo in the vast empty mountains. To watching the last ray of sunlight dip behind the peak across from the mountain you stand atop, where only a few hours ago you stood beneath its shadow in the forest. I love the adventure of it all, the journey of not only a lifetime of learning but also each route that I climb. To overcoming fears, often irrational, and proving to myself what my mind (and body) is capable of. I love the freedom of being able to explore and be outside in this beautiful world we are lucky to live in. Climbing fires my passion for mother nature, wanting to not only immerse myself in all her wild sides but also protect places for the future of this planet and of course the next generation of climbers.

Tips for keeping spirits high

I know that we are all experiencing different emotions and this virus pandemic will affect us all uniquely. I think it is important to remind yourself of the beautiful world that is getting a breath of fresh air, while we humans wait to go back out and explore. It’s okay if you don’t stay psyched this whole time, that’s only natural, but here are some tips to keep you in good spirits for when freedom returns:

  • Write lists – personal goals, places you wish to travel — anything to keep you motivated!
  • Practice gratitude –write out 3 things every day you are grateful for.
  • Rope skills – learning is continuous!
  • Stretch, yoga, run – any movement that feels good and serves your body during this time.
  • Watch climbing films (not too many of course, have some screen-free time too).
  • Read books or magazines – something for the mind to munch on.
  • Clean your rope, sort through your gear – make sure everything is in good working order for your return to the outdoors.
  • Create a climbing wish list – gear you’d like to invest in, routes you’d like to climb…maybe some more local crags this year?
  • Fill your life with other hobbies and projects that are not climbing related – because although it is wonderful and a big part of our lives, it is not the only thing in your life. Remember, balance is key.

A journey that lasts a lifetime – climb on!

Remember, the mountains aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, stay positive, be grateful for your health during this time (it is the true wealth) and keep yourself busy dreaming of adventures to come, moving your body, and learning new skills.

Never forget, climbing is a journey that lasts a lifetime; maybe think back to where yours started, and think about how far you have come, and all that’s still ahead. As Peter Pan once said, “to live would be an awfully big adventure.” Don’t wish away your time now, this too shall pass…”climb on!” my partner shouted, as I wedged, then twisted my hands and feet into the first crack up the granite monolith.

Although she is currently staying home, you can follow Emma's adventures on Instagram. If you enjoyed Emma's story, you may enjoy reading the love letters to climbing written by members of our community. Click the link to read or submit your own. Main image - Spain. Others include: Smith Rock (Oregon, USA), Costa Blanca (Spain) and Squamish (Canada).