Young Scottish competition climber and team GB member, Hannah Kerr tells us about her lockdown, from disappointment to focussed training and success.
AAAAAAAAAAAARGHHHHH!!!! This was my first reaction to lockdown. I was sooooo looking forward to the year ahead. I was sitting top of the age category in Youth B, had 7 European competitions representing Team GB, booked to test myself in and I wanted to build on last years’ experiences and results to better my top 20 finish!
As it became clear that the whole world was going to be affected by Covid-19, with lockdowns triggered everywhere, I began to panic more – life without training, or with no access to a climbing wall was just unthinkable. My coach, Gaz Vincent and Alex Kemp stepped up and they managed to get materials and built me a climbing wall in the garage. My wall has been set by Gaz, so I’m sure all TCA regulars will appreciate how challenging all my circuits and problems are. It has kept me sane, or as sane as normal anyway and been a lifesaver physically too.
Next blow: all of my competitions were cancelled: I was really disappointed, but I decided, that to keep myself motivated to train, I needed to set myself some new goals and it would always give me the opportunity to work on my many weaknesses. I used my wall during lockdown working on endurance, power, jumps, plus lots of conditioning, including a little running, which I don’t enjoy and even joined in with my brother’s gymnastics training, which I enjoyed probably less. Zoom sessions with friends down south were great – we challenged each other to difficult or impossible climbs and had a laugh at one another – that much-missed social interaction for us climbers is something we all crave.
Climbing hard outdoors
As things relaxed I set myself some outdoor goals too: I never get much chance to do outdoor climbing due to my commitments on the competition scene (and the unpredictable weather in Scotland), but I do enjoy getting out there.
My coach lives in Dumbarton and he spoke to me about Dumbuck. Known as the 7c+ climber’s crag and isn’t used a lot. The crag is 35-45 degrees overhanging with short, powerful routes, requiring good footwork on the glassy holds. My homeboard is 45 degrees overhanging so decided that this was a good place to start post lockdown. My 1st aim was to climb Awaken 7c+ and because it’s a 3-star route I thought it would be a fab route to go for. As soon as the 5-mile lockdown restriction was lifted I took full advantage of getting out to Dumbuck. Awaken went quickly and I really enjoyed the route style, with a fab dyno halfway up the route; my favourite move! Because I had so much fun there I decided to spend more time at Dumbuck trying the other routes. Gentle Mass Touching 7c was next; another powerful route making a hard move to gain the undercut groove, pull through and attack the headwall. Flesh for Fantasy 7c+ went next and I loved this route with a good campus move! Finally, I decided to try If Six was Nine 7c. This felt the hardest of them all and took me longer to achieve than the others but I enjoyed the process and learnt so much about good footwork and use of body position to make the most of the holds.
After sending these climbs at Dumbuck I went back to Dumby to finish Consolidated; a boulder project that I had started before lockdown. It’s amazing how easy it felt compared to pre-lockdown which showed me that I had gained some extra strength.
Can I climb 8a?
My next outdoor goal was to climb 8a: as a Lattice athlete, this has been an aim for the last couple of years. Still no OK in Scotland to open the climbing gyms, this was, obviously, a prime opportunity to work my endurance and get it done! I had previously spoken to Natalie Berry about an 8a route at Dunkeld Upper Cave called ‘Ching’. I have climbed other routes in Dunkeld and enjoy the crag and the area. Many of the routes crossover each other and so I was confident that I could do this route. It was difficult to find a topo for this route so managed to get lots of information from Koon Morris and Rebekah Drummond, as they had climbed it previously. Ching goes up the 1st 2 clips of Silk Purse, avoiding the rest, heading left to 2 ring bolts not used in the other routes, using smaller holds to gain the rail from Hamish Teds, moving directly up into the Marlina crack, continue up and through the groove finishing at the high chains on Silk Purse. I spent 2 days practising the route, falling a lot and getting really frustrated (thankfully April Welch was on hand to help with the beta) when the top of the route was really wet! On day 3 I felt amazing and everything clicked: I climbed it my 1st attempt and was so delighted. I used this excitement to also flash Marlina 7c and Ultima Necat 7b+ on the same day before the Scottish weather hit.
Reflecting on a strange year
Lockdown was awful and changed everything for me, but after my first reaction scream, I am so happy to have turned this experience into a positive and achieve these goals. I am continuing to challenge myself and have set new goals which are keeping my training motivation high.
I always thought of myself as a competition climber but I am so grateful for this opportunity to challenge and push myself on rock and I am loving the process of projecting tough climbs – lockdown has changed my thinking and what I want in the future.
My climbs and photos are on my Instagram @hannahclimber and YouTube channel Hannahclimber Kerr. Thanks for all the support and I can’t wait to get back to TCA and spend some time on plastic and competition blocs, using what I have been learning outdoors to climb harder.
Celebrate the wins
While we wait for news on when (hopefully not if!) our Scottish walls can open we are keen to share your stories on Instagram of climbing wins. So tag us if you'd like a share. If you want to share your love letter to climbing, you can submit it here and read stories from other climbers. For all news on reopening follow us on social or keep an eye on TCA Life.
PHOTOS: Hannah at The Prop Store by Sam Scriven. Other images supplied by Hannah Kerr.