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Finding your Edge: mental wellbeing and climbing

As part of our series looking at mental health and climbing we hosted our first-ever online event with Hetty Key who shared results from her research on wellbeing and the outdoors, talked about the Women’s Trad Festival and answered your questions.


Watch the event

On Thu 21 January, researcher and adventurer Hetty Key (Women in Adventure/Women’s Trad Festival) joined over 100 TCA climbers online to tell us about her work. You can watch or rewatch the full event, which is 1 hour long, below. Captions are available.


Event summary

Mental health benefits to climbing

We got together as a community and were introduced to Hetty’s fascinating research with women on wellbeing and the outdoors. Here are our key takeaways from the talk. We definitely recommend (re)watching for yourself to find out your own.

• Hetty looked into the effect of several outdoor activities on their participants. With climbing in particular, her survey showed that people placed a far stronger emphasis on the mental benefits than on the physical benefits.
• A common theme in the survey was self-image and identity. Women described having found a new perspective on their body and what it can do
• Another crucial effect of spending time outdoors was the feeling of belonging it generated. People described feeling a strong connection to the planet while climbing.
• As demonstrated by the large turnout to this event (100+), we can feel the strength of the climbing community. According to Hetty’s research, a sense of community is a key factor for an individual when deciding whether or not to continue a sport. One of our favourite tips of the evening was to seek out role-models early, and keep them close if you can, so they can continue to inspire you!
• Finally, we had quite a few questions from the audience about dealing with fear. Hetty shared her own stories of mid-route meltdowns and recoveries from unexpected falls. Her own strategy was to return to basics and rediscover her old favourite routes. Our key takeaway was to acknowledge the bad days, and stay patient. Better days will come.


The speaker

About Hetty Key

Hetty Key is a keen outdoorswoman who loves adventure, endurance and data!

Hetty runs Women in Adventure – an independent research company championing women in the outdoors. She is also a director of Women’s Trad Festival – a popular climbing festival centred around three core values: accessibility, sustainability and mental wellbeing. Combining her love of the outdoors with her scientific background, Hetty is passionate about using data to increase diversity and improve accessibility within the outdoors. Her research looks closely at the links between positive mental wellbeing and the outdoors as well as participation and sustainability.

When she’s not staring at spreadsheets or deep in festival logistics, you can typically find Hetty faffing with climbing gear, swimming in icy rivers, running up hills or falling off her mountain bike. When it comes to her own personal adventures, she likes to bite off more than she can chew and is rather fond of type two fun!

Women in adventure / Women’s Trad Festival
Hetty on Instagram: @mudchalkandgears
Hetty on Twitter: @women_adventure and @hettykey

Photo © Jessie Leong



You may also be interested in:

Hazel Findlay’s Finding the positive – the psychology of climbing
Thu 18 February 2021, 7.30pm