It’s no secret that British women are climbing harder than ever before. But until this weekend, only four British women had climbed F8b+ and everyone was wondering who’d be the first to crack F8c. The wait is over, and we have a winner: Hazel Findlay with her ascent of Fish Eye at Oliana.
Until this weekend, the upper limit of British female sport climbing was F8b+. Only four had managed this elite grade: Lucy Creamer (Kalea Borroka, Siurana), Hazel Findlay (Kalea Borroka), Mina Leslie-Wujastyk (Mecca, Raven Tor) and Katy Whittaker (China Crisis, Oliana).
But BMC ambassador Hazel Findlay has proved, once more, that she’s right at the top of her game with a successful redpoint of Fish Eye (F8c) at Oliana. Time to ask her some questions.
How long were you trying it for?
I did it on my seventh day. Some days I tried it twice, others just once.
What’s the route like? Could you describe the crux?
The crazy thing about Fish Eye is that there is no real crux. There are probably three obvious hard sections, but the hardest part is that there is no easy climbing. It’s really sustained for 50m, from the start to the top, and it’s really steep until the upper crux. This is just steeper than vertical (sport climbers call it a slab, but it’s not) on little pockets and crimps. The redpoint crux for small people is this big move left at about half height. It’s to a good hold but if you’re pumped you can’t hold it.
How did the redpoint go?
It felt really easy. On my previous highpoint attempt, I was power screaming, and I actually strained my forearms because I tried too hard when I was ridiculously pumped. That set me back for a few days, because I was trying to climb but I still felt pumped. The day I did it, it was actually a bit too hot but I’d rested for two days and I felt fresh.
Did you pick the route for the grade or the line?
I picked it because my friend Walker was trying it, and he said it was really good. When I first started trying it, I never even thought I’d do it this trip. I just said: “Well, I’ll work out the moves for next year so I know how fit I’ll need to be”. I thought I’d need to train for a route like that. But then I gave it a random try and got through the first two cruxes, so I knew I could do it.
Did you train specifically for it?
No way! I spent the winter walking with heavy rucksacks in Patagonia. It was the worst training you could think of.
What’s easier for you: F8c or E9?
Haha! About the same. Although I spent a few more days on the F8c. But I’m a better climber two years later, so maybe the E9 would feel easier now.
The British women are really inspiring at the moment, but who inspires you?
Anyone I see trying really hard, my friends at the crag, strangers at the crag. The grade doesn’t matter. It’s all relative: you just have to try hard with what you have, whether that’s V2 strength or V13 strength.
So, what’s next?
Well, I tried Mind Control today and it felt easier than Fish Eye, even though it’s supposed to be F8c+. But I only have a week left and it’s wet so it looks unlikely. Then it’s Yosemite in May!
Who will be the first British woman to climb F9a? Who knows – but one things is for certain: at this rate, we won’t have to wait long.