One of the top British trad & sport climbers, route setter and co-founder of Creative Climbing
Thank you to Emma for letting us interview her after route setting at Oakwood Climbing Centre.
Who you are and what do you do?
I’m Emma Twyford. I’m a professional route setter and a semi-professional climber, I guess. [laughs]
What was your first climbing experience?
My first climbing experience was very long ago, it was age 7. I actually started outside, on traditional rock climbing. My dad joined the mountain rescue team up in Cockermouth. Him and his friends in the team got me into climbing and took me out to Shepherd’s Crag and did a Diff [UKC lists it as S4a] called Donkey’s Ears. That was my first experience, in a full body harness. Then I went inside. So I’m the opposite to a lot of people, I think.
How did you know that climbing was your thing?
Well I was never very good at all the team sports; basically I’m not very coordinated on the ground. However I just took to climbing, I enjoyed it and I’m not scared of heights. It was the one thing that seemed to stick. My dad tried to get all of my family into climbing and I’m the only one who ended up liking it. My brother and sister hate it [laughs].
Where is your favourite outdoor climb?
I’m a big advocate of TRAD youth climbing, especially traditional rock climbing, so my favourite is very hard to choose. I really like Lost Horizons and it’s up on Scafell and it’s an E4. That’s a very special place.
What has been your proudest climbing moment?
Actually, probably in hindsight it wasn’t something that was my immediate proudest moment, but looking back on it is probably flashing an 8a in Conwy called Statement of Youth. At the time I didn’t really appreciate how hard it actually was and that it’s not been on-sighted or flashed very much at all. So, I’ve become one of less than 5 people to do that in the UK, on that route and it was the first female flash of an 8a in the UK (not abroad because there’s a lot of them). It’s hard to read and much more tricky. I have lots of traditional rock climbing proud moments to be honest. Especially this year. I guess probably the big one for was doing Big Issue on Pembroke. That was my dream route of the year and it’s an E9. It’s not had that many ascents placing the gear on it,mainly as it’s really hard to do that and it’s a lot of faff of well. It’s very steep and it’s hard to get the gear out. But it was something I particularly worked at to get.
What are your ambitions?
Well I’ve got one very short term immediate ambition, which is to climb 9a. At the moment I’ve been trying a route called Big Bang and falling off 4 or 5 moves from the top. So it’s very, very close [laughs]. So that’s my immediate ambition. I think, obviously, I’m in my 30’s now so have to look at life ambitions as well, basically getting myself set up in the route setting industry, to be as respected as I possibly can be but also getting more women into route setting and be a good role model for women. Hopefully to inspire them that it’s a job they can do, that it’s not impossible. It’s a very male dominated industry at the moment so to try to change the ways. Also to get my national setting ticket, to have that experience as well. To go out and have lots of adventures, that’s my general ambition, basically. [laughs]
Lead, Speed or Boulder and Why?
I do like bouldering but I always see bouldering as a way to get strong for lead. I never particularly tried projecting bouldering just yet. I like the variety that I can do sport climbing or I can do trad climbing. I feel like a get more sense of satisfaction on the wall out of that.
What are your most liked and hated healthy foods?
I really hate cauliflower or brussels sprouts, they’re up there as my least favourite. I’m learning to like cauliflower a little bit more when it’s not boiled – to death. I really love avocados, I could live off avocados and mackerel [laughs]
If not climbing, what sport would you be doing?
A lot of sports I used to do as a kid have fallen by the wayside. So I used to play squash, I used to fell run, I used to ski. Probably the one that I’d most like to still be doing is ski but it’s really expensive. I can’t afford to do it right now. The risk for me for doing a lot of the other sports is that I can’t afford to get injured so I don’t really put myself at risk. I’d probably go skiing again. I gave up fellrunning because it hurt my knees and gave up squash because it clashed with climbing.
Give us an inspiring quote (either yours or someone else’s).
I have a really, really, really long quote that I can’t remember off the top of my head. It’s in Rachel Farmer’s Trust book. She was the first British woman to climb French 8a. There’s lots of inspirational quotes in there. It’s kind of about that if you don’t risk anything then you forfeit living your own life. So the person who risks nothing, does nothing, is nothing. You forfeit that freedom and the chance to have those adventures. That’s one to go out and research, she was a very inspirational lady. That was my first ever book that I got from a competition.
Emma is sponsored by Patagonia, DMM, Scarpa, Friction Labs, Climbskin & V12 Outdoor. She runs ladies route setting workshops for Creative Climbing with Evie Cotrulia.
Interviewed by Amelie (age 13)