Leah Crane is one of the UK's top women boulderers, having climbed Font 8A and won the British Bouldering Championships last year. She has just climbed her first F8a+ out in Spain, where she is travelling and climbing on a road trip in her camper-van.
The route Leah has climbed is at the crag of Murla in the Costa Blanca and is a steep 15m route with a bouldery start and a technical finish.
Of the route Leah said: "It's the hardest route I've done yet and I'm really pleased to step my climbing up to the next level..."
Obviously on good form and improving all the time, I caught up with Leah via email for a quick interview to find out a bit more about her and see what she has planned next:
Jack: Hi Leah, good effort on the 8a+! A great achievement. If I remember correctly, you've been climbing for quite a while now - you must have started young?
Leah: I've just turned 21 and I've been climbing since I was 5 - which is 16 years.
Jack: So you're on a big road trip - where to and how long for?
Leah: We left at the beginning of February and the route goes down through France and Spain then up the coast back into the south of France, across to Switzerland and then finishes in Munich at ISPO. We're away for a whole year and we are already into 5 months now, time flies when you're not working!
Jack: Who else is on the trip?
Leah: My boyfriend Simon Wadsworth, who is also now finally starting to show his potential. He has not been climbing very long and has already busted out two F8a's.
Jack: Before the trip what were your previous 'climbing highlights'?
Leah: Becoming British champion last year, climbing Ben's roof at Raven tor (V10) and the F8a's I did at Wildside in Sella last March.
Jack: Do you think this kind of trip - totally focussing on climbing - is a good way to improve/realise some goals?
Leah: There is no doubt that having this much time to climb helps your climbing. Weather and work no longer gets in the way and we are in a van so we can always be near any projects that we have on the go. It is also making me think that I haven't reached my full potential yet, I have a lot more to offer.
Jack: 'A lot more to offer' - you feel you can take it further, what are you hoping to achieve on the trip?
Leah: I've already achieved my first Font 8A boulder. Hopefully I can consolidate this in Switzerland but I would really like to step it up to Font 8A+. In terms of routes I would like to get an F8b as I have now got an F8a+ so it seems like the next logical step. I don't want to just chase grades though, I want to enjoy my time out here but I'm impatient and don't like to stand still.
Jack: Which other UK women are operating at your level - who are your UK contemporaries?
Leah: Katy Whittaker is high up on my "wad list", she's a true "grit kid". I recently went back for the opening of Rock Over bouldering wall in Manchester and she finished second proving she can cut it indoors as well.
Others that are hot on my heels are Mina Wuji-wuji, the "young pretender" Shauna Coxsey (she is†definitely†one to watch) and also Dianne Merrick, she's got a lot of experience and she's very strong.
Jack: Any trad climbing plans for the trip or the UK?
Leah: When we get back we are hoping to get on some trad and do some headpointing. We would both like to get the three 8's (8a sport, E8 trad and 8A bouldering). Simon has wanted to do it for some time and now I'm up for the challenge too. I don't think any British female holds this title yet (unless anyone knows otherwise).†
Jack: So, on the video of you in Albarracin (see video below), you seem to get pretty emotional about falling off. What mental state do you find yourself in when you are trying hard?
Leah: I have to admit that I do get quite frustrated when I can't do something, but this only sets in when I know†I†can do it and I keep falling off. I kept failing on that particular move in the video, and not included in the edit, I would get straight back on and do the move straight away. I just couldn't do it on the link.
I think it really helps me to get to where I want to be. To me people who don't get emotional about their efforts aren't trying hard enough. Everyone has their own style and it's what ever works for you at the end of the day.
Jack: What motivated you to start climbing, and have your motivations changed now you've been climbing for a while?†
Leah: My brother first got me into to climbing when I was 3 on scout camp. At the age of five I found Nottingham climbing wall, which was to be my second home for the next 13 years until I moved to Sheffield when I was 18.
I was coached from a young age, and soaked up every bit of knowledge I could. From about 11 years, Neil Gresham took me on and really opened my eyes to the world of climbing that was outside Nottingham Climbing Centre. It was here that Ii really began to get motivated and didn't want climbing to just be something that I did and enjoyed - I wanted to live climbing. I have always been competitive and still strive to be the best at what I do. I hate coming second!†
Jack: And how much longer on the trip? And where are you headed next?
Leah: We have until next February to finish the trip and then it's back to the drawing board in the UK to start making next years plans.
In a couple of weeks I will be flying back to Sheffield to defend my title (British Bouldering Champion) with everything I've got, and entering the World Cup at Cliffhanger the weekend after.
The main part of the trip I'm looking forward to is Switzerland. I've been sport climbing for a while now and still have more to go in Ceuse. Having only bouldered in Albarracin I feel that I haven't unleashed everything I have got in me yet.
VIDEO: New Font 8A in Albarracin for Leah Crane (from UKC News May 2010)
Leah has been staying at Epic Adventures in Spain, owned by Gaz Parry.