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Perfect Partners #2 - Hazel Findlay and Madeleine Cope Article

© Jack Geldard

In this series of articles, Tom Ripley interviews some well-known climbing partnerships to dig up their dirty secrets and find out what they really think of one another...

Hazel Findlay and Madeleine Cope are two of the strongest climbers ever to come out of Warrington. Whilst Hazel (28) is one of the superstars of world climbing, the equally talented Maddy (26) is one of its rising stars. Both have made free ascents of Yosemite's El Capitan and together they make up half of the very small number of British women who have sport climbed 8c. Earlier in 2017 Maddy made an ascent of Bat Route at Malham Cove, her first route of the grade and Hazel climbed Mind Control in Oliana, marking her return to hard climbing after shoulder surgery in 2015.

James McHaffie surrounds himself with the talented and enthusiastic Hazel Findlay and Maddy Cope  © Jack Geldard
James McHaffie surrounds himself with the talented and enthusiastic Hazel Findlay and Maddy Cope
© Jack Geldard, Apr 2014

Hazel has been climbing nearly all of her life. Her dad Steve climbs and is possibly the only remaining member of the Clean Hand Gang* and introduced Hazel to climbing on the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire aged eight. As a youth she dabbled in competition climbing, before giving up aged sixteen to focus on climbing rock.

Maddy, on the other hand, started climbing during sixth form, by sheer coincidence: a guy she started to chatting to, in one of Warrington's excellent night clubs, told her about an epic he'd had in the Alps, involving a helicopter rescue. To Maddy this sounded much more adventurous than dancing to cheesy music and drinking alcopops. Somehow she managed to persuade him to take her to the local climbing wall, and from there she was hooked.

Hazel and Maddy have climbed together around the world: sport climbing in France and Spain, alpine rock; road trips in the States and Canada; choss climbing in Sudan and the Avon Gorge and sea cliffs in Pembroke.

*A group of climbers including Pat Littlejohn, Streaky Desroy and Steve Findlay who refused to use chalk.

Hazel on Maddy

How did you first meet?

I went to school with Maddy. Maddy went out with my friend called Kyle for a bit and my first memory of her was outside a pub in our local village. She was talking about how Kyle had taken her to London for her birthday present. Maddy then went out with one of my best friends, Howard, who is a climber and this is how she started climbing. This is when Maddy started to become the Maddy we now know and love.

What was your first impression?

I thought she was quite silly and young and that we had nothing in common because she was talking about going London for her birthday and who wants to go to London for their birthday? She obviously needed climbing in her life.

What was the first route you climbed together?

Oooooh I don't know the answer to this question, probably some horrible pile of choss in the Avon Gorge.

Madeline Cope 2
© Mammut

Why do you enjoy climbing with Maddy?

I mostly enjoy climbing with Maddy because she's so psyched and determined (although this can be a bit annoying when you want to leave the crag and go to the pub and she's making you look bad by doing 6 more pitches in the dark). I also like her humour and her energy. She is generally a real joy to climb with.

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

I was going to say the pinnacle in Sudan but that can be the scariest. I loved climbing Republic Bananiere in the Envers, Chamonix with Maddy. It's pretty easy but it's quite big and we had a great time navigating our way up and dodging snow patches. This was a summer when neither of us had any money and we were both living out of my Citroen Saxo Desire. We were eating a big bag of sweets from Carrefour because they were cheap; this was before we knew that sugar is bad for you. I ate a few to fuel me up the last few pitches. I raced to the top but then as soon as I got there I crashed. That was a time when I was default team leader so I lead all the abs (the wrong abs) in the dark with a banging head ache. I reckon we're both smarter now.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Chatting, chatting, chatting (what else do girls do when they climb together?)

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

I think it has to be this complete pile of choss in Sudan that we had to climb for a National Geographic documentary. We had to set up a rope and take photos and video of an ancient hieroglyph on top of this sandstone pinnacle. I remember being really scared because there was no gear and everything felt crumbling but I had to look cool for the cameras.

I think Maddy might have been most scared belaying me on this route called Mustang at Caderese in Italy. I was doing that thing when you're too pumped to place gear but you decide to keep moving. I got to the anchor and looked down and there was no gear in the last half of the pitch; she didn't seem too impressed.

If you could change one thing about Maddy what would it be?

She could be a bit worse at climbing so she wasn't making me look bad so often.

Maddy checks out the topo in the Alps.
© Hazel Findlay

What are your plans for the future?

I'm hoping that Maddy will finally admit she's really good at climbing and become a professional climber and then we can travel round the world and climb cool stuff together. Then she can drag me up stuff and hopefully start making me look good. And then when I'm all burnt out and old she can carry on crushing and give me her old climbing jackets (she owes me).

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Maddy?

I think the time I've seen Maddy most stressed was on this offwidth chimney thing in Caderese. It was over 30 degrees and she basically started overheating to the point of having a panic attack. It was pretty uncomfortable for me too because all the sweat was dripping off her and dripping on to me! But in true Maddy style, when everyone else would have given up, she kept going. It was a fine example of determination.

Has Maddy ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

I'm probably the cheater in the relationship. Although I think she's going to Morocco with Ryan this winter and I reckon she might cheat on me there.

What have you learned from climbing with Maddy?

I've learnt that some people are really good at climbing without being super strong physically. She's a perfect example of how mindset can get you as far as you want to in climbing; everything else is just a bonus.

Maddy on Hazel

How did you first meet?

We went to the same school so I knew who she was for a while before I actually started hanging out with her – she was one of those scary older girls.

What was your first impression?

Short and blonde, but somehow still a bit scary – strong willed, critical, confident, well-travelled (I had barely left Warrington!), philosophical, and not afraid of a debate.

Did you know of Hazel by reputation before climbing together?

I started climbing in Warrington wall and so I knew of her reputation there – she was the good one with fingers of steel.

What was the first route you climbed together?

I can't really remember. Hazel was around a lot when I started leading, but one of the first times I remember properly climbing with her was in the Smoke Bluffs in Squamish, where she told me how to use my feet when crack climbing – I probably couldn't afford that sort of advice from her now.

Hazel Findlay climbing Mind Control 8c+
© Jonny Baker

Did Hazel live up to her reputation?

Yes, but I think her fingers might be made of stronger stuff than steel.

Why do you enjoy climbing with Hazel?

She is fun and adventurous. She has an analytical mind and is not afraid to tell you if you could improve something – this makes you think about why you do things, which helps you push yourself. I guess that is why she is so good at the coaching.

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

Probably the Republique Bananiere at the Envers. It was a bit of a shambles: we struggled to find the right bit of rock, started late, ate too much sugar, abseiled down the wrong line (a really shallow gully where the ropes got tangled at every possible opportunity) with terrible sugar-crash headaches. It was a day with all sorts of emotions; fun, stress, fatigue, which always makes climbs memorable. I remember feeling very much like the less experienced climber (which I was), so it was a bit like a guided day out!

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Short, blonde, bendy

Best thing about climbing with Hazel?

She is really good, so can probably always get my clips/gear back.

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

You never feel scared in the safe hands of Hazel Findlay.

If you could change one thing about Hazel what would it be?

She could be a bit taller and then she could get the first clip in routes. We got some funny looks at Ceuse when we were balancing on each other's shoulders trying to reach the first bolts. Luckily, now I have Ryan to do this for me.

What are your plans for the future?

We were going to go to Yosemite together, but then she found a pretty ginger man wandering around Chamonix with no top on and thought she better take him instead.

Hazel Findlay  © Rockbusters
Hazel Findlay
© Rockbusters

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Hazel?

One of my least enjoyable climbing experiences was with Hazel (though she was just belaying so it probably was quite entertaining for her). It was a heat wave and we were in Italy at a granite crag called Cadarese. I decided to climb this 7b open book groove thing. It was so hot and sweaty that most of my effort went into not sliding out. Progress was slow. I think sweat was literally pouring off me. I managed to do it somehow (I think Hazel was amazed I didn't just give up) and then basically had a minor panic attack when I got down from overheating. It was probably type 3 fun. Hazel was very supportive – I think she has a picture somewhere.

Has Hazel ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

Given that Hazel travels around climbing and I work in Sheffield she has probably climbed a lot of routes that I would have wanted us to do together. Though really, by the time I have got to thinking about doing certain routes (i.e. I thought I might have a chance of scraping my way up them), she has already done them.

What have you learned from climbing with Hazel?

That you don't have to be wafe (an abbreviation for someone who is wafer-thin) to climb 8c and if you're going to be short and (relatively) weak then you need to be bendy.

Watch a video of Hazel and Maddy climbing together in Indian Creek below:

Hazel is sponsored by: Black Diamond, EpicTV, La Sportiva, Lyon Outdoor, Sterling Rope, Motion Nutrition and is a BMC Ambassador.

Maddy is sponsored by Mammut, La Sportiva and Lyon Outdoor.

Hazel Findlay has been climbing for 25 of her 31 years, and started out trad climbing on the limestone sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire. She dabbled in competition climbing - she was the British junior champion six...

Hazel's Athlete Page 51 posts 6 videos

Maddy has made a name for herself on hard and bold trad climbing. She has made ascents of Dave Birkett's Once Upon a Time in the South West (E9 6c) and Beat Kammerlander's Prinzip Hoffnung...

Madeleine's Athlete Page 7 posts

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14 Sep, 2017
Nice article; the friendly ribbing comes across well. I loved the new 'wafe' terminology too ;-)
14 Sep, 2017
Should be "waif" though, shouldn't it?https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waif
18 Sep, 2017
I dunno, waif is just a plain ordinary dictionary word; wafe is a bit more peng <ahem> #HazelFindlayfornextchiefscout

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