Hazel Findlay on Once Upon... E9Interview

© Paul Bride

Richie Patterson of Wild Country has put together this mini interview with Hazel Findlay on her ground-breaking ascent of Once Upon a Time in the South West (E9).

  • Read the original UKC report on this ascent here: UKC News

Hazel Findlay climbing '69' the 5.13b/c (E8?) crack in Squamish  © Paul Bride /
Hazel Findlay climbing '69' the 5.13b/c (E8?) crack in Squamish
© Paul Bride /
Richie said:

Following Hazel Findlay's ascent of Dave Birkett's Once upon A Time in The Southwest E9 6c, making her the first British woman to climb E9, I wanted to find out a bit more from Hazel about her ascent. Unfortunately Hazel was just heading out to Newfoundland on a pretty amazing looking trip so we just got the basics and hopefully I'll speak to her again when she returns.


Why this route?

I'd always been interested in doing James' Walk of Life but it wasn't until my friend wanted to check it out that I considered trying it. I went down and I top roped both E9s - Walk Of Life and Once Upon a Time in the Southwest. I enjoyed both of them a lot, but found the crux of Walk Of Life to be quite height dependent. I worked out how to do the move but it was really hard. The crux on Dave's route is also hard but I worked out a way of doing it that felt a lot more doable than the crux on Walk Of Life.

How long did you try it for?

After that day I went back a month or so later with my friend Charlie after my exams had finished but I wasn't sure I wanted to commit to it since I only had 10 days or so before I had to leave the UK and lots of things to do. I was also very unfit from spending the last few months reading books so should have really been training or at least getting some mileage in. But Charlie wanted to do it and it's such a cool wall, that I couldn't really say no.

So we went down again and I had a third session on it. Then the rain came! We sat in the van for two days as the route soaked up all the water. Then the next day was boiling! First we had to wait for it to dry out, but by that time the wall felt like an oven. I had one top rope go and couldn't do hardly any of it, which psyched me out a lot. Amazingly Charlie could still climb it and he set off at 9.30 at night!

The next day was raining again and Charlie had to get back to work, so my Dad came down to belay me. At this point I was getting pretty stressed out because I knew I had to leave the UK in less than a week and the weather had either been rain or 27 degrees, both of which are not conducive to crimping sharp edges (not for me anyway). But thankfully the next day was pretty much perfect conditions and I got it first try.

Dyer's Lookout topo with the three super-routes  © Rockfax
Dyer's Lookout topo with the three super-routes
UKC News, Nov 2010
© Rockfax
How did the final lead go?

It felt really good. I really enjoyed climbing it. The start was a bit of a battle; I was feeling shaky and cold. But the top runnel that had caused a bit of trouble when working it (since all the holds kept falling off), felt really good. The moves in the runnel are more interesting than the lower part of the route.

I struggled a little at the very top because of the rope drag, which I stupidly made worse by clipping the right rope into a far left piece, but it's not so hard up there so it was all OK. Anyone who thinks they can do a route on that wall should, it's amazing up there, but be quick, because all the holds are dropping off.

How does it feel to be the first woman to climb E9?

Well I don't think I am. Lots of women have climbed much harder trad routes. For example the difficulty of Beth Roddon's Meltdown, is in a completely different league compared to 'Once..'.

Hazel Findlay is sponsored by Wild Country , The North Face, Sterling Rope and La Sportiva


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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 64 posts 10 videos

12 Jul, 2011
What a brilliant ascent! I could never climb on that wall in summer. BTW if you ever go back for the other one... I found a non height dependent way to do the crux of the Walk of Life. I found it a bit of a stretch where James did a long reach rightwards. If you rock directly up onto your left foot rather than stretch out right, there is another flat edge that takes you directly to the first jug ledge. I can't remember exactly how it goes but it's much easier if you are a short guy - or girl!
12 Jul, 2011
I think this is awesome. Well done Hazel!
13 Jul, 2011
She doesn't quite say that, but, rather, makes (gallant) reference to a very hard route that happens to be graded under a different system (and kind of implies that other such examples exist). I believe the fact remains that she is the first woman to lead a route GRADED at E9, if that makes sense.
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