Emily Allen (14) Climbs Aberration, 8a

© Craig Bailey

Emily Allen, showing the technical nature of Peak Lime on Aberration, 8a, Cheedale  © Craig Bailey
Emily Allen, showing the technical nature of Peak Lime on Aberration, 8a, Cheedale
© Craig Bailey

14 year old Emily Allen has just redpointed Aberration, 8a, at Cheedale, in the Peak District, this makes her one of the youngest British females to climb a route of this standard, and the youngest to climb the 8a grade in Britain. Kitty Wallace also climbed 8a aged 14, with an ascent of Daniboy, in Kalymnos (UKC News Report)

Emily, born on the 1st of January, is from Mow Cop on the Staffordshire/Cheshire border, has been climbing since a very young age, starting outside scrambling over rocks on holiday in Chamonix, or out with her Dad, Dave Allen, and his friends on the Grit. Emily then began climbing indoors, at Warrington's North West Face, and then joined a club at Upper Limits in Longnor, where she discovered climbing competitions. She has entered the BMC's Youth Climbing Series, making the final at Ratho in her first year, and then winning at Westway in 2009. She has continued to compete since then but has often suffered injuries at key times.

This is Emily's hardest ascent to date by a good way, with her previous hardest redpoint being Space Race, 7b+, at Malham Cove, and her hardest onsight being Face Race, 7a+, at LPT. However it is not just this that makes her ascent so impressive. More astonishingly, Emily has very recently recovered from a very serious and life-threatening illness that has seen her unable to climb at all for many months. Emily has just recovered from Osteomyelitis, an infection of the femur in her right leg. Talking to UKC, Emily's Dad, Dave gave more information on Emily's condition:

"It was at the beginning of the September last year, the evening she ticked her hardest redpoint to date, Rubicon, 7a, at Water-cum-Jolly, that Emily was complaining of feeling unwell. She actually said she felt ill all that day but hadn't said anything because she wanted to go climbing. She also had a pain in her right knee, after deteriorating and a couple of visits to hospital, an MRI scan was carried out, revealing an absess on the bone above her knee. She was diagnosed with Osteomyelitis, an inection of the bone. It subsequently became apparent how serious this was, in fact potentially life-threatening.

She was treated with various anti-biotics and underwent surgery to remove the infected bone from her femur and had a subsequent 12 visits to the operating theatre. Fortunately the surgeon who operated on her was also a climber, and was keen to get her back on the rock as soon as possible, though pointed out it would be a long road. Thanks to her consultants, Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Emery, and all the staff at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, Emily has made a remarkable recovery and her eagerness to get back to climbing has certainly sped up her rehab, as she could be seen climbing one-legged at the wall, with her right leg in a full brace."

Emily Allen, 14, redpointing her first 8a, Aberration, Cheedale  © Craig Bailey
Emily Allen, 14, redpointing her first 8a, Aberration, Cheedale
© Craig Bailey

Since recovering from having Osteomyelitis, Emily has been building her way up through the grades, often climbing with Ian Dunn, commenting on the effect of this, Dave said:

"Ian has been a real driving force for Emily, giving her the confidence to get on harder routes, even if there are climbers she perceives as being better than her at the crag, and not to worry about what they might be thinking. In addition to this, he has also often provided key beta for Emily on routes such as on Space Race"

Emily's inspiration to try Aberration came from having seen Jordan Buys on the route from the other side of Cheedale, thinking that the line of the route looked great. Upon arriving at her project, Blockhead, 7b, to find it soaking wet, she decided to have a look at Aberration, imagining that it would be too hard. Emily surprised herself, however, within the first session she got most of the moves worked out, and began to feel confident that she could complete the route. After another four sessions and a couple of weeks away, Emily returned to the route on Wednesday the 26th June, Dave Allen described the day of the ascent:

"Em was feeling a little tired and lacking in finger skin, but as it was a nice evening we decided to head down to Cheedale, make the most of the weather and do some easy climbing. She was struggling with hay fever but said she wanted to get on Aberration with a view to refreshing the moves as she wasn't feeling 100%. She went for it anyway, managing the route second redpoint on her sixth session."

Emily Allen, the youngest girl to climb 8a on British soil.  © Craig Bailey
Emily Allen, the youngest girl to climb 8a on British soil.
© Craig Bailey

Emily believes she can climb harder and has some projects in mind in both the Peak and Yorkshire, so watch this space.

Emily would like to thank Dave Billington from the North West Face for supporting her by allowing her free entry to the wall to train and climb.


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5 Jul, 2013
I know we could do the maths, but simply saying that she was born on January 1 somewhat implies that she is just 6 months old :-) Great achievement and a nice sequence of photos
5 Jul, 2013
Good to hear Emily's story.
5 Jul, 2013
Inspiring stuff, and to go from a 7b+ hardest redpoint to an 8a? Wow.
5 Jul, 2013
The 7b+ was very quick and I think really more about improving skills on rock. As an indoor comp climber Emily was physically already a very capable climber. Brilliant effort on Abberation, well done! BTW Hope Emily won't mind me saying that the scar on her leg from the operation is really quite impressive!
5 Jul, 2013
WOO!!! Go Emily!!!! Xxx
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