Cover Photo: Richard Scott
There’s an assumption by outsiders that men take the lead in climbing. Big names like Alex Honnold, Chris Sharma and Alex Megos are known around the world. But more and more woman climbers are emerging and getting the limelight they deserve. Consistently proving that they can climb the same if not harder routes than many men. Well today we catch up with an emerging name in the south coast of the UK climbing scene. Eve Cuthbertson, climber, route setter and an all-round nice person, she sheds some light on her grass roots success last year and her plans moving forward, along with having her say on today’s climbing industry.
I first met Eve when we used to work together at an activity centre. It was very clear then that she was a talented climber. She has always been a motivated and fun individual all the time I have known her, from setting up female only climbing sessions under the “ThisGirlCan” campaign to the many times I saw her working with young people and encouraging them through outdoor sports. Eve is a positive character and one to keep an eye on in the future.
Hello Eve, lets jump straight in and set the scene.
Can you sum up who Eve is for everyone?
Hello! So my name is Eve Cuthbertson and I am a climber and route setter from the south coast. Growing up on the South Downs I’ve spent most of my life outside and have always enjoyed sports. From football to kayaking and mountain biking…. but the last 7 years of my life have revolved around climbing
How did you get involved with climbing?
Before I climbed, I was a footballer and wanted to be a PE teacher! But a family friend pushed me to do the Outdoor Adventure BTEC at Havant & Southdowns College and I was hooked from then on! We went on a residential to Fontainebleau, France and I fell in love with the place. I think this was the defining moment for me, I knew I wanted to be a climber.
Many climbers have had ‘close shaves’ when they were starting out or during their climbing life. Have you had any and did you pick-up any valuable lessons from them?
Luckily not! I’ve always been a cautious person. I know friends who have had near misses and I have seen a fair few accidents indoors and outside. I think you develop an appreciation for how quickly things can go wrong if your not experienced. I have had some pretty good mentors along the way who have taught me a lot.
Have you suffered any major injuries through climbing? If so, how did this effect you both physically and mentally?
Yes I have….3 years ago I severely sprained both my ankles within 4 weeks of each other! I had a small fracture to my right as a result of the ligament damage. Physically it took about a year before I was truly back climbing with no issues. I was able to use the time I had off to do some serious training which made me a much stronger climber as a result. Mentally I took a hit with pushing myself with high moves…anything that required rocking over and moving my weight onto my feet, I feared hurting myself again. It’s taken time but I think I’m getting over that fear now.
Was there a point when you’d been climbing a while and thought that you wanted to really have a ‘go’ at being a climber, Is this why you have moved into route setting for a job?
Haha I don’t think there was any one point I decided I wanted more, I had toyed with the idea of going into route setting for a few years. Taking the plunge and quitting a full time job was the hardest part (luckily I had some encouraging friends who are route setters to push me). Its not easy getting work when you don’t have name as such. Up until recent events I had been getting more regular sets and work from London walls, which really felt like a bit of success to me!
didn’t you recently have an all-female route set?
I did have an all female set at Boulder Brighton which I was so pleased to be asked to do. They are a great wall for championing female setters and helping them into the industry.
Where’s your favourite place to climb? And do you have a favourite route? Or one your currently working on?
For Bouldering it has to be Fontainebleau or Magicwood. Blindfish in Magicwood is a 7b boulder I’d love to get back on! Also Carnage in Font is a project of mine at the moment….I have long list of boulders to get on in Font! I haven’t had many sport climbing trips but I have loads of routes on the south coast I want to do.
When did you start competing and what has been your best result so far?
I started competing around 4 years ago. I won a fair few of the local monthly comps at Red Spider and their 1st birthday comp. My best result at a bigger comp was coming 3rd at Boulder Brightons anniversary comp and 1 place from finales in a round of Blokfest.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON COMPETING, DO YOU PLAN TO DO MORE?
I enjoy it but its not my main focus. I love the routes that get put up as they are so different, and you can get some really good inspiration from them. I think at the end of the day I’d rather climb outside!
Are there a lot of women in your competitions and do you see the group of women climbers grow each year? Is there anything that can be done to help grow this on a grassroots level?
A lot of comps don’t ever get that many female climbers competing compared to men. On a grassroots level I think things are starting to change but its still early days. I think one of the main reasons for so few females at comps is down to image and cultural stereotypes.
Do you feel things are moving in the right direction for woman in climbing, there have been some big names over the years and some amazing talent emerging in recent years? Is there more to be done in the grand scheme?
I think things are moving in the right direction. With more strong inspiring women in the sport like Shauna Coxsey, Miho Nonaka and Janja Garnbret a lot of younger girls are getting involved. Most of the squad kids I coach are female! This is where the change in numbers will come from in the long term. They have more role models to look up too. But indoor climbing centres have had a big factor in giving women (and men) a chance to feel like they are safer/reducing some the risk involved in climbing. The female only climbing events are making a big change too, giving a bigger sense of community and bringing females climbers together.
Why should woman choose to go climbing, what can you tell them, and what do you feel it will give them in life?
I would encourage more women to get into climbing for a whole number of reasons! Physically it’s the best all over work out there and is a great confidence builder. Even at a beginner level there is something for everyone to succeed at and climbers as a whole want to help each other. I think that’s what makes it so unique as a sport. There are loads of climbing walls doing female only sessions now too.
What, for you, are the benefits of climbing?
For me the benefits of climbing is the release from the real world. Your so focused on moving your body and pushing it to its limits nothing else that’s happening matters. I have had a few personally challenging events happen in the last few years and climbing has been my one absolute that has been a good distraction and emotional release.
What is your life mantra?
‘Be scared, do it anyway!’ It’s one I picked up from my partner who is one of my mentors and my biggest critic!
Climbers have always liked to create lists of must-do routes, what’s your next adventure when this Covid-19 issue has settled?
Fingers crossed a trip back to Magicwood, Switzerland. But i’d love to get out to Kalymnos in Greece or Spain and have a proper sport climbing trip.
Any PARTING words?
Don’t hesitate to try something new, you never know where it might take you.
A big thank you too Eve and make sure you go check out her Instagram page.