Audrey Seguy competes on the British bouldering team and chats to Sportsister about her love for climbing. Plus win a free indoor climbing lesson.
How did you first start climbing?
I’m from northern Illinois and there aren’t really any mountains there so I learnt to climb indoors. A friend thought it would be a fun thing to do on a Friday night and it was, it was brilliant, I loved it from the start.
What age was this?
I was 16 or 17 but then over the next six years I didn’t get a chance to practice very much. Then when I moved to London I came to The Castle climbing centre – it was in my Lonely Planet guide book. On my way out I asked for a job, and started on reception. I thought it would be fun for a few months to work at a climbing wall and to get the chance to actually practice climbing. I was just so fortunate because being in that environment I had very experienced people to teach me. A few times I got thrown into the deep end but on the whole I was able to just get on with it and learn a lot of skills. I am now the Managing Director here at The Castle.
Now you compete for the British Bouldering Team, how did that come about?
Three years ago I started competing internationally and at that time the only team I could compete for was the American team. I did a full season with them and that made me realise it was something I really want to do. But I felt very isolated and I wasn’t getting any support from the US Federation. At the end of the day all of my climbing has been in Britain and if I did well I wanted it to reflect on British climbing. I wanted to train with the British team and it seemed to make sense to try and get on to the British team. I applied for citizenship last summer, I passed my citizenship test and I did my first competition for the British team at the world championships last September.
What are you’re favourite things about climbing?
I love the movement aspect of it. I love being able to use my entire body; pushing with my legs, pulling with my arms, using my abdomens to hold my body in place.
I also love the problem solving aspect of climbing; that’s what I love about competitions particularly. Looking at a problem that a route setter has created and trying to figure out what body positioning is needed to reach the next holds. Sometimes you think that’s just impossible and then you see somebody else turn slightly in a different way or use a hold that you haven’t seen before and you realise how you’re going to do it. It’s just such a satisfying feeling.
I also really like the bonds you form with other people.
If you’re doing a really long route and it’s just you and your climbing partner, you can spend the whole day saying very little to each other but you just build up this bond.
I know I’ve been in situations where I would literally jump off a ledge to keep the other person from hitting the ground if that’s what it took and that kind of trust, it’s just so deep, even if you don’t get on with that person there’s a certain level of a necessary bond which I really, really value.
Do you find it relaxing or is it all adrenaline?
Surprisingly, yes I do, because no matter what your day has been like, whatever stress you’ve had, when you’re actually climbing, it is impossible to think of anything else. All you can think about is what you are doing at the moment and I think that’s why it’s such a popular sport.
I love the sense of achievement and the confidence it’s given me, because there’s been times in my life, like everybody, that I’ve faced something that’s very difficult, and with climbing I’ve been able to put that perspective and say, ‘I’ve been hanging of two bolts 800m above the ground, this is nothing compared to that, I can handle this.’ And I love that.
What skills would someone need to be a good climber?
I think in regards to physical attributes, climbers come in all shapes and sizes. There’s some very good climbers, both men and women, who are very short and very good climbers who are very tall. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. As you climb, your fitness will increase, so you can start out being overweight, inflexible, and weak and slowly you will progress and get better and you will get fitter.
I think that the keys skills are more mental skills; determination, tenacity and attention to detail.
It’s important to be the kind of person who can get into a routine of doing all the safety checks as even the most experienced climbers, just before they leave the ground will do a quick check.
What would be your favourite climbing area in the UK?
There are two areas that have a very special place in my heart, the first is the Peak District in northern England because it’s one of the most unique and beautiful landscapes I’ve seen and on a very crisp spring or autumn day is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The climbing history is also very rich there. I love climbing on routes that have been done 50-100 years ago.
The other place I love to climb is North Wales. I have a dilemma of what to do as there are so many different types of climbing there. There are slate quarries; big mountain routes; shorter sport climbing routes; sea cliff climbing; bouldering and all of it’s very good.
What has been your favourite competition to date?
In my first year on the international circuit I made it to two finals, which means top six in the competition. The standard of women’s climbing in the last two years has just sky rocketed, so although I’m climbing better now than I was back then it doesn’t always look like it in the results.
This year I’ve had mediocre results and that’s been really frustrating. It’s really difficult because I’m trying to juggle a full time job with training and travelling to competitions and this year has certainly made me question at times whether I want to do competitions again.
But then you get one good result and you know you want to keep going.
A lot of the other girls are full time climbers, they’re a lot younger than me, they’ve been climbing for a lot longer than I have so I know that I probably won’t win a world championship, in fact I’m pretty sure that I won’t, but I do want to feel like I’m in the thick of it, that’s my aim.
Is it possible to be a professional climber and make a living from it?
It is possible, but it’s not easy. In the UK there are very few professional climbers and I think that most professional climbers supplement their income by coaching, writing articles, taking photos etc. Internationally only the elite qualify as professional and those people still have to work part time.
In other countries, support for climbers is much greater than that in the UK, for instance in Holland, Belgium and Italy the government will actually pay elite athletes a base salary that enables them to either not have to work so much or to not work at all and just focus on their training and their climbing.
It must be tough funding yourself in this sport?
It can be quite difficult considering this year for instance we’ve had a competition in America, one on an Indian island, one in Moscow and most of the others are in Europe. I choose to work full time and luckily because I work at a climbing wall it’s quite easy for me to train afterwards and I just see the competitions as my holiday, luckily they’re often in very beautiful parts of the world.
It’s just amazing to go to these competitions and meet up with girls from all over the world who are often in a similar situation to me where we may be the strongest girl in our area and level and often climbing with just men, and to see other women climbing at your level or even better than you is so inspiring.
It’s also nice to see you’re not the only girl in a room with bad finger nails and big biceps!
Is there anyone in the climbing world that you admire?
I look up to the women who broke a lot of barriers as they never saw anything as impossible. Lynn Hill, who’s a very small American woman, is best know for climbing a route in California which is 1km high called the Nose Route on Yosemite’s El Capitan and at the time it had never been free climbed.
She used a rope for protection, but not to actually aid her ascent. It had a few extremely difficult patches that nobody had figured out how to do but she was able to. I think that when women are able to achieve something like that it spurs men on a bit. I certainly find it quite fun to climb with men as there is always that element of competion to be able to do it first.
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Feel inspired? Win a taster session at The Castle climbing centre
If you would like to have a go at indoor climbing we have three pairs of tickets for The Castle Climbing centre in London, worth £60 each, to give away. All you have to do is email email@example.com with your Sportsister user name (sign-up here if you are not already a member) by January 5th, 2009 and you will be in with a chance of winning.
Audery is sponsored by climbing and yoga brand PrAna – www.prana.com
Fancy having a go yourself? Read our Getting started – indoor climbing guide