The Power of the Mind – Lessons Learnt Competing in the British Climbing Championships

What defines us is how well we rise after falling“.

I competed in the British Climbing Nationals a couple weekends ago. It was an incredible experience.  It was also very humbling and I thought it was worth writing about.

I am so happy and proud to have taken part in such an amazing event.  I competed against some of UK’s top climbers who rank well on the world stage.  However, I am disappointed with my performance and that has led me to think about what mistakes I made and how I can improve.


  1. Poorly defined goal

With hindsight, I realise that my goal was poorly defined.

My initial goal was just to take part in the event and do the best I could.  The two qualifier routes for women were of the grade 7b+ / 7c and I knew that even on one of my best days, it would be a push!

Once I arrived at the competition venue, at Awesome Walls in Sheffield (by the way, it really is awesome with a 22m overhanging competition wall!), I was able to view the routes during our observation period.  And there and then, just by looking at the routes, I decided a specific hold and a height that I would be very excited to reach.  I thought I’d be so happy if I just made it to a specific point in the routes. And just like that, completely arbitrary, I came up with a goal for each route.

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When it was my turn to compete, I actually found myself climbing beyond that hold on both routes!  I was just so happy to have made it that far that I lost focus, concentration and drive.

My Lesson Learnt: Even though I knew it would be a fight, I should have been AIMING to make it to the top!

Only one competitor made it to the top of both routes! , Molly Thompson-Smith from Team GB and a world level climber, So yes, this was too aggressive as a goal for my humble climbing skills, and I was well aware of this!  But I was far too aware…  I should have been aiming to make it to the top and been visualising myself reaching the top during the observation period, rather than just setting up an arbitrary goal half way up!

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.


Observation period

  1. Intimated by fellow competitors

I was truly intimated by my fellow competitors.  Most climbers there were part of Team GB.  Also I could hear the commentator describing some of the athletes’ amazing performances in the recent world cup and world championships, and the incredible ascents some have accomplished in the outdoor climbing scene (9a grade routes !)  It was humbling and very, very scary!!

So then I thought, if they couldn’t make it pass a certain point in the route, I really had no chance!!  One of the reasons I wanted to take part in the event was to compete alongside the best in the UK.  I knew it would be so inspiring just to watch these awesome climbers, let alone compete with them.  But it was really scary!!

The size of your dreams must always exceed your capability to achieve them“. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

My Lesson Learnt: Concentrate on my own objectives.  Don’t let myself get intimidated by other climbers even if they look strong, wear the Team GB kit and have impressive world level rankings and amazing ascents.  Just believe in my own skills, remind myself of my own motivations for participating in the competition.


  1. Lack of self-belief

In the lead up to the event, I had managed some strong training periods.  With the help of my climbing coach Szymon, we had come up with a tailored plan to help me structure my climbing training.  I can undoubtedly say this helped me a lot.

However, I was unable to climb in August due to a sprained ankle.  So this was a bit of a blow with the championships so soon after …  My ankle had just about healed enough that I could climb 3 weeks before the event. Deep down I knew I wasn’t as well prepared as I could have been.  I knew I had to stay positive and go to enjoy the experience and learn.  I did at least manage that, but I didn’t believe in myself.

My Lesson Learnt:  I feel I was lacking belief in myself.  On both routes, especially the orange one, I deeply believe I could have succeeded in the move where I fell, if I had just believed.



  1. Lack of focus and Technical mistakes

I’ve been watching the videos of my performances up the two routes over and over, to see how I can improve.

My Lessons Learnt:

  • Senior Women Route #1 (7b+/7c)


You have a maximum of 6 minutes to get as high as you can.  My lack of competition experience was obvious.  I had no idea whether this would be enough for me … with hindsight, it was loads of time!

As you can see in the video, I rushed the route, probably a result of being nervous and intimated by the huge crowd of people watching.

I can see a lack of rhythm in my climb where I’m not taking enough rests to shake my arms and chalk up, especially before the sloper holds.   This is something I realised during the competition and corrected for route #2.

Also when I found myself confronted with tricky moves, I shouldn’t have rushed the move, instead I should have taken my time and refocused.


  • Senior Women Route #2 (7b+/7c)

I feel I failed by not trying my best … I should have tried harder than ever, but you can see I didn’t L

Again, lack of belief.   When I fall, my left hand was at the correct height and angle to just grab the hold… I was there, in the right position, ready …. But I had a split second of doubt thinking that hold is far, and as a result, I didn’t truly commit and missed the hold 😳


In summary:

With all of this in mind and with more motivation than ever, I’m hungry to improve my climbing and get better.  This journey has definitely spurred me on to take my climbing to the next level!

My next major climbing event is the Welsh Climbing Nationals in Cardiff in 4 weeks.  I’m so excited!

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them” Albert Einstein
Thanks to Totally Wonderfuel for keeping me powered throughout the competition with their wholesome energy balls!!

And thanks of course to my great climbing coach, Szymon, for helping me train for the competition, to my beloved husband for his relentless love and support in all these crazy adventures, to my beautiful children for their never ending enthusiasm and patience, and to my talented friend Anna for her persistent friendship and allowing herself to be roped in (often literally!) to participating in something so crazily ambitious 🙂

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And of course, a few photos from our evening celebrations (a bit too much wine!) 🙂

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#followyourpassion #britishnationals #leadclimbing # toteswonderfuel #cimalp

2 thoughts on “The Power of the Mind – Lessons Learnt Competing in the British Climbing Championships

  1. Hi Camille

    A great read. I am forwarding this article to my son as what you have written applies to his triathlons as well.

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