What age were you when you started climbing?
I only started climbing four years ago! It's fairly recent, but I do kinda wish I had started earlier. I was working at the Apple store at the time and they brought me here [to The Climbing Academy] and it was just so much fun. I had been playing basketball since I was 12, and because it was always a team sport I was playing, I just got really into not having to worry about a whole team, you know? You're not letting anyone down, you're just focusing on yourself and your own progression. Some of the kids you see climbing are just so strong, they're way stronger than you are! So in that sense yeah, I wish I had started earlier. Basketball was huge when I was younger, but I think climbing came at the right time, when I was 21.
Do you think it did change your body type once you started bouldering?
Yeah, absolutely! I was generally quite fit, but I was never that strong, and so when I started climbing I definitely felt stronger and my confidence grew as well. You know that way you're sometimes a little bit hunched over? Well, climbing helped me push my chest out a little bit more, and helped change how I even look at my body, so that was pretty cool.
What is it about bouldering that you like so much - so much that you ended up working at TCA?
It's funny, it's like a whole lifestyle really, it takes over everything you do, and there's so many films you can watch that are amazing. The clothing is sick too, and the people are just very real. Like, you can't really be fake, because you can obviously see it in someone's climbing if they're kinda faking it! I think one of the biggest things I've come back to in climbing is seeing progression, like maybe one day you can't do a climb, you work and work on it and then you do it and it's like, 'Ah! I can do that! No one else did that.' And these little goals you set yourself every time, I think that's what makes it really addictive, so much so that I now work at TCA yeah haha! I'm even gonna move to a flat like 15 minutes away from here. Sometimes I think oh maybe I should get some more hobbies, but there is so much to do in the climbing world, I just totally love it.
So what is good about climbing in Scotland in particular?
Climbing in Scotland is a little bit different than climbing anywhere else because the venues outside are a little more sporadic, and you may have to drive quite far. Whereas if you were to go somewhere like Spain, the crags you could climb anywhere, such amazing quality rock with the weather being so good! Climbing here is a bit harder because of the weather and you'll need someone with a car to go somewhere - but that's what makes the places like the climbing academy and the climbing centre so good because you get a really amazing community of people that come together, climb together and it's not too serious! There's a really great atmosphere - people from other centres have said that Glasgow has one of the best communities for climbing, really open, really welcoming, quite silly as well! There are some amazing spots in Scotland for outdoor, but you gotta go a bit more north for those. Torridon and Skye are great, but depending on what style of climbing you wanna do, bouldering or with ropes, there's a lot to do for sure.
"You're not letting anyone down, you're just focusing on yourself and your own progression."
Are there any other styles of climbing that you would like to try out?
I mostly boulder but I also sport climb, which is where you have already pre-drilled bolts in the rock and you go up and quick draw into the wall and you rope in there. So if you do fall, you fall into that! It's a bit more technical sometimes - a little bit scary haha! I do like sport climbing, but just now I do wanna focus on bouldering, because I love the power element of it. There's also trad climbing too - when you're actually placing your own protection in the rock, that's so cool but also pretty scary. If you haven't placed it that well, it may come out, and so on. There are some amazing places you can go and do trad climbing, like do multi pitch stuff, up the side of Lomond and Nevis too.
Is there anyone in particular that got you into climbing?
Just folk that I worked with really! They were partially keen on it, we came to TCA a few times, and for me it totally clicked. They now don't really climb at all, it's a bit of a shame. So I started coming here with some other friends. We often have competitions in the climbing centre, so I started meeting people through that, most of the people that I climb with now are folk I work with here. It's really nice you just walk into the centre and you know half the people there!
Sounds ideal! What would you say is the best bit about your job?
It's probably the people! I know that's a standard answer but it's definitely brings a really cool element to it. It's great chat, everyone gets super excited about stuff, like, 'Oh man we did this awesome route the other day with so-and-so', and you get invited out to various trips. Recently I went to France to Fontainebleau, it's just in the forest and there are hundreds of boulders. If I hadn't met people through work, y'know, I wouldn't have had the chance to do that! Also, it's kinda nice just making coffees haha! I don't have to worry too much about lots of complex tasks to do, it's nice and simple. Leaves me to focus on training or learning something new.
What's your favourite UK outdoor climbing spot?
It's probably at St Bees - it's this really cool beach side bouldering area, where you go down a cliff, and there's these boulders on the beach and it's normally quite sunny there. It's beautiful! We went there a month or so back, camped there for the weekend, and you can't help but just be super happy! But Fontainebleau was hands down the best climbing spot of all, there's just so much history to that spot too y'know? Loads of people from all over the world go there to climb, you hear accents from all over!
Have you got any top tips for anyone who would like to give bouldering a go?
I'd say keep doing it, and keep doing it loads! Especially if you come bouldering, you don't need to worry about ropes or harnesses. So if you started bouldering first, you can really nail the basic elements, strength and technique. You'll get a good bit of confidence about you as well! Best thing to do in your first year of climbing, is to just climb loads - few times a week. You'll see yourself progress fast that way too!
Got any climbing idols that inspire you?
Ah tonnes to be honest! Mainly Alex Honnold, just as he's mad for his free soloing of course, and I did my first free solo the other day which was pretty scary. It was an easy one I did, but he did Yosemite's El Capitan recently and watching that just blew my mind! Here's the thing, he's not as strong as other climbers, but mentally he's the strongest all round. There's a few other people, a guy called Yan Hojer, he's this German dude, quite tall build, super built, and he's an excellent boulderer. Also Adam Ondra, one of the best climbers in the world for sure. Super tall and skinny, and screams when he climbs ha! It's total power screaming, you gotta turn the volume down if you watch it in public as it's pretty, well, orgasmic sounding!
Sam wears our 'Eyez Open' T-Shirt - shop the tee below!