Harry McArthur

Sitting upstairs in the Glasgow Climbing centre I was greeted by an excitable dog, and equally excitable owner; Caitlin Connor. Caitlin is currently the youngest member of GB’s Ice Climbing team, after joining the team over a year ago at only 15 years of age. She spoke passionately and confidently about her experiences in both ice climbing, as well as rock climbing, so far.

“I really enjoyed climbing when I first started; that’s why I kept it going. I just liked that it was different, and I hadn’t done anything like it before. I’d tried other sports but rock climbing was just a completely different experience.”

After she got a taste she claimed that she was enjoying it too much to stop. She said, “Right from the very first time we came my dad was like ‘Do you want to come back?’ and I was like yeah and was always asking him to bring me at the weekends and stuff.

“I competed in my first YCS (youth climbing series) and I won the second round; and that was proper motivation. My dad said I could be good at it if I started to train seriously. So I started training pretty early and got into advanced stuff pretty early on instead of just doing it for fun. We always kept the training fun though.”

Training was intense over the summer for Caitlin, as she had so much free time but her schedule has changed since returning to school.

“I used to train three to four times a week but now that I am back at school it is normally once or twice a week instead. During these two sessions we’ll do quite a lot; we’ll either do endurance or strength; but recently I’ve been doing a lot more dry tooling*.”

“For my training I’ve not really got a coach, I used to be in a youth team and then progressed through to a squad; but I wanted to do more lead climbing and the squad was only doing bouldering. So now it is just my dad training me every time I come; but guys from the GB team really help out a lot. They give me lots of tips on what can help my training, they aren’t my coaches though; they just help out.”

Being part of the GB team is something Caitlin takes great pride in, joining the team after just turning 15, becoming the youngest member in the squad. She said that in spite of the age gap that she is treated equally and that she is really relishing being a part of such a team.

“There are a lot of people in the GB Ice team that I look up to, especially Simon Ward. He helps me out a lot with training and takes me out and he’s really good for taking me to places and training me on the hard stuff. Also Willis Morris is great, I went to France with him and he showed me some cool stuff as well.”

Despite now clearly being established as an excellent ice climber, it was by chance that she actually decided to take up ice climbing as opposed to just sticking to regular rock climbing.

“I love swinging into the ice

Photo Credit: Jeff Holmes

“Well there was meant to be a local indoor competition for rock climbing but it never happened and I was gutted because I really wanted to compete in it, and I didn’t get to. So I found a competition down in England and just went for the competition and really enjoyed it.”

When asked to choose between the two, rock climbing and ice climbing, Caitlin looked conflicted, “I like indoor rock climbing, because I stay warm and dry; but I love ice climbing for something different,I love swinging into the ice.”

However, what it really comes down to for Caitlin, is the different disciplines of climbing. She explained,

“In regular climbing there are three disciplines; bouldering, lead and speed climbing. They are quite similar, but different in terms of what you need to train for.

“I love lead climbing, because when you clip a clip you can hear the carabiner click, it’s really satisfying. I also like being up high; with bouldering you don’t really get that high up, so I prefer lead climbing.”

Despite only climbing for four years, Caitlin has dozens of accolades and accomplishments. Since she first started she has been a competitor, and through her ambition she has always pushed herself onto new challenges. Her proudest moment to date, however, was not competition based.

“My big dream would be to climb Everest”

At the summit of Mont Blanc

“Mont Blanc is my proudest achievement so far, just because it is the biggest climb I’ve done.  Like when I tell people in school that I have won competitions they are like ‘ok cool’ but they don’t understand how much I’ve trained for it and stuff but when I told them about Mont Blanc, and they can see how much effort I’ve put in to travel there and actually climb it everyone is like ‘actually that’s really cool’.”

The reason for climbing Mont Blanc was not just for the thrill and sense of accomplishment. Caitlin is also proud of the charity work she has carried out since she started climbing, she said,

“We managed to climb Mont Blanc in a day and we managed to raise money for Poppy Scotland, and Urban Uprising.

“The first charity thing I done was here in Glasgow climbing centre; and it was simply climb 100 routes in one day, to raise money for Urban Uprising. I have been an ambassador for Urban Uprising ever since.”

Despite her excellent performance in climbing, and her charity work, Caitlin was still humbled by the fact that she had started receiving sponsors.

The first company to sponsor Caitlin was Snow Factory in Braehead, an indoor skiing resort, that has an excellent ice climbing wall, which Caitlin can access for free as part of her sponsorship.

She also mentioned some other sponsors, “Alongside Snow Factory I am also sponsored by RAB, they’re an outdoor company that send me free outdoor clothing. They’ve sent me quite a lot recently. Also, a Russian company, Krukonogi, have supplied picks for dry tooling and ice climbing. They have also provided me with some equipment for the back garden so I can practice my climbing.

“I am really glad to have these sponsors, it’s made everything for me a lot easier; as I am able to train in my back garden if I need to and I have all this quality equipment.”

Being so grounded and mature at such a young age, it is as though Caitlin has the climbing world at her feet. But what is the dream, what can she achieve?

“My big dream would be to climb Everest. And I want to make a career out of climbing; I would love to be able to do what I love doing every day. Just imagine getting to climb mountains every day. I’d probably want to go to France or Switzerland, maybe even Italy, somewhere I can do the big stuff.”

She then remembered quickly and added, “I really want to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics if ice climbing gets added. That would be incredible.”

Caitlin then explained how the World Cup was coming up next year, and how she had already had a taster after competing in World Youth this year.

“In January we went to Lichtenstein and I represented GB in World Youth, I competed there and made finals. We only went for the experience, I didn’t go with any competitive goal, I just wanted to meet new people and try climbing in a different environment. It was so cool. The fact I made the finals just made the experience even better.”

She then added, “For the World Cup it will be similar to the training I’m doing now, there will just be a lot more of it. I’ll just be climbing more, running more, hitting the gym more; everything but just more. The only problem is it’s between prelims and exams but it should be fine.”

As our conversation was coming to an end Caitlin spoke about how she loved trying different things and looked giddy when talking about them

“I reckon I could definitely have a go at some TV shows like Ninja Warrior. There’s a climbing section on one of the courses and when I see it I think ‘I could definitely do that.’ Via Ferrata** is also something I would like to do.”

“I done [Via Ferrata] once in Germany but it was an easy one, so I reckon doing more difficult versions of that would be fun.”

“We’d climb, then we’d chill, then we’d get pizza”

Indoor rock climbing at Glasgow Climbing centre

I asked Caitlin for any advice that she would give to anyone trying to start up rock climbing, either competitively or casually. After a moment to ponder, she said, “Especially when you first start- go with friends. I used to hate climbing by myself; I used to question whether or not I wanted to go.

“When people did go with me I really enjoyed, and still do enjoy, the social side of it. I remember when we’d climb, then we’d chill, then we’d get pizza. It was pretty cool. So I’d definitely say go with someone.” She then chuckled before adding, “And definitely get pizza.”

It is a busy year ahead for the Cambuslang based athlete but one she is looking forward to. Find her on Facebook at Caitlin Connor- Climber and on her Twitter @CaitlinClimber.




*Dry tooling is climbing but instead of using your hands you use axes.

**A Via Ferrata is a protected climbing course which could be likened to an obstacle course for climbers.