At Rock & Sun we like to give you the opportunity to climb with and learn from the Pro’s. Over the last year professional climber Tim Emmett has run two Climbing Holidays in Thailand with us as well as a Performance Coaching week in the Costa Blanca, Spain. This winter he is back in Thailand as a guest coach on two more Sport Climbing trips! We asked Tim about his first climbing experience, how he got to be a pro, and what went through his head when he sent his hardest route so far…
Tell us about your first rock climbing experience..
The first time I climbed on real rock was at Chudleigh, a small village nestled in South Devon, England. I was 15 years old and I went there with a small group of lads and my geography teacher Chris Henshall. I absolutely loved being out in nature but perhaps more interestingly being surrounded by huge, towering and sheer rock walls. As we arrived at the crag, each face looked impossible to climb, one after the other, and when we realised that some people had actually climbed them I was blown away. But HOW, I thought?
Eventually, we arrived at a slightly shorter and less steep face with a vague line of weakness going up it called Salome, graded Difficult. It turned out this was to be our climb. As our climbing master set up the top rope, we waited in turn to have a go. I was so excited, and also curious to see whether I could do it. (I was generally fairly good at sport, at my previous school I had won the school run several times and also the tennis tournament, I felt in my element when I was outside and engaged in activity.)
After lots of grunts and pulls I reached the summit 30 feet up, standing at the top felt like magic. I was so chuffed that I have actually managed to climb it, even through such uncertainty. From that point on I fell in love with climbing and it has transformed and modelled my life from one big adventure to the next.
Was it a decision to become a professional climber?
Being a professional climber was something that came organically to me. My thirst for adventure meant that people seemed to be interested in what I was doing, especially trying new styles of climbing like Deep Water Soloing and Para-Alpinism (climbing up a cliff and then BASE jumping back down). I was one of the few pioneers for both of these. I also enjoyed looking for striking lines – hopefully unclimbed so doing first ascents. And repeating hard routes that other people had done was very appealing. I was approached by my first key sponsor Mountain Hardwear when I got into the final of the Ice Climbing World Cup in 2000, and I have been with them ever since.
What went through your head when you clipped the chains of your hardest sport route so far (Superman, 5.14c)?
I thought: “Wow I might be able to do something harder than that!” And also I was surprised of actually having done it. I never dreamed of being able to climb a route of this grade. It was way outside what I thought was possible for me for at least 25 years of my climbing career. It’s only over the last couple of years that I have realised that if I focus on improving my technique, training, eating and lifestyle, then my true limit is way higher than I thought.
The big one for me is I also realise that my general climbing technique over the years is way below where it should be for the grades that I climb. I have been relying on strength and a bold approach to climb hard routes, but now I am learning a lot about technique and how to make moves easier so I don’t need to waste energy. I’m still learning now!
Added Insider-perspective by Desiree Verbeek:
Tim is a great coach. To be honest, I was surprised when he confessed the bit about his climbing technique. I have seen many climbers climbing hard routes but having no clue about efficient movement. To generalise, most climbers focus on getting stronger rather than moving more efficiently. So when we were on Lao Liang and Tim took 3 of our clients who had just climbed the same route apart and started explaining them about having to shift their weight sideways over their foot before lifting the other foot, I knew he was not just a strong climber; Tim knows a lot about climbing movement. His way of coaching is very similar to what we are doing at Rock & Sun. We aim to give you the tools that allow you to continue improving your climbing after the trip. You will learn about movement on rock and how to do that efficiently. (As opposed to getting someone up a route by telling them the sequences of hand- and footholds, which is not transferable to other routes and therefore less useful in the long term).
Some people feel that they aren’t good enough to come on a trip with you..?
Watching and learning from someone who has 25+ years of experience and still raising their game will have an impact on your climbing, no matter what grade you climb. Every climber in the world has something in common: we all started somewhere. It took me 3 years before I led my first HVS! Back then if I had a chance to go on a coaching trip and learn about efficient movement and technique, it would have a been a game changer. To be honest I actually learnt something from Trevor last year in Thailand that I have been totally unaware of the for last 27 years, and I’ve been using it ever since – and this year I climbed my first F8c+! Whether you’re a beginner or breaking into the 8th grade, coming to Thailand will be an amazing experience. You’ll have a fantastic holiday, lots of laughs and you might learn a thing or two to bump up your grade as well, if that’s what you want to do.
Added Insider-perspective by Desiree Verbeek:
Tim is the type of person who will talk you into climbing the routes you want to climb when you are hesitant. Tim’s enthusiasm is contagious and when he says to you: “yeah mate, go for it, definitely!” you can’t resist really.Besides being a good coach and a whirlwind of energy, he is a really nice guy to hang out with. He is keen to get to know you and help you get the best out of your climbing holiday. Oh, and he ain’t a bad pool player either!
Book your Climbing Holiday in Thailand with Tim Emmett here: http://www.rockandsun.com/climbing-locations/asia/thailand/