As a child, I was always at my happiest in the top branches of a tree, much higher than my siblings had the stomach for, but it wasn’t until my first year at university that I discovered climbing as a sport. Within two weeks of joining the uni club, we were out climbing in the Peak District. It was that childhood thrill all over again.

Generally speaking, there are two types of outdoor climbing: sport climbing, where there are metal bolts in the rock that you clip into as you go up to keep safe, and traditional climbing. The latter is where you place your own bits of equipment in the rock as you climb, to catch you if you fall.

It can be scary, but the adrenaline rush is part of the appeal. There have been times when I’ve been holding on to something, it has pulled away from the wall and I’ve fallen a good few metres. That’s par for the course. When I come back from a climbing holiday, I look awful: my legs are black and blue, and I’m covered in cuts. You take steps to mitigate the risks, using safety harnesses, ropes, helmets – and never going alone.

Climbing is the ultimate full-body workout. I was always quite wiry, but since I’ve been climbing, I’ve become quite muscly. I used to hate it – for a while, I wouldn’t wear sleeveless dresses or anything like that. Now I think it’s cool. It’s what makes me good at what I love to do. People talk about mindfulness, but there’s nothing like climbing for living in the moment. You’re out on this cliff, totally exposed to the wind and weather: you can’t afford to worry about bills or work; all you can do is concentrate on your next move and keeping yourself safe. I find it really therapeutic.

When I started, I didn’t like to look down, but now I try to take in my surroundings. I’ve slept in a cave at the top of a cliff; I’ve climbed a 300m sheer rock face on the Spanish coast; I’ve seen some of the most beautiful parts of the world – places that other people don’t often get to see, and from a totally unique perspective.

My weekend workout

Years climbing? Seven
Sessions a week? Two. One bouldering, one outdoors
Favourite place to climb? The Costa Blanca in Spain
Post-climb snack of choice? A cold tin of baked beans

Five ways to get started

1 The easiest way to begin is bouldering (ropeless climbing at low level, where you land on big crash mats if you fall). It’s safe, accessible – there are climbing centres all over the country – and you can do it on your own.

2 Never go climbing outdoors by yourself. Join a club and let an instructor show you the ropes (quite literally). Most climbing clubs are very welcoming and will organise supervised, beginner-friendly trips. Find your local club on the British Mountaineering Council website.

3 The sport can be demanding, but there are climbs to suit all abilities and ages. You don’t need to be super-fit, especially if you’re just trying bouldering.

4 Technique is much more important than strength. Beginners often make the mistake of trying to pull themselves up with their arms. Only use your arms to pull yourself into the wall; it should be your feet pushing you up.

5 Pick climbs within your ability. Like ski runs, climbs are graded according to difficulty, so start off easy and, once you’ve found your level, stick to it until you’re ready to step up a notch.

The essential kit

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