Hazel Findlay has been climbing for 18 of her 25 years. She started out trad climbing with her Dad on the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire, South Wales. She led a new route as her eleventh birthday present and cried all the way to the top of her first E1 at age 12. She also enjoyed competing as a junior and was British Champion six times. However, she soon realized that climbing for her was about being outside and rock was what brought the best out of her. At 16 Hazel took her first big whipper off an E5 in Pembroke, and it taught her that she could push herself on trad just as much as on bolts and that this was where her passions lied. After finishing a degree in Philosophy at Bristol University four years ago, Hazel has been a full-time climber traveling all over the world.
Climbing Hometown: Bristol
Currently Living: Sheffield
Career Highlights: First woman to climb UK trad grade of E9. First British woman to free El Cap. Freed El Cap three times via Golden Gate and PreMuir (first female ascents and done in ground-up style) and Freerider. Onsighted the Regular Route on Half Dome, free, in a day. Onsight of Bachar Yerian 5.11 R X , Ruby’s Café, 5.13 trad and Romantic Warrior 5.12 multipitch trad. Sport climbing: first British woman to climb 8c. Onsighted 8a quite a bit. First ascents in Squamish, Wales, Oman and Morocco including the Adder Crack, 5.13 R in Squamish. Many first female trad ascents, including Air Sweden 5.13 R in Indian Creek, 69, 5.13 R in Squamish, San Simeon, E8 in Pembroke. Alpine first ascent of the Findlay-Geldard route on the Mont Blanc massif.
When did you first start climbing?
When I was seven on the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire
What do you most enjoy about your sport?
I love it when you try really hard and everything else sort of drops away and when you come out of it, you’re much happier and more clear headed than you were before.
How do you define success?
A successful day is one where I’ve tried my hardest and I’ve overcome a mental inner battle, whether that’s being scared and not losing it or having a smile on my face, even with a bruised ego.
What are you most proud of, either in life, your sport or both?
I’m most proud of myself for making a career out of what I love because that essentially enables me to live the life I want to lead.
Who are your heroes?
My Mum, because she is the most stubbornly good person I know. My Dad, because he has an unshakable love for adventure. Lynn Hill and Tommy Caldwell because they are much more dedicated than I’ll ever be. Nico Faveresse and Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll because for them climbing is always light and easy and fun (or seems to be).
What inspires you?
People who go to the crag and give everything and smile when they fail.
What are your hobbies outside of your sport?
Right now I’m getting into yoga, and I’m also soon to be a paragliding pilot. Until recently my only other hobbies outside of climbing were running and reading, which aren’t really real hobbies they are just things that you should want to do.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. I’m also becoming a horrible food snob and spend way too much money on ‘the good stuff’.
What are your hidden talents?
I’m really good at pouring stuff, usually water from one bottle to another; I guess I have a steady hand. Really good at arguing for the sake of it. I can also do the splits and I’m good at limbo because I’m small and bendy.
Tell us about your most favorite place in the world:
That’s a hard one. Taghia in Morocco is probably up there, as the people are amazing and it has a certain peace and beauty that I haven’t found in many other places. The amazing rock climbing might have something to do with it as well.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be career women, a human rights lawyer or something where I got to be good and save the world and wear those suit dresses.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, and why?
I’d like to be one of those people like Sonnie Trotter who seems to be happy and positive and nice to people all the time.
Tell us about a time in your life when you have been scared:
The first thing that comes to mind was this moment two summers ago when I was climbing with my boyfriend Peter on the Grandes Jorasses in the Alps and I led a pitch and I was off route and running out of rope and couldn’t find a belay and couldn’t reverse what I’d done. The only belay I could find was right next to this big loose block and the whole time I was belaying him up I was completely terrified that I would knock it onto him or it would just fall on him. It really shook me up.
Describe your perfect day:
A big day up a big route with a close friend.
How would your friends describe you?
Small, likes to play devil’s advocate, a bit silly, unorganized, never knows where any of her stuff is, impatient, stubborn, bossy, nice but not that nice, likes to have a laugh.