An Interview with Hazel Findlay:
We recently got the opportunity to interview Hazel, who is without a doubt one of the strongest and most admired female climbers in the sport. She’s tenacious, super-focused and can tackle the toughest climbs around the world.
What makes this beautiful and incredibly talented climber tick? Let’s find out!
Editor: Hazel, you’ve climbed some of the most difficult but stunning lines in your career. Which ones were your favorites and where were they?
Hazel Findlay: Anything I’ve done on El Cap has been pretty memorable, mostly because the wall is so epically big and impressive. Golden Gate was a real highlight because it was my first route on El Cap.
Editor: Tell us what kind of rock you enjoy climbing on?
Is there a particular technique or style that defines you?
Hazel Findlay: I wouldn’t say that there is any time or style that defines me. I love all styles and types of climbing. I have a soft spot for granite low angle climbing. I love the intricacies and problem solving that comes with granite climbing. I wouldn’t want to do it forever though and sometimes I can’t get enough of steep limestone.
Editor: What was it like climbing in Africa?
What did you like most about that trip?
Check out Africa Fusion's amazing trailer!
Hazel Findlay: Going to South Africa was a great experience. The country has so much character and is a million miles, literally and figuratively from the UK. The climbing was also great. I love the rock over there; super featured and rough sandstone that lends itself really well to fun, gymnastic trad climbing.
Editor: What was it like to climb with Alex (Honnold)?
In what ways are you both similar with regard to climbing?
How do you both differ from each other?
Hazel Findlay: I’ve climbed with Alex a lot now. We tend to do quite long trips together where we spend a lot of time with one another but then once the trip is over we might not see each other for a year or so. Alex is one of my favorite climbing partners because he’s nearly always psyched and he also likes to talk about a lot of stuff I’m interested in that is not related to climbing.
Editor: How old were you when you first started climbing? And where was this?
Hazel Findlay: I was about 7 and it was mostly with my Dad on the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire in South Wales. My Dad was my first coach. He taught me how important it is to give things a go even if you don’t think you can succeed.
Editor: You’ve been blessed with a wonderful father who seems to share a powerful bond with you, which is truly heart-warming. What is it like to have such a supportive dad?
Hazel Findlay: It’s great to have a supportive Dad. What’s nicer is just to have someone who is so close to you and knows you so well, to also understand how important climbing is to you.
Editor: You’re an experienced climber, not to mention one of the most respected in the field. But fear is natural to all of us. How do you handle fear, Hazel?
Hazel Findlay: There are many techniques you can use to handle fear and it really depends on the person and the circumstance as to which is the best to use. If I’m suffering from irrational fear, then I try to rationalize myself into a better place in my head. When you get experienced enough to tend to know when the situation doesn’t quite warrant the fear you’re feeling. You learn to observe that feeling and understand that it doesn’t have to consume you.
Editor: Is there a certain outdoor project that has always intrigued and challenged you here in the U.S.? El Cap? Indian Creek?
Hazel Findlay: I love climbing in the States. El Cap is out of this world, as is Indian Creek. Coming from the UK, we don’t have rocks that big and we don’t have deserts, so climbing in those areas is amazing and feels exotic. I will always have projects in those places and will always want to come back to the States.
Editor: When you were just starting out, which climbers did you find most inspirational?
Hazel Findlay: I’ve always been hugely inspired by Tommy Caldwell. I’m most inspired by climbers who have a consuming feeling of love for climbing that overrides any pressure they put on themselves to succeed. Tommy really wanted to do the Dawn Wall, he put more effort into that route than most people have ever put into anything, yet he never let the pressure override his enjoyment of being up there on the wall.
Editor: What is your advice to young climbers who look up to you?
Hazel Findlay: I would say to them that loving what you do is most important. If that means giving up, or never giving up, training or relaxing, then just follow that. If you don’t love what you’re doing you’ll never be any good anyway. You can’t force it. Find ways to use climbing as a means to challenge you to be a better person and a person who loves life more because climbing is in it.
Editor: How different are male climbers from their female counterparts, strength-wise?
Do you think such comparisons even matter?
Hazel Findlay: I don’t think comparisons like that matter. Climbing is a great activity because you are responsible for your own climbing and you just have to make do with the natural gifts you have or don’t have.
Editor: Here’s an important question that truly defines a climber.
What has climbing given to you and to your life?
Hazel Findlay: Climbing has given me a framework whereby I test myself physically and mentally, and in doing so I am a better and happier person. Climbing has also provided me with a means to feel more connected to the landscapes around me, and a means to really see and enjoy those places in a way that would be difficult without climbing.
Editor: What are your thoughts on the preservation of nature and climate change?
Hazel Findlay: In the UK we just had a general election and climate change was not the biggest agenda. Money was. It saddens me that we are more worried about what car we’ll be able to get with our retirement fund than whether our country will be underwater, or that we’re slowly poisoning the land around us. Sometimes I think I should find a place to live in the woods and grow my own vegetables. My impact on the world’s resources isn’t small and it’s certainly something I worry about.
Editor: That's a cool way to think. Okay, let’s ask you some fun questions (your fans will love these)…whilst you heal:
What kinds of books do you read?
Hazel: I read everything and anything. On my kindle right now I have about ten open books. At the moment I am doing lots of research for a mental training coaching business I’m setting up. I also read a lot about nutrition and agriculture. I always have one fictional book on the go.
What kind of music do you like to unwind to?
Hazel: I have quite a varied taste in music. I’ve recently been unwinding to simple piano solos.
What’s your favorite movie?
Hazel: Not sure about absolute favorite but I recently saw Blue is the Warmest Colour and really loved that.
What’s your favorite food?
Hazel: I love chocolate. But the really good stuff that is like 90% cocoa mass at least; I’m a chocolate snob. I eat a lot of vegetables.
Editor: Hope you heal up quickly and get back up on the rock. Thanks for your time, Hazel.
All images were supplied by Hazel and belong to their respective photographers.
Hazel Findlay's Facebook Page
Sponsors: Black Diamond, La Sportiva, Beta Climbing Designs, Sterling Rope, Ellis Brigham, Yes Nurse, Mule Bar.
On the Cover:
Cover Date: May 28th, 2015