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Ray Wood


Emma Twyford: the climber reaching out to those with mental illness

WE TALK to Emma Twyford about her biggest successes in climbing and her passion to reach out to those who have suffered with mental illness.

Emma Twyford

Emma Twyford has been climbing since the age of seven.


EMMA TWYFORD has been climbing since she was a child. Her father was part of the local mountain rescue team which meant she gained lots of experience in the sport and it wasn’t long before she was competing and winning at national level. 


Today she is one of the most respected British female climbers on the circuit and in this exclusive interview talks about some of her biggest successes in the sport. Read on to find out what Emma’s been doing since she gave up competing and more about her passion to reach out to people who have suffered from depression and other mental illnesses.

You can find out more about Emma and follow her blog at


When did you start climbing and who introduced you to the sport?

I started climbing when I was seven outside on traditional rock with my dad and his friends in the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team.


Emma Twyford

In South Africa on Table Mountain there is a 24/ e4 called No Longer at Ease. Photo Julia Wakeling.


What was it like growing up in the Lake District and could you tell us about the opportunities it gave you to climb?


It was great for me though as a kid I probably took it for granted. I was lucky going to this amazing school and being able to pursue all my hobbies (fell running, skiing and squash), to me this was way better than sitting at home playing on a computer. It gave me the chance to follow my passion outdoors and do something that I really loved. I got to climb with one of the uk’s best climbers (James Mchaffie) growing up and he helped shape me into the climber I am today.


When did you start competing in the sport and could you tell us about some of your biggest achievements?


I started competing at the age of ten, thinking I’d just give it a go. I came joint second in my first national comp, it was great to climb with people my age and have fun. I became part of the British junior team at 14 and was lucky enough to compete internationally until the age of 22. 


Best results include: junior British bouldering champion; second overall in my first year as a senior; fifth in one of the European youth cups; fourth in an international masters senior comp; and third at Super Bloc 2015 (national comp showcasing GB Team).


Emma Twyford

Climbing Strawberries e6/7 6b at Tremadog. Photo Ray wood


What made you give up competition in 2008 and could you tell us about some of the ascents outside in bouldering, trad and sport climbing you’ve made since?


For me the decision to give up competition climbing was not easy but after getting glandular fever at 18, I never felt the same drive to compete when I recovered. I always wanted to be outside rather than training when it was sunny and I don’t regret my choice to follow the part of climbing that I love.


Since then I have on sighted numerous 8a’s with the highlight for me being a flash of an 8a in the uk called statement of youth. I also redpointed a route called unjustified (8b+/c) in the uk and have redpointed a few 8b’s.


On the traditional side I have onsighted E7 and flashed an E8 6c called gravity wave being the first British woman to accomplish this. I also head pointed my first E9 6c called rare lichen in north wales in 2012 which made me the second British woman to climb this grade.


Bouldering wise I have flashed V8 and climbed my first V10 last year called the lotus which I managed to do in a session.


Emma Twyford

Climbing Lotter’s desire 27/7b+ South Africa at Waterfall Boven. Photo Ben Heason


Tell us about your blog and your desire to reach out to people who are suffering or who have suffered from depression? 


At the time my blog was mostly about cool trips and achievements covering the fun/glamourous side of climbing but I realised that no one gets to see behind closed doors and how much effort goes into these achievements both mentally and physically.


To me it was a personal bit of writing and I didn’t realise quite how much of a response it would get as depression is still quite a taboo subject. To me it was trying to let go of some personal things that had happened that I hadn’t dealt with, I thought people might shun me or react badly but a lot of people connected and said they went through similar experiences, it was really touching and a chance to show that everything isn’t always rosy but we make the best of what is thrown at us. (To read Emma’s blog go to


Emma Twyford

On Rare Lichen e9 6c at Clogwyn y Tarw. Photo Ray Wood.


How can climbing help in terms of engaging with people and helping them overcome some of life’s obstacles?


I think climbing is great because it is personal, you can choose to climb on your own or with groups of people and everyone has their own reasons for doing it but you can challenge yourself. At the end of it all life is about finding the things you enjoy, that make you happy and make you smile, the things that take you away from the mundane tasks of everyday life and make it special.


Life is for living and having fun, I’m lucky that I found climbing so early on to give me drive and direction.


Emma Twyford

Triple jeopardy 30/ e8 at Table Mountain in South Africa. Photo Julia Wakeling.


How are you currently spending your time and what exciting plans or challenges do you have set for the year ahead and beyond? 


Currently I’m mixing my time between route setting or coaching and trying to recover from car crash injuries that I had 2 years ago that keep impacting on my climbing.


I’ve been to South Africa trad climbing and Switzerland alpine climbing so far this year. I’m hoping that these trips will build up my experience to try some new routes and maybe head to Yosemite big wall climbing next year.  I pretty much always have projects or ideas on the go to keep me psyched throughout the year.


To find out more about Emma visit her website


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