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Shauna Coxsey


Ned Feehally: at the forefront of Britain’s climbing drive

WE TALK to Ned Feehally, one of Britain's most respected and progressive climbers, about his career in the sport.

Ned Feehally

Ned Feehally was introduced climbing by family friends when he was just eight years old. photo Shauna Coxsey

NED FEEHALLY started climbing when he was introduced to the sport by a family friend. As the years went by he grew more and more into the pastime and in his 20s got his first taste of climbing success when he won the British Bouldering Championships. He has since gone on to become one of Britain’s most respected climbers.


Here he talks to us about his remarkable career to date and some of his highlights from his travels promoting the sport around the world. Read on to find out about his climbing plans for the future and the climbs he’s got organised ready for later this year.


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


I first went climbing with a friend of my parents. He took us out top roping in the Lake District. I must have been 8 or 9 at the time. I don’t remember being particularly into it, but I think my parents must have seen that I enjoyed it. Soon after that a climbing gym opened near our home and my poor parents had to keep driving me there week in, week out!


When I became a teenager I suddenly got way more into it. I started to experiment with training a bit more and tried get out rock climbing as much as possible. It seemed a natural choice to move to Sheffield (ostensibly for university, but in reality for climbing), and I’ve lived here ever since.


Ned Feehally

Ned’s first taste of climbing success was when he won the British Bouldering Championships.

What were some of your earliest achievements in the sport?


It took me years to get any good at climbing. For 6 or 7 years I climbed once or twice a week. However when I started to get more into it and started to train a bit more I began to make steady progress. I’d say it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I had any real success – I won the British Bouldering Championships and started to climb some hard-ish (for the time) problems outdoors, and got some reasonable World Cup results. 


When I first climbed Careless Torque at Stanage (an incredible highball arete) I was totally made up. I never thought I’d be able to do that one. And the same thing happened with Karma in Fontainbleau. Both times it felt like I had reached a level where I really understood rock climbing and realised that I could climb much harder than I thought I could. 


I think since then, for the last 10 years or so my progress has been fairly consistent. I still feel now like I am improving, but I am aware that this probably won’t last forever! 


Ned feels as if he is still improving in his profession of climbing. photo Jon Fullwood

Where in the world has the sport taken you and what have been some of the highlights?


My family are into travelling, so even before I started going on climbing trips I had spent time all over the World. I lived in the US for a bit when I was younger and spent time in Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.


Since getting into climbing I have tried to keep this going. At first this was mainly throughout Europe, but in the last few years I’ve made a real effort to try to get further afield. There’s a lot to see out there. 


The highlight has to be Fontainebleau. It’s one of the first climbing destinations that I visited but however far I travel, and wherever I end up I still think Fontainbleau is the best climbing area in the World. It’s a beautiful place and the boulders climb brilliantly. I like the fact that the style is so cryptic and technical, it really makes you think.


Ned Feehally

Ned has climbed all over the world. photo Shauna Coxsey

Tell us about your focus on bouldering and what is it about this aspect of the sport that excites you?


I suppose I’m too heavy for sport climbing and too scared for trad! Actually, I really like the simplicity of bouldering. You can turn up at a boulder and instantly get a good idea of the character of the climbing. You can see the holds, imagine how it climbs and take the whole of it in very easily. I am also a bit of a perfectionist, and when you are climbing towards your limit on a boulder problem you have to aim for perfection in your movement. I like the fact that you can’t sketch and battle your way up the hardest sequences, you need to get everything just right. To me that’s a really engaging challenge.


I find with sport routes it’s hard to get a feel for a route without spending time on it. Admittedly some routes are amazing lines, but the real details of the climbing are hidden away from the ground and as a result I find it hard to immerse myself in a route like I can a boulder problem.


I find the physical aspects of climbing really interesting too, and bouldering is the purest way of exploring that side of things. 


I’d love to spend more time trad climbing, but while my body will allow me to keep bouldering as hard as I can, I want to spend my time on that. I plan to do more trad when I’m old and knackered!  


Ned Feehally

Ned is keen to keep bouldering for as long as he can but looks forward to doing more trad climbing in the future. photo Shauna Coxsey

How do you balance climbing with other aspects of your life and work?


I am one of the owners of a company called Beastmaker. We make fingerboards and other training products for climbers. This is the prefect set up for me. I really enjoy what I do for work and I’m 100% into the products that we make. We work hard but I still get quite a lot of time to train and climb too. 


If (hypothetically) I never had to work and could climb full time I think my climbing would improve drastically. However in reality I don’t think I’d enjoy climbing full time, I’d get bored of it fairly fast. Most of the time I don’t mind the fact that my climbing time is slightly limited, it tends to keep me focused.


The older you get, the more life throws at you and the more responsibilities you seem to get. Personally climbing has become less and less important to me over the years. That’s not to say that I’m not into it and I don’t train as hard as I possibly can to improve, but I know that climbing up rocks isn’t the only thing that I want to get out of life.  



Ned Feehally

Ned is currently taking some time out but it won’t be long until he’s getting back to full strength ready for winter. photo Shauna Coxsey

How hard are you currently training and what exciting climbs do you have coming up in the near future?


Right now I am doing very little! I trained pretty hard for a trip to Rocklands this summer and after getting home from that I felt exhausted and needed some time off. It’s been great! 


I’ll probably have had about 1 month of chilling by the time I get beck to training properly. After that it will be time to train and get some strength back for the winter. If it works out I’d really like to spend some time in Fontainbleau and Switzerland on some hard boulder problems, but otherwise I have plenty in the Peak to keep be busy. 

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