Katy Whittaker on gritstone season
Interviewed by Tomasz Mazur for the Góry Magazine #180 (May 2009)
At the beginning, could you tell me few words about yours year achievements? Especially about the ascent on Braille Trail?
Well to be honest this year I have just done The Braille Trail, which is an absolutely amazing route-I have wanted to do it ever since I saw it years ago. I top-roped it last winter but found it really hard so gave it a miss, but I couldn’t resist having another look this winter. It felt much better this time, still really hard but much more climbable (and I love grit slab climbing), so I eventually led it!
This winter (but It was at the end of last year!) I also led The Master’s Edge, which is probably one of the best routes I have ever done, it is such a good line with amazing climbing.
Apart from those two routes this winter I have just been either bouldering or climbing some of the easier but classic peak trad routes- which is fun!
Next question is the most interesting for me. I can't believe that it is a standard piece of equipment in your rack - where did you find the door handle? :)))) Is it normal for you to use "untypical" stuff?
Haha errr no! All the other routes I have done before have been really good gear but usually a big fall, but I think the reason I found The Braille Trail much harder than any other trad route was because of the weird and dodgy gear!
The gear in Braille Trail isn’t actually a door handle! It is from the ‘Outside’ Shop in Hathersage and it is a shop fitting for a shelf! The second piece is another homemade bit of gear which our friend made us, which is just simply a piece of metal about 2cm wide and 10cm long and slots into a thin pocket, the third is a black diamond tri cam- which was pretty dodgy as my brother ripped the placement out last year falling of his new route Granddad’s Slab.
The gear is really awkward to place as it is in your only handholds, so you have to climb past it, then at the last minute put it in before moving along the slab.
When I'm looking at the picture from your ascent (with the nail and the door handle) I think you are absolutely cool-head. But in one interview you said that you don't have any special mental training - just positive thinking! So, do you have natural ability? Or, maybe reason is that you started climbing in your childhood? Or maybe the door handle placement was safety?
Don’t really do any mental training, just try and remember what to do before I set of, and think positive. I was really nervous before I set of on The Braille Trail just because I wasn’t totally sure if I could do it and if the cam would hold, but as soon as I set off and started climbing I felt fine. I really really enjoyed climbing it, and it was cool because when I got to the top all I thought was ‘I want to climb it again’ where as on The Master’s Edge I was just really psyched about climbing it.
In the last year you climbed Kaluza Klein, but for some reason the belayer was Ryan Pasquill - not your mother... What I mean - how do your parents look at your aims? Do they say, "Katy, don't do this - it's too dangerous? Take another one!”? Are they supportive despite of your "crazy" plans?
No way Mum and Dad are cool it, but to be honest my brother and boyfriend (Ryan, who belayed me.) have both climbed E9 so I suppose doing an E7 seems pretty safe. They trust who ever I trust, because I am not going to let some dodgy belay me!
They didn’t know that I was going to lead either Master’s Edge or Braille Trail the day I did (nor did I though.) I just came home that evening and told them!
Are you thinking about consequences of trad climbing? About dangers? About possibility of injury?
Obviously it is always at the back of your mind, but I wouldn't climb something I didn’t think I was capable of. I definitely wouldn’t do something if that I thought I would fall off I would die/seriously hurt myself, because then you could never climb again.
Ok. No more "serious" questions :) You are not only trad climber, but also sport, boulder and very successful competitor... which kind of climbing is the most important for you and why?
I have always climbed outdoors and done trad since it was little but I also did competitions for about 7 years and use to love them, I enjoyed the competing, training and the social side, I made loads of friends through doing competitions. Last year I decided I wanted a break from that side of climbing I was getting a bit bored of it. So these days I mainly just climb outside and I absolutely love it, I am not sure if I will go back to doing comps-maybe at some point in the future.
In the Peak I mainly just boulder and trad climbing, I am not really psyched for the sports climbing round here.
What do you think about sport routes - probably it feels like children playground for your mind (comparing to trad in gritstone)?
I like sports routes, I think it is good to do all types of climbing, makes you a better climber, but I mainly just sport climb out in Europe-its way better!
Sport climbing still feels scary though sometimes, when they run it out between bolts!
You have collected nice numbers of E7 - so when are you going to do next step? What routes are you preparing at the moment? What are yours aims? How do you find achievements?
Well the grit session is coming to an end, so will probably just do some onsighting on easier stuff, tick some classics! At the moment I am quite happy just doing lots of climbing with my friends, I do have plans for the grit next year, but I am not telling!
Question, which warms the UK in the last time: What do you think about British Grade System? What is your opinion?
I think higher up the grading system there may be a bit of over grading, but to be honest I don’t climb hard enough to comment on whether something is e9 or e11. It seems to be settling down a bit now.
How are you combining climbing your private life with climbing?
My private life is climbing, all my friends and family are climbers, so it is what we all go and do (when we are not at uni/work.) Sheffield is great because there is always someone around to climb with, even mid week when I get time off from uni.
How has your life changed after your success? After film "Grit Kids"? Do you feel like a famous person?
Haha no, and nothing has changed!
The film got a really good response, which was cool-and mainly down to Hotaches, the producers who made it fun to watch.