In 2000 I was 18 years old, I’d never been climbing, and I was moving to London to study. It was there I met my first climbing mentor, James Dear. He was the one who infected me with this disease and it’s him that I have to thank for everything that has unfolded in my life as a result of it. It was in the summer of 2001 that James finally took me climbing to the slate quarries of North Wales. It was most definitely a seminal moment of my life, which was spent wandering around in awe muttering little other than “amazing”.

It was in 2002 that I met James a young kid from Matlock named James Pearson, who would become one of my best friends and was the person who I improved alongside for the next few years. We were both super keen for climbing and together we explored the grit crags of the peak district, with James making a name for himself by repeating many of the harder routes. Whilst our lives have been very close since we met our paths have gone slightly differently, but it’s been great to see James go from a boy in Matlock to a man in Manchester, navigating the treacherous but rewarding path that the limelight casts.

In 2003 I was heavily infected, climbing every day of the week that I could, and climbing infiltrated my every thought and action. It was then that I felt the calling of Sheffield, so I packed up my home and found somewhere to live in the city of steel. I walked into a climbing scene as a complete unknown and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can remember what it felt like to go from being an alright climber in the London walls to being an absolute and complete punter in all of the Sheffield ones. Motivation was ridiculously high and I threw myself into it as hard as I could. I can remember the first time I ever went to The School and saw a group of people who were stronger than anything else I’d ever witnessed. The bar was set that night. I had a goal.

By 2006 I’d managed to get a little stronger and I felt like I’d integrated myself into the climbers of Sheffield. It was around that time I met Richard Simpson, who would serve as probably my greatest ever inspiration in terms of being strong, dedicated, and psyched. Never had I met someone as fit, as strong, or as dedicated to training and I immediately saw what was possible if one was able to commit fully to climbing. At that point the bar was reset so severely that I was barely able to see it, but I knew it was up there somewhere!

Not long after I realised that if I wanted to really improve I had to go my own way and so I left Sheffield, returning back home to Derby where I built my own board. Small but perfectly formed it was the place I would spend many nights trying as hard as I could. A point was reached whereby I needed to balance out my strength with my rock climbing skill set and so I started to spend every penny I had to go to places like Fontainebleau and Cresciano, and slowly but surely the scales started to approach an equilibrium. I’d be the first to admit that they’re still not balanced, but I’m always learning! Travelling has the wonderful effect of opening your eyes and mine continued to be peppered with more and more strong climbers. My mind turned from the small confines of the Sheffield scene to the global scene of super strong climbers.

In January 2008 I climbed my first 8B bloc, General Disarray in Brione. That was a huge milestone for me as it was a level which I considered half decent. But satisfaction is so short lived and that feeling of climbing at your limit is addictive. A few months later I did my second 8B bloc, but my first in Fontainebleau. This was also one of the greatest climbing moments for me as it was a reference point which meant a whole lot to me. Fontainebleau is the home of bouldering and for me the most important place to go to test yourself. This was why I returned in 2009 to try and tick my first 8B+ bloc, because I think there is nowhere else as worthy (apart from Radja) to tick your first of such a grade! It’s also why I will be returning later this year to finish Gecko Assis and not fall off with only a move to go. The challenge remains, the motivation remains, and the reward remains.

In 2007/8 I also met Tyler Landman. I can actually remember seeing him and Jeff climb back in 2002 at the Westway climbing wall in London but they were both just young kids then. In 2008 I spent the autumn climbing with Tyler in Switzerland and I became aware of just how phenomenal he was. He has the “magic” that I think all phenomenal climbers have, which is the ability to step up at the right moment and go into crush mode. I watched him climb many hard and amazing lines, but this was almost the warm up act! In 2009 Tyler and I spent nearly 3 months in Font together and what I witnessed was most definitely another level. I learnt so much in terms of climbing and we had a great trip, culminating in perhaps the most important thing, a really good friendship (yes, it may sound a little limp wristed but it’s the truth). Ties that go deeper than simply a shared practice of rock climbing. Tyler is certainly one of (if not) the best boulderers in the world, but he is certainly not the strongest guy out there. What I learned from Tyler is that the right attitude, the right skill set, and a shedload of strength can take you very, very far. He climbed every hard problem in Font and none took him more than a couple of sessions, which only affirmed to me that none of them are near his true limit. He’s bouldered 8C and he’s nowhere near his limit. To me that is such a great and inspiring concept.

I’ve been exceptionally lucky in both my life and my climbing. I’ve somehow met all the right people at all the right times and my motivation has pretty much increased as the days have gone by. The stronger and better I get, the more I want to reach the next step. I’m not complacent and all I want to do is improve in everything that I do. It’s this attitude that spurred me to leave London for Sheffield, and then leave Sheffield for Derby. It’s with that same attitude that I plan to leave Derby (and the UK) for greener pastures. This time the move will (fingers crossed) be to Innsbruck, Austria. It’s home to some of the world’s best climbers, a great training facility, and great rock climbing. Whilst there is no magic in simply moving, the hard work will begin when I get there. I want only one thing, improvement. I am willing to offer only one thing, everything. Hopefully this will be a recipe for success… time will tell…