China Crisis (8b+) – Photo Nathan Lee

Katy Whittaker first appeared on the climbing scene with her brother Pete in a short climbing film called Grit Kids which appeared on the Committed II DVD. Pete Whittaker is now more well known for his hard crack climbing ascents with Tom Randall of Wide Boyz fame, and his recent solo of 150 gritstone extremes in a day.

In the meantime, Katy has quietly racked up some impressive ascents of her own, being only the 4th women in the UK to climb 8b+ (China Crisis in Oliana), making the first female ascent of the serious Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (E8 6c) on Curbar and tip toeing her way across Gaia (E8 6c) at Black Rocks to name but a few.

1. So where did it all begin?

I don’t even remember starting climbing, my family has always been very active outdoors and it is just something we have always done. We started walking and scrambling in the mountains, my mum is mega keen so there was no way we wouldn’t get into climbing.

2. Are you and your brother competitive?

Ha! I used to be better than him when we were kids then he got muscles and got strong. There was a short time period when I tried to keep up with him then I realised it was pointless. We definitely aren’t competitive these days as we do totally different things.

3. What do you think about his obsession for crack climbing?

Each to there own. I wish I were as good as Pete, but it doesn’t really appeal to me so I never put the effort in!

4. Do you still climb together?

Not really, we still hang out together and occasionally climb at the wall but we both have our own agenda and they don’t usually cross paths. Plus outside on the grit Pete has basically done everything I want to do, so there is no reason for him to come out and try the climbs again with me.

5. Are you planning any big trips together?


Katy and Pete Stanage

Katy and Pete Stanage

6. So what have you been climbing recently?

I spent the beginning of the year sport climbing and really pushed myself and achieved a big long term goal. Then I switched very swiftly to trad and went to Pabbay, Mingulay and then Chamonix.

7. Tell me about Pabbay?

Pabbay is an uninhabited island on the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, you take a 5 hour ferry journey then an hours fishing boat ride and get dropped off on an island with nothing there except a stream of fresh drinking water. It is a ridiculously amazing place though, camping by a beach with golden sand and clear blue seas, then climbing on steep 100m sea cliffs with puffins flying past you all day.

You feel pretty out there, there is no signal and you are a very long way from the main land. It is very committing doing a 100m hanging abseil and knowing the only possible way out is to climb back up.

8. Sport or trad, do you have a favourite?

Trad is where my roots are, this is where it all began. I have a lot of experience climbing in the Peak District on the small gritstone edges and have done bits and bobs in North Wales, Cornwall, Pembroke, Scotland etc. However seacliff and mountain trad climbing is something I would really like to pursue and improve on as I definitely feel like I lack experience in these areas.

For now though, I want to push my sport climbing as I feel it is the right time to do so. I like the fact I can just dabble in trad as and when the opportunities arise.

I definitely don’t have a favourite though, they both allow me to experience different things and take you to different places.

9. I know you’ve just got back from an Arc’teyx meet in the Alps. How was that?

Yeah I was helping out at the Arc’teryx Alpine Academy, it was amazing event designed to educate and inspire people and get them up into the mountains and where better place to run it than Chamonix.

I stayed on for a week after and managed to get out and up into the mountains everyday. This was my first experience of real alpine climbing and I loved it!

Walking into Voie Rebuffat - Photo Jo Stadden

Walking into Voie Rebuffat – Photo Jo Stadden

10. What’s it like being an Arcteryx Athlete?

I only recently joined the team but Arc’teryx are really supportive and all the athletes are really inspiring.

11. Did you get anything done?

I think the climb Jo and I were most psyched about was climbing Voie Rebuffat on the Eperon des Cosmiques, the hardest pitch is only about French 6a but we had the whole experience of walking down the midi snow slope, using crampons etc. and being at altitude. It really was one of my favourite days out climbing.

12. What do you do for fun when not climbing?

I like to catch up my friends. It has been a busy few months and I haven’t been in Sheffield very much, this week I am taking a rest so I have more time to visit people and go to the pub!

13. What is your favourite climb so far?

Ah that is too hard to answer, I have a lot of favourites across the various disciplines and they are all special for different reasons.

14. You’ve been climbing hard routes on Gritstone for several years now, and recently you’ve really been pushing the boat out with some very serious routes. How do you manage to keep your head together on serious routes?

Ah I am not sure, I don’t think I have a very good head, I seriously get scared all the time. I think my will to climb them is so strong and I so desperately want to do the routes that fear is just something I have to deal with, I try not to let it win but sometimes it might take me years to pluck up the courage to actually climb a scary route. Also usually once you are actually climbing there is nothing you can do any more except push on.

It helps me to surround myself people who are bold and climb harder because it spurs me on.

15. Does your necky ability translate to longer trad routes?

Not at all. As I said early my experience on the bigger trad routes isn’t as vast as on the gritstone. My climbing partner in Pabbay was a Pembroke regular and she was totally in her element in Pabbay – lets just say I was not!

However I think I can easily work on this but I just need to do more of it but it isn’t the right time for me at the moment.

16. (Re-necky ability) Would you say it’s something you either have or you don’t?

I think it is something you just build up gradually. I wouldn’t just start my grit season by headpointing Gaia or Knockin’ on Heavens Door, I have built up my confidence on this rock type over many years and put in a lot of mileage on easier routes. You have to know what your ability is and have 100% confidence in it, gritstone is one of the only rock types I can do this on.

Knockin On Heaven's Door (E8 6c) - Photo Nathan Lee

Knockin On Heaven’s Door (E8 6c) – Photo Nathan Lee

17. What is your favourite type of rock to climb?

I like anything as long as it is solid!

18. How many pull-ups can you do?

Ha, not sure. Maybe 15?

19. Do you have any big projects planned for the future?

2013/14 has been a really big year for me as I achieved my dream goals that I wasn’t even sure were possible. Now it is a case of making new ones and putting some work into them.

There are a lot of places I really really want to visit though.

20. If you had to stop climbing now, what would you do?

Mmm not sure. It would have to be something in the mountains.