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Climbers Like Me: Aby

Updated: May 10, 2021

Tell us about yourself - who are you and what do you love doing?

My professional background is in Engineering and my PhD is in Marine Renewables. My research has taken me to far flung places like Korea and Japan and remote locations like the Orkney Islands. This is what bought me to Bristol. I started climbing indoors with some friends in 2009 as a way of escaping academic life and its frustrations but it wasn’t until 2015 when I moved to Bristol, that I started training and climbing outside on a regular basis.

A weekend trip to Pembroke changed everything – I realised I didn’t just want to second trad but wanted to lead some of these routes. I love feeling the sun and sea breeze while I am climbing high above gear, linking moves that in the first instance feel impossible. I am also a little short for your average climber (5ft1”) and most of the time have to be very creative with my beta – so problem solving is another lovely delight of this sport!

Give us three words that you identify with most?

STEMinist – When I did my Engineering degree less than 10% of the class were women, and that number was even lower when I did my PhD. You may think that women being underrepresented in these fields is not an issue, but it is, and it perpetuates a glass ceiling.

Unconventional – I am not very muscly, usually shy, introvert and mostly keep to myself. I’m from India, I wasn’t very sporty growing up, my hair is usually in plaits and I’m almost always cold. So, when you look at me, I don’t look like a typical climber.

Empower – We really need to support and create opportunities for better representation across the field so we can have more female leadership. Even now during the COVID pandemic, we can see that given the opportunity, female leadership is much more effective.

What brings you the most joy outdoors?

Large open landscapes where you feel like a tiny spec in the backdrop. Escape the desk job and leave your troubles behind. To feel like a fly on the wall on terrain unimaginable and so immersive. I am actually scared of heights so it’s a bit of a struggle, but I love feeling a state of flow and moving without worrying about gear or falling.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

I think my challenge is believing in my own abilities. I have only redpointed one 7c+ (Storm Warning) and onsighted a couple of E5’s (Pacemaker), but I’m certain had it not been for supportive, sometimes pushy and possibly annoying climbing partners (to whom I am very grateful!) I wouldn’t have even bothered to try them. I am a very impatient person so I struggle with long term projects or envisage what a period of training can do for my climbing. For this reason, I don’t commit to any serious goals which is my major downfall.

If you could share a core value or abiding principle with others, what would it be?

We are the first generation that truly understands the extent of damage climate change will have on our planet. Although it’s difficult to cut down emissions related specifically for climbing - we all want to fly and drive to our dream climbing destination. I’ll be the first to say that I am not perfect, I have numerous weekends away, a couple of trips to Europe in a year and big trips every few years, it’s really hard to compromise on the things you like. But in my day-to-day life I try and cycle or walk to work, I often ride my bike to the Avon gorge for evening climbs when possible. I have always been a vegetarian, and I am increasingly becoming mindful of how much food we waste for no good reason. Although as climbers – most of us are very connected to nature and our surroundings, I think we can all do a little bit more, be that changes to our diet, try flexitarian, choose to cycle or walk for journeys within 10k or partake in local clean-up activities.

Tell us one small change we can make as individuals to help our community?

I’d really like people to be open, kinder and not judge a climber by the way they look. It’s really disheartening when I get to a crag and the assumption is that someone who looks like me will only be seconding or top roping. However, I do relish proving these people wrong!

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