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Climbers Like Me: Marie

Updated: May 10, 2021

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

I am from Guadeloupe, France. I have been in London since 2000. I have type 2 diabetes, am a generous body type person; I enjoy cycling, lifting weights and climbing. I started climbing five or six years ago. There were very few women who looked like me, or if there were any, I did not see them. I was so engrossed in learning how to climb that it did not occur to me to question whether climbing was for me. I did not check whether it was for me, or if there were any people looking like me in climbing. Instead, I wanted to get better at it. You see, climbing gets you like this. It entices you, and then makes you addicted to it. I love climbing. Trad is my preference, then bouldering, then sport climbing. Okay, sport scares me a little bit.

My climbing experience has been enriched by joining the Marylebone mountaineering club. It’s like having a little family. I have made some of my best memories with people from the first ascent of Snowdon, my first multi-pitch or my first sport climb in Spain… but mainly learning all the Trad skills. I have also learned that I’ve got to love the “walking” if I want to do the “climbing”. I did my first winter climb last year, it was Striding Edge in January. What an amazing experience!

Well, you probably want to know something else. Let’s see...mmm… reading, cooking, eating blablabla and, mmm… climbing.

Give us three words that you identify with most?

Happy climber woman.

What brings you the most joy outdoors?

I love being outside. I can’t even understand how it happened. I remember my first outdoor climb: believe me, I was not loving it! I was dead scared. It was at Bowles Rocks, on a 10 metre slab. I know… I went back there later... people can scramble that thing! For some reason, I kept at it. I tried again and then all of a sudden I could not get enough of it. I even love camping! Who would have thought I could ever enjoy camping? Not me. I need dark and silent to fall asleep (think earplugs and eye mask!) And who could have guessed that walking . would be part of what I called ‘fun’? It was really not something that my circle of friends were doing much. I had one walking friend and I don't think I thought of that walk we did in Sevenoaks that involved hours of walking not getting anywhere… Within my wider community actually it is not something that we do much. Walking is a necessity, it’s a means to go somewhere or do something.

A friend of mine made the remark that there were not many women my size nor my colour in climbing. I was too caught up in the climbing bug to really pay much attention. Of course, I noticed the sideways look and the stares sometimes when I went climbing outside of London. I had never given too much thought to the lack of diversity in the climbing community because I was in a club that had accepted me the way I was. All they were interested in was safety measures. That is also how I ended on a course in the Peak District. It never really bothered me, because to be honest, I was so happy to have the opportunity to go outdoors that the rest did not matter. I was in a safe place within a safe climbing community. This is my personal experience and I know I am lucky to have this experience with my club and my climbing friends.

I have spent 20 years in England and it is only the last five or six years that I have discovered this country. The beauty of it. There are so many wonderful places to go, the Lake district, the Wye Valley, Dartmoor, the Peak District, even Harrison Rocks with it’s sandstones business. Being able to be exposed to the outdoors is amazing and so fulfilling. It enables me to take a break from my daily life and get recharged. Through climbing, I have learned so much about myself, I am calm when needed, resilient not stubborn...well, except that one time when I froze my belayer on Flying Buttress (Please note: he has defrosted since and is alive and well). I have learned to accept my failures with grace (mostly!), or until I succeed. All in all, the outdoors brings so much joy and peace and beauty. It is so calming and refreshing. I have a boost every time I come back from a trip.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

I think so far my biggest challenge has been moving to a country without knowing the language and having to start from scratch. I learned to be resilient, compassionate and strong. I have learned to pick up myself . and walk with my head held high, to embrace all the challenges that life has brought to me. Climbing is a beautiful metaphor for life: you climb, you fail, you climb, you succeed. Then you climb again and discover new things, new ways, you improve, you regress, you cry, you laugh, you love and loathe, but you don’t give up. You take a rest then continue some more.

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

Treat people with respect, be decent human being, and be kind. And if you can’t be kind, be respectful. Try to be open minded, everyone has their own battle.

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

Patience is a virtue. Accept people for who they are. Try not to judge, be patient and kind to people of all walks of life.


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