Interview with Australian Team Climber, Lucy Stirling

Lucy Stirling is an Australian Climbing Team Member from Brisbane. She has been climbing since 2005 and recently sent her first Grade 31 (8b) Esoteric Agenda at Mt Coolum. We just couldn’t wait to ask Lucy some questions about her climbing experiences and her recent achievement as we are sure there will be many more sends to follow.

Today, the 29th of September is her 27th birthday and this interview is to celebrate her fantastic recent achievement but also to wish her a great big HAPPY 27th BIRTHDAY all the way from Melbourne!!

How long have you been climbing for and how did you find climbing? 

Around 14 years ago. I had always climbed anything and everything as a kid but discovered the sport at my highschool where there is an artificial wall in the gymnasium.

What is your favourite climbing crag and why?

I don’t have a favourite crag. I love so many for different reasons. I often get obsessed over a certain local crag for a while depending on what I’m projecting and the weather at the time. Coolum Cave is definitely the most recent obsession for me and was also one of my very first outdoor climbing experiences, as well as where I met Alex, my partner… So I have quite a soft spot for that cave.

We would love to hear about your first ever Grade 31 climb β€œEsoteric Agenda”. When did you first find this climb and what was it about this climb that caught your attention? 

I had actually never even looked at this part of rock until after I sent Evil Wears No Pants (30) a month ago. To be honest not so long ago EWNP didn’t seem at all possible in my head, but I got on it and was totally surprised when it came together quite quickly. After this happened, it really boosted my confidence and opened up my mind to trying some of the harder routes at the crag.

After EWNP I was looking for a new project and a few people recommended Esoteric Agenda so I had a look at it and couldn’t believe I hadn’t even noticed this section before. I loved the look of the two random horns on the headwall and was excited by the steep thuggyness on the bottom half.

Tell us about your journey specifically with this climb, how long did you work on this climb? Did it involve specifically training for this climb off wall too? Or did this climb just suit you?! 

I guess I just got on and tried it, hoping there would be some sneaky Lucy beta to get through some of the larger deadpoint sections (and there was!). It was so much fun and managed to get most of the moves on the steep section on my first session. The moves were burly and grunt-worthy but I was hooked and knew this would be my next project. It only really took me 5 sessions on this route to bring it together. I am always training nowadays and having worked on the “Evil” climbs before this I guess most of the hard training was done. I felt strong enough. I just needed to link sections together and get the micro-beta dialled. 

The trickiest section was figuring out the crux on the headwall. I had to work out a sequence of fairly intricate moves with a terrible sloper and open pinches where most of the guys span out left to a jug which I can’t reach and skip that entire section. I learnt to love my gross little sequence even though it was quite low percentage for me.

When you are working towards a climbing goal, in particular pushing the next grade indoors or out, what do you think is a key factor in your training on and off the wall? 

Resting properly, fueling your body in the right way. I guess when you’re that close to sending your project, motivation isn’t the issue nor is the strength training. The best thing you can do is get out there and get on that climb. Every session at the crag was dedicated to training for that climb, on that climb. If I fell off, I would get back on before I had recovered and try to fight through the pump. I would try and link sections with overlap. And if I wasn’t feeling great I would just go for a fitness lap on it anyway and try to get the beta more dialled. When you do this you become so familiar with the route, you can remember all the moves in your sleep and when you finally get the send it just seems to just flow together easily.

What does your weekly climbing schedule look like? How many times a week do you climb?

It’s been changing a fair bit recently. I have been training hard for the Olympic Qualifiers which are meant to be happening in December (subject to change). So I had been doing a lot of strength training and not a heap of climbing. I recently came back from fractured Sacrum so the only thing I could do for a while was upper body strength. I’ve been back at it for a couple of months now though and able to climb again and was allowed to lead climb before I was allowed to boulder (falling on my butt would have been the worst thing to do) so I guess I started climbing a lot outdoors again.

Do you think cross training is important for climbing? Whether that be running or strength training and do you cross train yourself? 

Yes definitely, but in moderation. I train full time because I am training for a three (very different) discipline in the sport and hoping to qualify for the Olympics. I think if you’re training to push yourself outdoors you can be more specific and depends on your current fitness level. I think running is great crosstraining but I have in the past made the mistake of doing too much. I think if you’re going to do cardio you should mix it up and interval training is good to include rather than just long and slow burns. I think at an advanced level, finger strength training is crucial and overall strength training is definitely helpful. It’s not magic, if you want to get stronger you have to train. 

Who inspires you in the global climbing community? 

Carlie Lebreton and Monique Forester have always been an inspiration to me from very early on in my climbing career. Recently seeing Becca Frangos crush incredibly hard outdoors in Canada has got me super psyched as well. Go Girl! I draw inspiration from so many of my climbing friends in so many different ways. 

What do you like to do in your down time aside from climbing? 

I love being outdoors. Literally just being out and absorbing nature. I love painting, playing with dogs, mountain biking, exploring and being creative.