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Growing up in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world, and playing a lot of ‘urban sports ’ allowed me to play with children from different backgrounds, races and faiths. I’m still forever grateful for my upbringing, and the comfort I feel with people who are different. However, the diversity I was surrounded by on the football courts was no longer recognisable as I walked through the entrance doors to my local climbing wall.

Climbers are known for their laid back, welcoming nature. The emphasis for everyone is their passion for climbing and seeing the sport progress regardless of who is pushing the boundaries. But the last few months provided a wake up call for climbers – our beloved and inclusive sport didn’t feel so inclusive anymore. It dawned on us that most climbers looked the same, and that the few climbers of colour had experienced some sort of racism or discomfort at climbing walls or the crag. We learnt that the outdoors isn’t actually as accessible for all as we thought, and a certain status of wealth, privilege and support is required to be able to go for a weekend away bouldering, drinking wine and eating cheese in the Forrest of Fontainebleau. The belief that ‘the outdoors doesn’t discriminate’ within the climbing community has been questioned: How do you get outside? Who is taking you outside? Do you feel safe? Are you comfortable and welcome? All of these things could be a barrier to someone accessing what we have outdoors. There is so much more to it than ‘being outside is free for all’.

I am usually surprised, or hyper aware if I am joined at a climbing wall or crag by another black climber – it’s just so rare for me to see people like me in the sport. It’s even rarer to see a black climber climbing on rock at an elite level or participating (let alone excelling) at World Cup level. This has got to change.

Personally, the last few months presented a wake up call for me too; I grew up feeling like the odd one out, and throughout my childhood I tried my hardest to fit in with this community. I shrugged off the inappropriate comments about my hair or skin tone, and the stares that lasted a little too long. I hadn’t been proud of my blackness and tried to straighten the Afro curls out of my hair, hoping my difference from my community would disappear with it. Although I fell in love with climbing, and how it made me feel, I didn’t fall in love with the climbing community initially. I wanted role models I could relate to and look up to, to see myself being a part of the sport in many years to come. I ended up taking inspiration from other sports – Dame Kelly Holmes & Jessica Ennis-Hill were my childhood sporting heroes. I have plenty of goals for my own personal climbing, but I hope to use my platform as a professional climber to help increase diversity within our community, and hopefully be the role model I was searching for as a young girl.

There’s been a lot going on in the climbing community to try and make it more appealing to people of colour who are just beginning, and also a more comfortable place for those already climbing. It’s great to see the support these groups, charities and individual have received so far and I’m hopeful that their efforts will be incredibly helpful! If you’d like to support them, I’ve listed some running in the UK at the bottom of this blog!

For small ways to help, I’d suggest you start by supporting some people of colour or groups who are influencers in their sport or the outdoors sectors. This will help to build their profile, and hopefully they’re able to reach out to more people of colour and show them that climbing, the great outdoors or whatever sport it is, is a place for them too.

There’s a long way to go, but sport has the power to unite people from all walks of life. I hope with conscious effort from us all, more people are able to share the happiness and incredible benefits climbing has to offer.


Project One Climbing
United We Climb
Black Girls Hike


Written By

Molly Thompson-Smith