Ambassadors Unfiltered: in conversation with Berghaus athlete Molly Thompson-Smith

Berghaus athlete Molly Thompson-Smith recently marked her comeback from a potentially career-ending injury by claiming her fifth national title. Last December, Molly suffered serious damage to her finger, rupturing three pulleys. Following an operation and intensive rehabilitation and training, she’s since been crowned British Senior Lead Climbing Champion for the fifth time and remains unbeaten at this event.

We spoke to Molly about her incredible comeback, how she spends her free time and her ambitions for the future.

How did you choose climbing as your sport? Where did you climb, and how did you know you wanted to do it professionally?

“Growing up in London, it’s not something that really comes naturally! I was a really sporty kid and every birthday party would be a different sport, so by the time I got to seven it was time to try climbing at the Westway [Sports Centre in Kensington]. I jut instantly fell in love with it, joined a club and carried on ever since.”

You recently marked your comeback from injury by claiming your fifth national title. How did you prepare for this?

“Feeling healthy and trying to be as pain-free as possible was the most important thing for me. I wanted to come back stronger and, more importantly, healthy for the long term. I can’t climb as often as I used to – I used to train six days in a row and now I can get away with three or four. So I had to adapt the intensity of my training but I just had to get back in fitness as much as I could.”

How do you balance being a professional climber with studying, going out and being able to relax?  

“It’s quite hard when the thing you love to do is actually your profession. I decided to postpone studying at university – I was enrolled last year but then I got my contract and found out about climbing in the Olympics. You really need a lot of time to train and I don’t like to do things half-heartedly. The nice thing about climbing is when I have a fun session with my mates at the wall – that feels like downtime and I can switch off. Outside of that I like to bake and cook and I’m really interested in nutrition. I’m trying to find ways to make healthy eating more enjoyable, and things with cake too!”

What’s been your hardest moment?

“I’d say basically the whole of 2018! The worst thing that happened to me was rupturing all three pulleys in my finger. I’d just committed to climbing being my job and then I couldn’t climb for ages, and then I had so many doubts about whether it was a long-term thing, if I could come back from it or if I’d made a mistake and should’ve gone to university. But coming back for the World Championships saved the year.”

You’re a Berghaus ambassador – why does this relationship work?

“Berghaus is passionate about the outdoors and making it cool and accessible, and all of those things are really important to me after growing up in London. The outdoors was never part of my childhood as we were definitely an inner-city family, who didn’t go outside much and played urban sports. They’re also helping women get out and enjoy what the outdoors has to offer and that’s really important to me too.

What’s your favourite item of kit?

“I really love my Ramche Mountain Reflect Down Jacket. I’ve got a bright reddish-pink one and I wore it to the National Championships for the first time and everyone said they loved it and the colour was great! It’s perfect for outings to peaks or spending all day at the climbing wall.”

What’s coming next in your career?

“Next year is a really big year – I’ll try and compete in the full world cup circuit and I’ll try my hand at bouldering as well. It’s is also Olympic selection year – I always wanted to be an Olympian when I was younger. Then there’s Tokyo 2020, but in the meantime I’m really excited to see where I can go.”

Molly will be at Kendal Mountain Festival from 15th-18thNovember, and will join the panel discussion ‘Women in Adventure’. You can read more about her comeback from injury on her blog

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