Great Britain’s Peet climbing the wall of success
World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst laid into England’s footballers last week for their passionless displays in the Three Lions shirt.
But not all sportspeople have had their realities distorted by money and fame.
Preston-born Gill Peet, a Great Britain boulderer, values nothing more than turning out for her national team.
“It’s brilliant to represent your country at something you love,” says Peet. “I just love the buzz.”
The 28-year-old competed in January’s British Bouldering Championships in London and, despite not progressing to the final stages, is determined for success at international level.
“Representing GB gets you psyched to train. Every time I compete, I’m inspired to climb harder and push myself on more difficult routes.
“I’m not ready to win anything just yet, but I’d love to get to the semi-finals of one of the big tournaments in Germany, Austria or Spain later in the year.”
Peet only joined the Great Britain setup two years ago and she admits struggling with the pressures of international bouldering.
“I’m still getting used to competitions and dealing with nerves,” she says. “But the standard of the European girls – especially the Austrians – is amazing.
“I started to compete when I was 25, but they’ve been doing it since they were kids. It boils down to experience and I’m improving, so there’s still hope for me yet!”
Bouldering seems a dangerous sport to the outsider. It is rock climbing, but there’s no rope and no harness, just a crash mat to break your fall.
Peet understands the risks better than anyone. She missed last year’s national championships after fracturing her heel.
“I fell off a wall in Longridge. It was such a big fall I spiralled down and missed the mat by inches. I was out for five weeks.”
But Peet is fearless. “It didn’t put me off,” she says. “It has just made me climb harder so I don’t do itagain.”
Boulder routes are referred to as problems because much of the boulderer’s task lies in finding a way to reach the top.
Climbs are short and focus on small sequences of moves, rather than on the endurance of traditional rock climbing.
“You have to work out how to get from the bottom to the top with only 12 holes in the wall,” Peet says. “It’s very technical. It’s problem solving, really.”
When not involved in international competition, Peet’s full-time job is climbing development officer for the city council’s sports development team.
The role allows her to use her expertise to coach Preston’s keen pool of youngsters at West View Leisure Centre.
“The kids’ courses are always full,” she says. “We currently have more than 100 signed up.
“And we have the Preston Youth Climbing Festival, where the numbers have crept up each year.
“Last year was the third time we had run it and we ended up limiting the places to 100. But there were around 40 more people asking to be squeezed in.”
West View offers a huge variety of courses, all overseen by Peet, including bouldering masterclasses for adults and a little hangers club for children as young as five.
Peet began working at the centre’s climbing wall on a casual basis during the final year of her sports coaching degree at the University of Central Lancashire, and was offered her permanent role around four years ago.
In that time, she has almost single-handedly revitalised the city’s climbing scene.
“Without blowing my own trumpet, I’d like to think I’ve turned it around quite a bit,” she says. “Initially it started out as just a wall on a badminton court and now we have a dedicated centre.”
Peet’s success at West View reflects her staggering dedication to the sport.
She started out when she was 12 after an outdoor activities week at school.
“The instructor told me to take it up,” she says. “And now I’m slightly obsessed!”
Peet spends nearly all of her free time scaling rock faces and her partner owns a bouldering wall in Blackburn, where they live.
“When I’m not working, I’m probably climbing. If I could afford to, that’s all I’d do. I can’t wait for spring when the clocks go forward. I finish work in the evening and I go to a local crag and climb.
Even Peet’s holidays are climbing-oriented. “My friends ask me why I don’t go to the beach,” she says. “But this is what I love.”