Ethan Walker has an impressive tick-list of sport and trad routes from around the world. Chalkbloc caught up with Ethan to hear his thoughts on how climbing in the UK compares with the rest of the world...

What felt closer to the edge of your comfort zone - climbing hard sport (8c) at Raven Tor, which is a strong effort and must’ve taken a lot of time, or The Zone (E9 6c, technically easier but bold)? Or are they just different experiences?

Totally different experiences without a doubt. However, I think if you look at things from a mental perspective then the routes I’ve done down at Raven Tor have most probably been more challenging. As most people will know, red-pointing at your limit is not just about how strong you are but how good you are at managing the mental stresses it also brings. A few years ago I think I did struggle at times with head games but these days I find myself much more chilled. Possibly because I no longer feel I need to prove anything to myself.
I remember being totally fired up for The Zone (E9 6c). It feels like a lifetime ago now. I knew I was going to do it and had complete faith from the moment I left the ground. Yes, the climbing was well within my limit being around f7c/+, but add in the factor of weighted down sky hooks for your only protection, and not to mention the freezing December morning temps, then you still have quite the challenge. Thankfully it all went to plan and the fall onto those sky hooks wasn’t tested.

The Zone (E9 6c) at Curbar. Photo: Jon Clark

Have your roots always been in one particular area of climbing (e.g. sport or grit), or has your climbing evolved over the years?

I suppose I started out trad climbing and then things gradually progressed from there. When I was younger, it was all about being outside, exploring crags, visiting new places and generally having adventures with my Dad and brother. I actually remember if we ever visited an indoor climbing wall, it was a real treat!
It probably wasn’t until my mid teens that I really discovered what proper sport climbing was all about. Around the age of 16, I slowly started to understand and know what it meant to be strong. There are a bunch of people that really helped to develop me as a climber and helped me really begin to appreciate what it meant to try hard.
I love all forms climbing and my goal has always been to be a true all rounder. To be the best I can be in every discipline. I’ve gone through patches of doing a whole bunch of trad, then shifted my focus to bouldering, but the last few years have really been more about pushing myself on the sport climbing front and seeing how far we can go with that. 

You seem to have a great relationship with sponsors. Do they help you go climbing in some form, and do you have a balanced partnership with them? 

I work with some fantastic companies that I have really strong relationships with. Mammut have supported me in my climbing for over 7 years now, and in more recent years I have started to work with them much more closely. As well as being on their UK athlete team, part of my role with them involves, among other things, working within their marketing department.
This role can see me creating brand awareness content, working on product videos, helping to build their social media profile and organising and attending events. It is a flexible relationship and I love that I get to go climbing and train, but then also get my head down into some more traditional style work for a few days per week. For me it’s the perfect partnership. I’ll be forever grateful to them for allowing me to lead the life of a professional climber and for all the education and experience that working within their team has and continues to give me.

Could you choose just 3 crags (e.g. Tarn or RRG, for example) which you’d take to a desert island? 

Hope its a pretty big desert island! Flatanger, Ceuse and Red River Gorge.

Hajj (8c), Raven Tor. Photo: Jody Cliff

Little Big Boss, Gorges du Tarn. Photo: Jon Clark

If the UK had reliable weather, would you only climb here?

Definitely not! I love climbing in the UK but I think I possibly love climbing abroad slightly more… Maybe because as a youngster, I never got to experience climbing abroad so I still have so many incredible places to explore. 

A lot of your climbing is on UK limestone. Obviously us Brits might be biased, but how do you rate it compared to European limestone?

I’ll be honest, yes we have some wonderful crags… I’m thinking of places like Kilnsey, Malham and Pembroke, (the list could go on) but for me I think Europe wins. The one things we do have going for us in this country is the vast amount of crags and styles of climbing within a relatively short distance of each other. We have everything from world class trad routes, sport routes, and bouldering, all on a variety of rock types. I still have so many routes here that I would love to do one day and I doubt I’ll ever tire of British rock. Like every climber, my list seems to grow at an alarming rate of knots.

London Wall (E5 6a), Millstone. Photo: Mike Hutton

Follow Ethan on Instagram.

Ethan is sponsored by Mammut, Five Ten, Pro Balm, Trek Wholefoods and Elliot Brown