The Great Outdoors speaks to Hannah Morris, the brains behind the most subscribed female-led climbing YouTube channel globally.

Hannah Morris, 28, runs the most subscribed female-led climbing YouTube channel globally – Hannah Morris Bouldering. Both online and on rock, she challenges stereotypes and her own social anxiety while offering a welcoming space to anyone interested in climbing and bouldering.

Main image credit: Nathan Betts

She grew up in Manchester, not so far away from the Peak District. It was climbing that helped her discover the national park properly and opened her up to the outdoors. Here, we discuss her motivations, her methods of coping with ‘countless sexist remarks’, and why she’s turning the volume up on her voice for inclusion.

How did you first realised your passion for outdoor adventures?

I started climbing in 2013, and it quickly became an all-consuming passion of mine to explore new outdoor climbing locations. As luck would have it, the wilder corners of the Peak offer some of the best gritstone climbing in the UK.

Hannah Morris grew up exploring the Peak District.

A childhood growing up exploring the Peak District.
Supplied by Hannah Morris.

My love of spending time outdoors really evolved from those first few times out on rock, climbing on those weathered gritstone edges. The experience of moving in a totally new way and figuring out a puzzle, coupled with the lifestyle values of pushing your limits and living adventurously had me hooked instantly.

What is it about spending time on rock – and bouldering specifically – that appeals to you?

I love climbing for many reasons, but something I really enjoy about the sport is that it totally embodies the spirit of adventure and pushing your comfort zone. When I’m climbing, I’m navigating the unknown, conquering fears and developing strength in mind and body. Discomfort and fear are inherent to climbing and things I think we all must experience at some point or another to grow – I really love that I get to confront those fears and find growth though climbing.

Hannah Morris in the Peak District Credit_Nathan Betts

At home in the Peak District.
Credit: Nathan Betts

Spending time in green spaces, climbing and hiking have been a constant reminder for me to appreciate my ability to adapt and endure. Climbing has encouraged me to value my body and acknowledge pain and fear as opportunities for growth. Being able to be adventurous with outdoor exploration and recreation is something I’ve really valued throughout my twenties. It’s taught me a lot about self-belief and endurance!

Can you describe the feeling of connection when you commune with the landscape during bouldering problems?

Suffering from social anxiety for my whole adult life, I’ve often sought a feeling of connection. When I’m bouldering outside, I’m totally immersed in the physical process of climbing – I feel confident, controlled and in my element in a way that I don’t often feel in my ‘real life’. Climbing in natural landscapes has connected me with positive feelings about my place in the world and given me a healthy sense of perspective on my ability to navigate it.

Hannah Morris bouldering in North Wales, Credit_Nathan Betts

Bouldering in North Wales.
Credit: Nathan Betts

Patiently putting together small pieces of a puzzle to figure out a bouldering problem teaches me that I am brave, strong and persistent. Climbing is also a really humbling endeavor. With rocks, we have very little to prove. The rock doesn’t care who you are or if you’re feeling anxious, it will treat you just the same.

Why did you start the Hannah Morris Bouldering community and what do you hope to offer to those who are a part of it?

I started my bouldering YouTube channel around 2.5 years ago. I was mindful at the time that there weren’t many amateur climbing channels at all, much less, female-led climbing channels. I suppose I began making the videos that I would have liked to see at the time but as the channel grew, the videos really became a way for me to share a value and a voice that I hadn’t always found easy to do. I’ve struggled with social anxiety my whole life, and the community I was building online felt like a place I could express myself and share the values that I really cared about.

Creating content for Hannah Morris bouldering at Chimera Climbing Credit_Nathan Betts

Creating content for Hannah Morris Bouldering at Chimera Climbing.
Credit: Nathan Betts

Now, as the biggest female-led channel, I’m trying to use my platform to encourage others to push their own boundaries, especially women who don’t believe this space is built for them. I want to keep sharing insights about my own experience as a climber and hiker to show that the outdoors should be an equal space.

How do your mountain days compare to your time bouldering?

I’ve taken quite a few solo trips to hike in the mountains or more recently, to camp. I recently hiked the Cumbria Way in the Lake District and I’ll often take myself off into the Peak for a solo ramble in the hills – the beauty of working for myself is that I can spend a day hiking and the only person who can tell me off for shirking is me!

Hannah Morris on the Cumbria Way Credit_Nathan Betts

Hannah walking the Cumbria Way.
Credit: Nathan Betts

As with climbing, I’ve always really enjoyed hiking or traveling by myself and exploring the self-sufficiency and confidence that undertaking both builds. I’m currently planning a solo hiking trip to Madeira that I’m really excited about and would one day like to complete one of the iconic multi-day hiking trails. Waking up in an unfamiliar place with a whole day and a stretch of trail to cover has always felt to me like one of the most exciting things. The satisfaction of navigating myself and exploring new places is a great feeling!

Can you describe the impact sexism in climbing has on you and the community of women climbers as a whole, and how you personally overcome that?

There are absolutely sexist and misogynistic attitudes at play in climbing, and the under-representation of women in climbing and climbing media spaces reflects how challenging and unwelcoming an environment that can create. Being a woman on climbing YouTube, there’s a lot I could say about the unwanted comments I’ve received about my body or my strength ‘for a girl’. I’ve navigated countless sexist remarks about my musculature and I’ve climbed in climbing competitions where the women’s finals were the same boulders as the kids’ finals.

Bouldering in Fontainbleau, France Credit_Nathan Betts

Bouldering in Fontainbleau, France.
Credit: Nathan Betts

I’ve often felt pressure to earn the place that I take up in the content space. In situations where I’ve felt I had to fight for time on the wall or doubted the value of my voice in the climbing community, perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to turn the volume down but it’s been really important to me from the beginning that Hannah Morris Bouldering has continued to have a loud and confident voice for inclusion. Turning the volume up hasn’t always felt easy, but choosing to be courageous has been a huge teacher for me in my journey of self-belief. I hope my platform is a space that empowers women and that everybody can see a bit of themselves reflected back in. I welcome conversations about improving diversity and representation and hope to continue to share episodes featuring a diverse mix of climbers.

It’s really important to me to keep that advocacy at the forefront of my mind and challenging the stereotype that climbing or the outdoors is a male space is really important to me. I’m striving to live a life of adventure and to subvert expectations and problematic attitudes with an intention that empowers others to do the same.

Follow Hannah’s adventures on Instagram and YouTube at Hannah Morris Bouldering.

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