Sitting tight in the Caffè Nero queue, ready to place my usual order, I spot Bethan Davies-Williams in her Cambridge University Mountaineering Club (CUMC) fleece, saving us both from an awkward phone call. as we try to come face to face for the first time. Armed with our coffees, we sit down at the table in the center of the room to talk about the club she oversees as president, as well as her own roots in the sport of climbing.
Davies-Williams takes me back to her early childhood to mark the beginning of her climbing experience, as she followed in the footsteps of her father who was also president of her university’s mountaineering club: “It was by him I discovered rock climbing when I was eight,” she recalls, but was soon forced to give up after being part of Team GB’s junior trampoline team. Not a bad alternative by any means.
“We had 33 women competing in the Cuppers at St. Michael’s, and that was more than both genders combined in my first year”
But arriving in Cambridge just under three years ago, Davies-Williams rekindled his once difficult ties to the sport through CUMC taster sessions. “I found the club really nice, because I made a lot of friends”, she recalls, but also notes the lack of competitiveness: “It was not as competitive as today, as they struggled to get women into competitions.”
The CUMC has a rich history, with English mountaineer George Mallory graduating from Cambridge in 1905 and the club undertaking its first ascents in 1912. This is something Davies-Williams is keenly aware of in its efforts to increase popularity and popularity. CUMC subscription, while bringing the new brand of sport climbing in dialogue with tradition to maximize the involvement of male and female students. Needless to say, the club’s efforts paid off, as Davies-Williams cites changes in the local scene as a benchmark for changing attitudes: “Five years ago there was only one climbing wall in Cambridge, but now there are two, so the sport has progressed over the years. In addition to that, CUMC caters to a mailing list of over 1000 people and has a WhatsApp group chat which peaked at 256 members.
“In this year of my presidency,” says Davies-Williams, “we are coming out of the background of sport climbing getting its start in Tokyo, so I just wanted to put more emphasis on that while still keeping the roots of the club alive too.In tackling the task of increasing women’s participation, Davies-Williams admits that “there is definitely still a bias towards men in the club”, but notes the change CUMC’s contribution to the Cuppers’ scoring system: “In the past, it was just the top three scorers in colleges that contributed to a final score, and they normally wouldn’t be women. But, we’ve now done so that the ranking affects the Cuppers women’s score”, producing a more proportionate result in the competition. “We had 33 women who participated in Cuppers during the St. Michael’s period, and that was more than both genders reunited in my freshman year” , she said with a humble smile on her face.
“We’re like the flattest place in the country, but I don’t want people who like to climb not coming to Cambridge!”
With graduation fast approaching this summer for Davies-Williams, this year marks his final stint at the club, which I feel strikes a gloomy chord for him, but also mingles with an eagerness to get out of the Cambridge bubble. Before handing over the reins, however, Davies-Williams has a few things to check off his to-do list: “What I would really like is to get Blues status for the club, which personally I think it would be a good legacy. go to the club. I think the sport is in line with other sports that have such status, in terms of the competitiveness of BUCS and the fact that we are now an Olympic sport. To achieve the coveted status, the CUMC will need to show evidence of competing and accumulating many hours of training and, as far as competition criteria are concerned, athletes will need to be in the top 3% at BUCS .
She continues: “In general, I would like climbing to be seen by the whole Cambridge community as a sport. We’re like the flattest place in the country, but I don’t want people who like to climb not coming to Cambridge!
Yet when it comes to finally handing over the reins, Davies-Williams has no worries, especially with current competitions secretary and UCAPP athlete Matthew Fall and social secretary Holly Davis all two members of the committee: “I will leave the club safely. hands to build on the work already done.
Looking ahead to CUMC’s clash with Oxford tomorrow (06/03), Davies-Williams is not only confident, but also points to the great accessibility of the Varsity match format, with the ‘Open Round’ welcoming climbers of all skill levels. and giving them the chance to climb alongside experienced athletes: “Anyone, regardless of their level, can get involved in the competition”, she stresses, while using this as a springboard towards general philosophy of availability of the CUMC. “The club is a way to access the outside world. You can like a side of climbing and competing indoors, while we can also help you out to climb for the first time, so I think that’s unique in the opportunities it can provide, d especially since it can be difficult to access the equipment for such a climb.
Cambridge enters this year’s Varsity in good shape. At BUCS on Feb. 19, the men of CUMC came in 4th out of 36 teams, ten points off the podium and well ahead of their dark blue counterparts. Towards the start of the term, the mixed team also placed third at the London University Bouldering Event. Davies-Williams is optimistic: “We hope to sweep all competitions, and I think we are on the right track to achieve that.”
However, the Light Blues will be without the talented Holly Davis and potentially Juliana Kohl, who both suffered injuries in the build-up to the event, which could affect the women’s hopes of bouncing back from back-to-back Varsity defeats. Although having Hannah Zia on board, who reportedly topped the BUCS score two weeks ago but remains strangely unconfirmed due to a lost scorecard, will be a big boost for Cambridge.
After twenty minutes of conversation through the end of a sore throat, Davies-Williams lays out his plans to retire home, eat Mardi Gras pancakes and enjoy a well-deserved night out. To spare his voicemail any further discomfort, it seems fitting to conclude with the words of Matthew Fall via email: “Competitive climbing is as valuable a sport as any, and it has come a long way since then. the era of filth.”