Lisa Farris - Climbing Wall Instructor

Lisa Farris

What do you do for work?

I have just changed jobs, up until 3 weeks ago I was Office/Bookings Manager at Undercover Rock in Bristol. I am now Centre Manager at The Castle Climbing Centre in London, where I am heading up the Duty Manager Team amongst other responsibilities. There is lots to learn but I’m looking forward to the challenge.


When did you start climbing? Who introduced you to it?

I started climbing in 2004 an ex-boyfriend wanted everyone to go climbing for his birthday. So we did and I was hooked. I went and completed a beginners’ climbing course at Craggy Island in Guildford and climbed there often over the next couple of years.


How did you get into working in the climbing industry?

Whilst climbing at Craggy Island I grew to love the place and liked it so much that when a full time reception job came up in 2006 I applied and got the job. I was there for 4 years and in this time I started to head outside and discovered a whole world for climbing, mainly sport and bouldering, with multiple trips across the world to climb.


What did you do before you started working in climbing?

Before starting work at Craggy Island I was a student down in Cornwall studying Photography. Then I worked as a temp in various offices but I get a bit fidgety stuck behind a desk all day. That’s when I thought maybe a job in the climbing industry might be a good plan.

Lisa Farris bouldering in Fontainbleau

Have you always been active/sporty?

Yes I’ve always been pretty active. Most of the family holidays I went on were either walking or cycling holidays. I used to do a fair bit of sport at school; I can’t say I was much good at all the sports I tried but I would give them a go!! I was pretty good at cross country running!


What do you love most about working in the climbing industry?

I like the freedom that working in climbing gives you and the fact that you get to work with like-minded people who you have lots in common with. I worked in an office for a while and the guys I worked with couldn’t get that I was quite happy living in a van for a couple of weeks at a time rather than being at a 5 star beach resort!!

It’s great to be around people who all have different skills and talents within climbing, that you can learn from around you all the time.


When and why did you decide to become a qualified Climbing Wall Instructor?

Whilst working at Undercover Rock (UCR) the opportunity came up to be a cover Duty Manager but it was a requirement to have the Climbing Wall Instructor qualification. I’d always been interested in instructing but the opportunity had not come up before so I went for it. As I was working closely with the instructing team at UCR I felt it was a good opportunity to really understand what they do each week on the sessions I was booking them into. I gained my CWI in October 2015. I have also done FUNdamentals 1 and Foundation Coach training.


What were the best and most challenging things about the scheme?

The best thing about the Climbing Wall Instructor was the learning and sharing of knowledge during training and consolidation. I enjoyed learning new skills and fine tuning skills I already had.

The biggest challenge I had with the scheme was finding climbing walls happy to have me come and shadow/assist and finding times that I wasn’t working and they had groups. I think it’s a vital part of the Climbing Wall Instructor process to see how different walls do things, but working full time and finding time to visit other walls was tough to start with.

Nicole Reeve paddleboarding

What advice would you give to anyone else considering the scheme?

It is a lot of work and can be quite time consuming. I would advise anyone thinking of doing it to make sure that they have the time and it’s something they really want to do. Just because you really like climbing doesn’t necessarily mean you should become an instructor. Instructing can be a really rewarding job though and I have enjoyed every session I have done since passing my Climbing Wall Instructor.


What are your (climbing) plans for the future?

The future for me and climbing is to get back to a level where I feel like I am pushing myself again. I have suffered from a back injury and glandular fever in the last year so climbing has taken a bit of a back seat. Instead, walking my dog Pip has been my exercise and some leisurely Stand Up Paddle Boarding with some pottering about at the wall so my body doesn’t forget how to climb! I’m hoping that with my new job I will find more time to climb and get back to my goal grade of 7a and beyond! The immediate future is to book the euro tunnel for a couple of weeks climbing in sunny Spain over the autumn.

I am hoping in the next year I will complete my Climbing Wall Development Instructor training and would like to do my Foundation Coach assessment.