The BMC's invitation to introduce Dame Kelly to climbing outdoors came on the back of coverage for the Beijing Olympics, where she said she wanted to try a new sporting challenge.
The BMC knew that Dame Kelly had excelled in the Climbing Wall challenge on Channel Five's recent Superstars series, and wanted her to have the chance to go climbing outdoors on real rock in the spectacular scenery of Britain's most popular crag - Stanage Edge.
Tina Gardner from the BMC explained:
"Dame Kelly Holmes had asked to be challenged to do a sport, other than running, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to take an enthusiastic, high-profile, sporting celebrity rock climbing and raise the profile of the BMC. As Dame Kelly is a role model and an ambassador for young people in sport, we wanted to show her that climbing is an activity that is accessible to all and can be enjoyed on all levels. We thought it would make a good Summit article and wanted to know how far two gold medals would get you on gritstone!"
The first challenge of the day (22 October) was to tackle a couple of 20 metre high routes. Despite the wind, cold rock and technical challenges, Dame Kelly battled to reach the top. Dame Kelly climbed with the BMC's guidebook editor Niall Grimes. She was instructed by international Mountain Guide Rich Cross.
Dame Kelly said “I was nervous when I first looked at what I had to climb but I was up for the challenge and knew I was in safe hands with the BMC. It was both a thrill and a relief getting to the top. It's definitely something I'd like to do more but I'm not a big fan of the cold so next time I'll pick a warmer day.”
After lunch, the sun came out and Dame Kelly got the chance to meet some younger climbers who demonstrated bouldering at Plantation Boulders. Dame Kelly showed her determination to succeed on some of the boulder problems.
Dame Kelly said: “It was great meeting some of the young and talented local climbers. They are really good at what they do. I hadn't done any bouldering before but really enjoyed it and can definitely see the attraction”.
Dave Turnbull BMC CEO said: “We're really pleased that Dame Kelly chose to try out rock climbing. It was fantastic to see an Olympic gold medallist finding out what rock climbing in Britain has to offer. Climbing is a very accessible sport, with over 300 indoor climbing walls throughout the UK - many within inner cities - and an abundance of rock varieties and superb climbing venues in the great outdoors.”
To find out more about taking part activities including rock climbing, bouldering, hill walking, scrambling and mountaineering, go to the BMC website at www.thebmc.co.uk
Dame Kelly is in the process of setting up an outward-bound centre in Surrey. You can read more about her rock climbing experience on her blog at www.doublegold.co.uk