news & events

Published in Blog - News on 21st January 2022

Imi Bagnall-Smith interview

In part 2 of our series of She Climbs mini interviews, we talk to climber, routesetter and coach Imi Bagnall-Smith.

Mile End Climbing Wall: Can you talk a little bit about your experience as a routesetter, how you got into it and any barriers you have faced?

Imi: I started routesetting in September 2020, after being very interested in pursuing it (but slightly intimidated!) for the couple of years before that, during which I helped out with testing for some sets, and asked some friends who routeset for advice. Once we were out of lockdown, I decided go for for it and spoke to Yorkie at LCC about a trainee routesetting position, and was lucky enough to get a job!

I definitely worried about being a girl in an “all boys club”, and learning new skills such as using power tools which was pretty daunting since I had zero experience with drills! Buying my own impact driver for freelancing felt like an exciting milestone.

What does good routesetting look like to you?

Imi: I think that good routesetting should teach climbers throughout the grade range; whether that is by encouraging fluid movement and teaching fundamental skills (dropknees, smearing etc) in the lower grades, or more complex sequences, specific body positioning and coordination in the upper grades. Exceptional climbs will balance interesting movement with an aesthetic appearance to draw climbers in!

As well as this, being accessible to a wide range of people, and having the majority of climbs in a set approachable to people regardless of size!

What are you hoping to get out of this event?

Getting to set on a wall as iconic as the Mile End comp wall is an awesome opportunity. I’m excited for a new experience for my routesetting, and getting to be a part of an all-female team is also pretty unique too!

I hope that female climbers will see this team and realise that getting to set awesome comp blocs is certainly not just for the guys; and maybe feel more empowered to pursue trying routesetting!

I also hope that other climbing walls will consider setting up similar events to showcase female routesetters, and be driven to diversify their setting teams.

What would you say to encourage female climbers to come and take part?

If you’ve ever felt intimidated to get on the comp wall because there are too many strong guys, nows your chance! It’s also a great opportunity to meet lots of other female climbers, and learn from workshop leaders (and hopefully talk to some of the routesetters).

What do you think this event represents for the wider climbing community?

I hope that events showcasing female talent in climbing will encourage a move towards greater gender balance in the industry, as well as showing off how incredible female routesetters can be! If more walls offered opportunities like this, it could spark a great movement!

What could climbing walls and the climbing industry be doing to encourage and support more female route setters?

Aiming to employ women on their routesetting team, as well as book a proportion of female freelancers will ensure that the setting team at the wall has good gender representation, and will allow more women to see people like themselves in the industry - which can be a huge encouragement to pursuing a job.

Anything else you'd like to add?

If any women have questions about the industry (or anything else!), feel free to drop me an Instagram message.


Big thanks to Imi for taking part. You can book your space for She Climbs here (places are going fast so reserve yours soon).