“I'm going to ruffle a few feathers” – Hannah Morris on building Youtube's biggest women-led climbing community

Hannah Morris Bouldering
We speak to Hannah Morris about bouldering, turning up the volume on a voice not everyone wants to hear, and why she chose to focus on the novice climbers out there (Image credit: Hannah Morris Bouldering)

“You don’t have to be a stronger climber to be a better climber,” says Hannah Morris to the camera cheerfully as she hangs one-handed from a hold a few feet off the ground at an indoor climbing wall. She lists some of the strength tools climbers might over-focus on – like excessive hangboarding or off-the-wall training techniques – while footage of her doing pull ups with a weight tied round her waist rolls over the top. Then she sends her move and with some nifty video editing, appears in the next shot on a different part of the wall and continues to elaborate for her audience.

It’s the opening scene of an 11-minute video titled 8 Lessons I Learned From 10 Years Climbing where she teaches the viewer about factors that can improve your climbing technique, such as climbing consciously, working your weaknesses, focusing on the quality of your self-talk and mobility. Cut to a shot of a pizza with graphics which break down different factors that make a good climber (discipline, endurance, recovery, route reading, and yes, strength) into different slices. When she’s finished, she picks up a slice of pizza and takes a bite. 

I’ve been climbing at a novice level myself off and on since I was a teenager and it’s all stuff I can get down with. Morris’s advice and delivery is instantly engaging, clear and super helpful, plus she likes pizza. You really only need to watch it for a few seconds to understand exactly how the twenty something from Manchester grew her YouTube channel – now the largest women-led bouldering platform – to over 100,000 followers in the last three years.

“I’m trying to reach the climber that I was when I first started. The person that needed someone to say to me ‘you can try the hard stuff at the gym, you don’t have to be embarrassed to fall off,’” she tells me recently as we chat over Zoom. 

Hannah Morris Bouldering

Morris’s advice and delivery is instantly engaging, clear and super helpful (Image credit: Hannah Morris Bouldering)

I follow Morris on Instagram and before we connect, I’m wondering if she’s going to be dialing in from some exotic location – she and her partner, Nathan Betts (he's also the man behind the camera) mostly call their van home and in the last few months they’ve made stops to climb in Fontainebleau, the Contra Dam in Switzerland and Rocky Mountain National Park

Turns out, however, that she’s in Betts’ parents house in Sussex in the southeast of England. The recent cold snap simply proved too much for their duo, who don’t have a heater in their van and they’ve wisely retreated indoors for the moment to enjoy some central heating and hot showers.

Hannah Morris Bouldering

Morris started bouldering 10 years ago (Image credit: Hannah Morris Bouldering)

“It’s inspirational, but is it aspirational?” 

I met Morris for the first time last summer when we were both attending the Arc’teryx Alpine Academy and when she told me about her Youtube channel over dinner, I was instantly intrigued. Describing her business as a “community for everyday climbers,” she sets herself apart from the typical climbing content on social media, which often involves pristine drone footage of pro climbers sending dyno moves on big walls. 

“I’m not really clear why that is, when people could learn so much more from someone who’s climbing at their level. It’s inspirational, but is it aspirational?” she muses.

Morris aims her content at what she calls “novice climbers” and to be clear, though she’s pretty impressive to watch on the wall, she considers herself to be firmly in that category. For that reason, she decided to focus on climbers in her ability level.

“It was kind of out of necessity because I’m not an elite climber, so I had to work with what I’ve got.”

Her tutorials include topics that any newer climber is interested in, like intermediate bouldering techniques, overcoming your fear of falling and how to choose the best climbing shoes. The videos are beautifully shot and edited, but there’s an accessibility to them that’s often elusive in the fitness world. Morris tends to film her videos dressed in a loose T-shirt and shorts and not a sports bra and hot pants. You probably wouldn't be scared to talk to her at the climbing wall. It all prompted me to get back into climbing last year after a long break. And if the numbers are anything to go by, it’s working.

Hannah Morris Bouldering

You probably wouldn't be scared to talk to her at the climbing wall (Image credit: Hannah Morris Bouldering)

“I started going to the gym to get bigger, not smaller” 

Morris started bouldering 10 years ago when she was studying at university and dealing with what she describes as a “tricky relationship” with food. It didn’t happen overnight, but over time, bouldering helped change that relationship.

“I realized really quickly that if I wanted to get stronger at this thing that I love, I couldn’t continue on the path that I was on. I needed to get stronger and maybe for the first time in my life, I began to connect my body to utility and pride.”

Instead of going to the gym to get smaller, she started to see the value in getting bigger. Climbing gave her confidence and she says it’s exactly that which she wants to give to other climbers.

Morris might have conquered the amateur bouldering world online, but she didn’t set out for world domination. With a background in marketing and social media, she says she always liked making and sharing videos of her adventures. Then, just after the pandemic, she was working from home and would spend her lunch breaks at the climbing wall. She started filming her climbing sessions and noticed that they got a bit more traction than her other videos. At that time, she had maybe 50 subscribers, but as she describes it, things soon spiraled out of control. 

Hannah Morris Bouldering

Today her videos generate more than one million views a month (Image credit: Hannah Morris Bouldering)

"I'm going to ruffle a few feathers"

When she got made redundant from her job a couple of years ago, Morris decided to see if she could make a go of things with her channel. In the early days, she did a few videos about trying her hardest project ever, but the feedback she was getting the most at the gym was that the relatability of watching someone who was close to their level was the most valuable and she quickly realized that’s where she could make the biggest impact.

“I realized that people were seeing value in the channel because it was different than what was already there,” she says.

“The climbers that I’m reaching are those that have just started climbing and want to learn something and find inspiration at a very achievable level than what has previously been on social media.”

Today her videos generate over a million views a month and though she occupies what she describes as an “interesting space,” making money from climbing without being a pro climber or coach, she's determined to keep carrying the torch for amateur climbers.

“Turning up the volume on a voice that not everyone wants to hear is going to ruffle a few feathers and I do struggle with that, but I receive far more positive feedback than negative comments and I just try to focus on that.”

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.