In 2015 Emma started to work increasingly hard to balance climbing with her growing commitments as a freelance route setter, but she still found the time to tackle some routes and boulders close to home, such as a ground-up ascent of Ring My Bell (E7 6b) at Craig Cwm Glas Bach; Impact day (E8 6c) at Pavey Arc in Cumbria; The Lotus (7C) in the Llanberis Pass and Melancholie at LPT, which Emma considers to be her hardest 8b tick to date.
Similar stories unfolded in 2016 and 2017, as Emma balanced climbing with developing her career. In 2016, between stints of work, Emma fitted in an exchange trip to South Africa, during which she claimed two-dozen routes graded 21 to 30, including onsights of Blue Planet Direct and Red Rain (both ~E6 trad routes) in the Western Cape and Jack of all Trades (8a), Snapdragon (7c+) and Eraserhead (7c, onsight) at Waterval Boven. The day after returning from South Africa Emma flashed, thereby making the third ascent of, James McHaffie’s Gravity Wave (E8 6c) at Trearddur Bay. Likewise, during the 2017 autumn season Emma made quick work of a number of routes at Nesscliff, including Une Jeune Fille Quatre Vingt Dix Ans (E8 6c), My Piano (E8 6c), 10 O’Clock on a Saturday Morning (E7 6c) and the fourth ascent of Cassini (E8 6c). She also nailed her first 7C+ boulder, Corridors of Power in North Wales.
In 2018 Emma had possibly her best year to date, full of big trad ticks and hard sport climbing. The year kicked off with Emma reaching a new high in her sport climbing with a send of the 50m endurance route Mind Control (8c) in Oliana, Spain, in February.
“It was funny with Mind Control because I expected it to be harder than it was,” says Emma. “That’s not to sound arrogant! It’s just that Unjustified took me so much time and so much effort. Mind Control should have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it didn't take that long to come together and when it did it all felt very natural.”
Then, in May, Emma began an impressive trad season, during which she made a fast ascent of Once Upon a Time in the Southwest (E9 6c) at Dyer's Lookout in Devon, ticked Steve Mayer’s infamous Nightmayer (E8 6c) on Dinas Cromelch in July, and then sent the Big Issue (E9 6c) and Point Blank (E8 6c) in Pembroke in August.
“This year I’ve been way more relaxed,” says Emma when asked about her successes in 2018. “I’ve not been putting pressure on myself. Being relaxed about it makes me perform better. It means I perform when I want to!”
Throughout 2018, while ticking off these high-end trad routes, Emma was also putting in considerable time—and making excellent progress—on North Wales’ hardest sport route: Neil Carson’s The Big Bang (9a) at LPT. In September 2019 she finally succeeded, becoming the third person ever to climb the route and the first British woman to climb 9a.
""At the top, I thought to myself did that actually just happen?" says Emma. "I wasn't pumped and it had felt like a path. There was also a fair bit of swearing with the relief of finally getting it done!"