The writing was on the wall from the age of five as to what sport Ava Hamilton was going to pursue.

On a day trip to the Edinburgh Festival, five-year-old Hamilton became momentarily separated from her family. Her hiding place? The top of a lamppost.

Eleven years on from those first glimpses that Hamilton was a natural-born climber and she’s established herself as one of the most promising talents in the country, a status she’s keen to cement this weekend at the British Lead and Speed Climbing Championships, which begin in Edinburgh today.

Despite being only 16 years old, Hamilton will go in as favourite for the senior speed climbing title and is already clocking times faster than GB climbing great, Shauna Coxsey.

However, having recently returned from the IFSC Climbing Youth World Championships in South Korea, where she reached the finals, Hamilton, from Glasgow, is refusing to put undue pressure on herself this weekend, nor get caught up in any hype about her potential.

“My target is to win this weekend but I don’t feel under too much pressure,” she says.

“The British record is definitely something I want. I have gone that fast but because I’ve not done it in an international competition yet, it’s not official. But I’d like to be doing that kind of time this weekend.

“It’s pretty cool to be talked about in the same sentence as someone like Shauna Coxsey but I don’t think about those things much, I’m too busy looking forward and thinking about how I can improve. I give myself quite a hard time in terms of my performance and so I always feel like I can do better.”

Despite not coming from a family with any particular interest in the sport of climbing, from as young as she can remember, Hamilton has displayed considerable talent.

She was, she admits, a “nightmare” for her parents, particularly as a decade ago, there were no organised sessions for under-7s to take part in.

And Hamilton can still recall as a six-year-old counting the days until she could join a climbing club.

“I was one of those kids who’d climb on absolutely everything,” she says.

“I remember waiting for my seventh birthday so I could join a climbing club at Glasgow Climbing Centre - I went on my seventh birthday and that was it.

“A few weeks after beginning at this climbing club, the guy who ran it told my parents I was really good and that I should try out for the youth squad - everyone kept telling me not to worry if I wasn’t selected, but I got into the squad ahead of loads of other kids. And I started entering regional competitions and I won loads of them, even though I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

The rules of speed climbing are simple; whoever scales a 15 metre wall the fastest, wins. The best men are able to record gravity-defying times of under five seconds while the best woman takes just over 6 seconds to make her way to the top.

That’s still a good few seconds faster than Hamilton’s best to date but having only begun concentrating on speed climbing at the start of this year having previously focused on bouldering and lead climbing, the teenager's progress has already been dramatic. And with her season ending after this weekend’s British Championships, she’s champing at the bit to get her first full winter of speed climbing under her belt.

“People had said to me that I had potential in speed and I should train at it but when I started focusing on it, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I was able to get under 11 seconds, not consistently but enough to make me think there was something there to work with,” the Kelvinside Academy pupil says.

“And so now, I’m so excited for this winter – I’m really going to knuckle down and see how much I can improve. I’ve never felt this motivated. I like in speed climbing, it's so easy to judge if you’re getting better because you’ve got your time right there and you can see exactly where you are. It’s really addictive trying to get your time down.”

Hamilton has timed her breakthrough perfectly; with climbing having been included on the Olympic programme for the first time at Tokyo 2020, the profile of the sport has exploded in recent years.

Despite its Olympic status, it remains a distinctly minority sport within the UK – and an undersupported one, with Hamilton and her family having to fund all her training and competition costs – but Olympic inclusion invariably works wonders for a sport’s profile.

And while Paris 2024 will likely come too early for Hamilton, she has her sights set on becoming Scotland’s first Olympic climber at the 2028 Olympic Games. There is, however, she’s quick to acknowledge, considerable work to do before she can book her seat to the LA Games in five years time.

“If you’d asked me a few years ago about the Olympics, I’d have said I didn’t think I could make it. But now, I definitely think it’s a possibility," she says.

"I need to work so hard though because the sport is moving on so quickly. The top climbers are just so incredibly fast and I need to do everything I can to close the gap between me and the best. But I do feel like there’s so much more to come from me and I'm so excited about trying to improve.”