About five years ago, Sean Issac got to go to the BMC Winter Climbing Meet and I knew I wanted the same. The idea of climbing in Scotland seemed so ideal to me.
Last week, I got my chance to ‘live the dream’ in Scotland. I really really felt like I was on cloud nine. Every day, we hiked into a crag where we were blessed with immaculate rock, positive hooks for the tools, a plethora of foot placements and interesting, solid gear placements. Every day, I had a new ‘local’ expert to guide me around the coire’s. I was a fat kid in the candy shop.
DAY 1: Ventricle (VII, 8) at Coire an Lachan with Andy Turner
So as an introduction to Scotland, Andy thought we should start with something ‘easy’… i don’t think Ventricle is what he had in mind, but no matter… the day was perfect and we both thoroughly enjoyed the climbing. Especially, when Andy lead the hard pitches ; )
When we arrived to the base of this route, it was super windy and spindrifty. In fact, I made a stupid decision to change out my bra and long underwear top in a spindrift storm, by the time i was finished: my sweaty clothes, my skin and my new change of clothes were all wet and cold with spindrift! But at least I laughed hysterically during the whole process! (making Nick and Bayard wonder who the crazy Canadian was!)
I chose to lead the first pitch because I didn’t want to get cold belaying and I was hoping it was easier then the second pitch! I had a great time and really enjoyed the techy nature. After the difficulties, I made an error of judgement in trusting a hook over some snow and ice in the crack, as I launched myself upwards, it released and so did I about 3o feet into air. A fun, but disappointing pitch for me. Although, probably one of the longest pitches of the trip at about 30m or so.
Bayard did a fantastic job of leading the very pumpy second pitch which was quite different in character to the first pitch.
Bayard’s blog post here.
Day 3: Toolin’ at the Newtyle Quarry with a bunch of nutty climbers.
A rainy day activity is to drive an hour or so south and climb at Newtyle Quarry. I drove down with James and Greg for this day of “toolin'”
I had way more fun in here then i thought. It was another opportunity to practice my newly-found figure-4’s and 9’s, and ‘train’ a bit for world cup. I was exhausted from all my travels and climbing, but the movement was pure fun in the drilled pockets and my belayers put up with my one-move-wonder sports action. A great place for training- wish we had this wall in the Bow Valley.
Day 4: Deep Cut Chimney (IV, 4) Hell’s Lum
Thanks to Ian for a mellow day out. I was so exhausted and not willing to take a proper day off.
ON this day, I managed to drop both my tools, (Ian retrieved them), and my thermos (unretrievable) and fell into a hidden glide crack.
It was one of those days that I was lucky to make it back to the car safe and sound.
Day 5: Don’t Die attempt, Gargoyle Wall (VII, 7) ‘ The Ben’ with Greg Boswell and James Dunn
Greg is a young bold climber and local to this area who is quickly dispatching all the hardest winter routes in his neighborhood. James is also a talented climber, but choosing to put his energy into his photography and filming of Greg’s send train. On this day on Ben Nevis we first checked out Don’t Die (Greg sent it a couple days later) and then Greg showed me the classic route of Gargoyle wall.
Day 6: The Vagrant (VII, 7) attempt and subsequent rescue (the end of the dream) with Rocio Siemens
climbing with Cio (Theo)
my one day to climb with another chick. yay.
and a beautiful day it is.
no wind, clear skies, mellow energy. we are both tired and happy to ‘take it easy’ at a relaxed pace.
we go with plan ‘c’ as our other options are taken, its a busy day at the crag.
i just need to lead 1 pitch and my job for the day will be done. i can do that.
its nice to spend time with another woman. the energy is different.
she leads the first pitch. she places great gear and builds a solid belay.
i head out, enjoying the movement. wanting to follow the cracks up and left, but feeling obligated to stay in a bigger crack to the right. “i’ll just check it out, and if i don’t like it, i’ll go left”
i wish i would trust my instincts more. they are formed from years of climbing experience. i always think others know better.
funny how i want to fall asleep when i need to write about this accident
the (not so) near miss. the bang on.
unfortunately, its the sequence of events before the fall that are dreadfully engraved into my mind. replay, replay, replay, STOP! (its too late, what’s done is done)!
what could i of done differently/better so that I would still be climbing and not have this uninvited 12 week hiatus into my exciting life.
put in more and better pro.
yep. simple as that. i watch the climbers i admire do it all the time.
generally, in climbing, falling isn’t an issue, if there is no ledge to hit. and if your pro holds. if you never wobble.
my right tool slipped, i wobbled, my feet slipped/popped, i was holding on with my just my left hand, why couldn’t i just hold on? then i let go, then my piece ripped and i hit the ledge with my back
OW! it hurts a lot.
nauseousness, lower me to a ledge. i’ll build an anchor
shit, i cannot move, i am paralyzed with pain. crippling muscle spasm. stop being such a pussy and build an anchor, stand up. i can’t. it hurts. shit. this sucks.
i want to lie flat on my back. NOW. there is nowhere to do this.
codeine. good idea. take one. take 2 more.
keep trying to move body so i can be lowered. please say there is a helicopter to rescue me. (i am so spoiled)
Cio is AMAZING. She does exactly what needs to be done, she is patient and caring and intuitive about my injury. She had back spasms not long ago and its very similar.
oh aaron beardmore, where art thou?! please swing in on your magical long line and get me out of this place.
finally, i can move enough to lower to the ground. i also feel well enough to double check what Cio is doing and manage to be a bit bossy (she makes fun of me for this)
as i am lowering the drugs kick in – and i feel better — its like i am completely better — sick!
okay — its over, sweet, lets just forget this happened and move on, tally ho. (i wish)
Thanks to Justin Tracey for the following heart-stopping footage:
After returning to Calgary, I go immediately to Foothills, after another round of x-rays and CT scans and about twelve hours we find out that I have fractured T4 and T12, but they are stable and it should only be about 3 months of not doing much. so lucky. arrrggghhh.
Right now, if a blink of the eye, could equal about 12 weeks that would be grand. I don’t DO down time. This is my forced rest. fuck.
MUCHO GRACIOUS to Cio, Justin, Simon, the doctor, Karlis, the ground crew who prepped a flat location for me to lie down. Mark the long line dude. The super steady pilot. The guy who winched us into the machine. The paramedics in the plaid ambulance. The Accident and Emergency room staff who helped me pee and get x-rays and CT scan. The doctors and orthopedic specialists who helped argue with my insurance company that even tho I do not need surgury or chemo- its important for me to get home and get treatment. Which resulted in a 1st class ticket home.
Becky and Nick for coming to get me in Aviemore. All the folks who showed care and love even tho they only knew me for less then a week.
Andy and Ruth, Lukasz and the photo clinic for taking good care of me, and Colleen and Scotty for also taking great care of me when I was sedated, Pauline for taking me to the doc in Inverness, who gave me a crucial back brace for traveling home.
To all the supportive folks in my life, especially my mother.