Living the Dream – in Scotland

BMC Winter International Climbing Meet 2012

The Cairngorm

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.

great rock in the northern coire's

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.

my first winter hex placement!

DAY 1:  Ventricle (VII, 8) at Coire an Lachan with Andy Turner

hmmm, where should we take the Canadian?

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 ; )

a wee bit pumpy off the deck

the rime is so beautiful

Day 2: Daddy Longlegs (VIII, 9) at Coire an Lachan with Nick Bullock and Bayard Russell Jr.

Ian and Markus (the day before) on the first pitch of Daddy Longlegs

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.

Nick Bullock knitting a sweater

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'”

a good place to get fresh air and watch the sports action

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.

Greg Boswell showing us how to send Torchlight

Will and Martina taking it easy

Watchin' the sports action in the cave

Day 4: Deep Cut Chimney (IV, 4) Hell’s Lum

Ian the Great

Thanks to Ian for a mellow day out. I was so exhausted and not willing to take a proper day off.

a wee bit windy at the col

ON this day, I managed to drop both my tools, (Ian retrieved them), and my thermos (unretrievable) and fell into a hidden glide crack.

found a hidden glide crack with both legs

It was one of those days that I was lucky to make it back to the car safe and sound.

Deep Cut Chimney

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.

Hiking up the Ben... thanks to all the trail blazers

Where is the ben??

A strong attempt

Greg following the last pitch of Gargoyle Wall

James capturing all the sports action

Day 6: The Vagrant (VII, 7)  attempt and subsequent rescue (the end of the dream) with Rocio Siemens

Rocio on the 1st pitch

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.

T12 stable wedge fracture

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.

sitting is much better with a brace

To all the supportive folks in my life, especially my mother.



Filed under Friends, Ice Climbing, inspiration, Multi-pitch climbing

27 responses to “Living the Dream – in Scotland

  1. Be well Jenny. Sending a lot of love your way.


  2. Justin Tracey

    Well done Jen, it was a crazy day, I’m so glad that you got sorted, still can’t believe how that afternoon finished off for you. I wish you a speedy recovery, but lets not forget what a great week of climbing you had, top climbing with top climbers in a top place. Well done and keep hooking. When things get a bit hard just think of he silly glasses and speaking welsh. Justin 🙂

  3. Get well soon, lucky to have so many good people around you.

  4. Andy Perkins

    Good luck with the recovery, Jen.
    See you in Chamonix this summer I hope, where we can talk scratching, hooking, turf and gnarliness.
    All the best

  5. Ruth

    Be good Jen – make sure you heal well! Glad you got the 1st class home. Come back and see us next winter all fixed and raring to go.
    lots love

  6. Andy Turner

    Good to hear you got home safely Jen. You’ll be back soon im sure of that. Hopefully catch up when im over in a few weeks and maybe share a wee dram of whiskey.
    Take care


  7. Jen, Glad to hear you are back home,recover soon!

  8. Ken Wylie

    Heal well and thanks for posting your story. Intuition vs listening to others. . . Thanks for the insight.

  9. Tara Sylvestre

    Hey Jenny
    Thinking of you and glad that you home…..much love tara and darek

  10. Myrl Eddy

    From over here in Australia, we are wishing you peace and acceptance. This rest time is an investment in the rest of your life – don’t waste it! As frustrating as the down time is, I’m sure your are resourceful enough to make it worthwhile. God bless!

  11. Caroline Doucet

    Jen, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience… my fall did not have the same consequences but as I am reading your story, i have goose bumps re-living mine… that REPLAY REPLAY REPLAY will stop ! 🙂 take care of yourself, lady! xox

  12. Thanks Caroline, i look forward to climbing with you again,


  13. Now then Jen,

    Nice one on the 1st class flight, bit of a radical way to go about scamming it, but hey, i’m impressed, although i may not try that one in the future! Look forward to catching up in March where you locals can kick my arse on that slippery limestone. Fire me your email and i’ll send you some shots.

    laters and take care,
    Nick x

  14. Rae Weniger

    OH Jen! my heart just about stopped when I watched your fall! Blessings on your recovery. No choice but to rest, now. Thank God you are with us still!

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