When I first started climbing, which was not until my mid-teens, I dreamed of being up on big walls, high off the ground in the mountains. My partner and I were inspired by classic big aid lines and believed this was the pinnacle of climbing. Then one day I was out in Zion with my etriers and jumars starting up on a clean-aid climbing route with my partner.
I was only about 18, but I knew that to be ready for these big lines we had to pack in the calories, so I was tucking into a big stash of peanut M&Ms while on one of the first pitches. As I was pouring these out from a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle attached by a sling to my harness, I looked over and saw a couple of greasy, older-looking dudes totally out of shape with their big beer-bellies, sweating away as they stood in aiders creeping up a line to our right. As they started talking to me I suddenly had the realization that I was not destined to be an aid climber, that I had to get out of this and start free climbing while I was young and fit! What was I doing?
My favorite places
I fell in love with South Africa and I also love visiting England. But for summers, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are hard to beat.
I spent three summers in South Africa. The farm we stayed on started to feel like a home away from home. It was both beautiful and timeless. The climbing is good and I really like the relaxed atmosphere. My brother-in-law is married to a South African woman and they both now live there for work, so now it has a family connection. My husband grew up in England. Most of his family live there and so it's great to visit them. We both enjoy the gritstone climbing and the scenery of the Peak District. We love The Peak District so much that we got married there.
Part of a community
I belong to a huge network of climbers from all over the world; Facebook definitely reminds me of that. I feel like I’m part of a huge community of friends, even though many of them are unknown to me. Living in a climbing destination like Bishop, I’m always meeting people who know me for my climbing. Sometimes it’s funny, like when you're shopping for some private items at the grocery store and a climber comes up to talk to you… this actually happened — we all started laughing as I was holding a box of tampons! It’s always really cool to be out climbing or whatever and someone stops me just to say, "Hi." It’s pretty amusing when I’m with Peter Croft who is really famous in the climbing world, especially around the Sierra Mountains. We get stopped a lot. Although I’m naturally a bit shy, I still enjoy meeting people and being able to inspire and encourage others. This is probably the best part of what I do.
My biggest frustration has revolved around injuries and health problems. A knee injury has frustrated me for years, and I am constantly working to stay on top of that. Traveling has led to some sickness, too, which can sap my energy. I know I have missed some opportunities because of this, which has been sad, but I have also learned to really appreciate and to make the most of those great times when I feel healthy and can push myself hard!
My perfect day...
I would wake up and the weather would be perfect. I would be so well-rested, I wouldn't even need tea or coffee. I would join my friends at a world-class, yet never crowed, climbing area just a short walk from my house. Since the potential is never-ending, I would spend the entire day testing my on-sight abilities on all new routes or problems. If we felt like it, my partner and I would try one of the harder routes. If it felt like more fun to keep on-sighting, we would continue with that until everyone was exhausted. Then we’d fire up the barbecue and sip a good wine outside while watching the sunset.
An important message
I like to encourage people to make the most of their time and health and pursue their dreams. I like to put these thoughts across to whoever I speak with about my life as a climber, not just to the younger generations but to everyone.