Tag Archives: #bloggingatoz #atozchallenge #climbing #fear #alexhonnold #blackdiamond

N is for Never too Late

I know I started the alphabet challenge waaaaaaay back in, what, April? May? And then I was spirited off to Hawaii and got swamped with work and blah blah blah – the next thing I know it’s the middle of summer and I still haven’t passed the letter ‘N’!

Return to Newcastle Island

I wrote about our first trip to Newcastle Island here. I had so much fun on that trip that I returned to Newcastle the following week to re-join Rosario and Denis aboard their Whitby 42, Counting Stars. 


This is not Counting Stars. But it is a good example of how not to leave Nanaimo… These guys were all fine – they waited for the tide to return and then floated off… A tad embarrassing, though. This spot traps sailors in full view of Nanaimo Harbour, the cruise ship dock, and Newcastle Island. 

We sailed from Newcastle Island down to Clam Bay (between Kuper and Thetis Islands), where we anchored for the evening.

spinnaker practice counting stars

A light breeze meant we were able to practice flying the spinnaker. 


There’s nothing quite like the special calm that descends on a peaceful anchorage in the evening. This is Clam Bay in the Gulf Islands of BC. 

The Sylvester family lives nearby and Craig (Greg?) paddled out to the boat with a selection of carvings, including a hummingbird by his sister, Tamila (I’m not sure if I’ve spelled the names right and some googling is not turning up any further information… If you happen to know the Sylvesters and the location of a website, please let me know…).


The next morning we continued down to Poets Cove on Pender Island to take part in the Bluewater Cruising Association Rendezvous. Just off Galliano Island we spotted three killer whales moseying along, too far away for photos with my phone, unfortunately.

The rendezvous itself was great fun, with quite a collection of boats showing up from all over the south coast (actually, from as far away as Mexico!) to gather for food, drink, and sea shanty singing.

Here’s our team practicing our sea shanty…

I had a flight booked back to the mountains, so had to leave part way through the weekend, which was a shame because I was having a LOT of fun singing, feasting, and meeting lots of sailors. Alas, much work awaited me…

New Books

Deadlines are deadlines and Dani and I were busy putting the finishing touches on two new books in the Orca Origins Series. Happy Birthday: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream should be out in the fall of this year. Christmas: From Solstice to Santa will be out in the Spring of 2018. Deadpoint, the climbing novel which will be part of the Orca Sports series should be out early in January of 2017. Perhaps the best part of writing these new books has been the research. From digging through family photos to interviewing various people to climbing mountains, reading some very cool books, and stumbling across some nifty corners of the internet, at every turn we learned lots and had fun while doing so.

old christmas photo

Forgive the terrible quality of this photo of a photo – this is my mother and her brothers and sister (and a cousin?) in Germany. Note those are real candles on the Christmas tree! No fire hazard there, I’m sure. 

Hard on the heels of those books are three more, currently in the research and writing stage. One is a biography for kids about Elizabeth May (more on that soon), a handbook for young activists (which will also feature profiles about some pretty amazing kids who are making real changes in the world), and a picture book about climbing. Oh, and then there’s another in the Orca Footprints series which, at its heart, is about love, community, and cooperation. It’s been interesting starting to research this one – my reading has taken me to distant places like the Congo where researchers are studying bonobos in order to learn more about what it means to be human. More, too, on this in a future post.

Also in the works (I may be done with text edits?) is a picture book that’s been picked up by Holiday House in New York. Subject matter? Bricklaying and baseball. And feminism. At the moment the search for an illustrator is on – I’m very curious to see who is selected and how he or she will tackle the artwork. Stay tuned…

I think that’s it for the children’s book projects. Whenever I can, I’m also working away on an adult memoir/popular science/medicine manuscript tentatively titled, The Dissolution of HW, which is about the nature of personality and my mother’s struggle with Pick’s Disease.

In the ‘waiting to see how it all turned out’ department, there’s Scylla and Charybdis, which may be out before the end of the year with Pearson. A retelling of part of The Odyssey, it was both challenging and fascinating to find a way to stay true to Homer’s story but still be accessible to a contemporary audience. Very much looking forward to seeing this when it comes out.

Never too Late

And, finally, in the ‘it’s never too late’ department, it’s never too late to set some crazy goals. I will mention ‘Navigate around the world’ again here just so you know I haven’t forgotten about this project.

leading 5.11a sunshine slabs

Approaching the crux on a pumpy 5.11a at Sunshine Slabs. Missed the clip right at the crux near the top and came flying off, but I will be back! (And by flying off, I mean, I fell as far as the previous clipped bolt… and, because this is a pretty steep, overhanging kind of climb, I didn’t really hit anything – just dangled for a bit until I gathered my thoughts and tried again. Never did make it all the way up on this particular afternoon, though I climbed it on toprope a few days later, which means I can get up there. So, leading this one is definitely within reach… And if I can lead a 5.11a, could 5.12 be far behind?)

And, I’m going to state publicly that before I die I am going to Nail a 5.12 climbing route. 5.12 is a grade of climb that’s decently challenging and which, though I sort of had this as a streeeeeeeeetch goal, I really doubted I could accomplish it until very recently. Two things changed my mind. First, I’ve been going to a physiotherapist and a personal trainer who are working together to develop a program for me to deal with my ongoing shoulder (torn labrum) and elbow (after effects of the dislocation/ligament shredding) issues. The results have been amazing and I’ve been seconding routes of various types in the 11s without suffering any terrible after effects. I’ve also made huge strides recently in the leading department and just last week successfully led my first 10d. Suddenly, it looks like I might get to 5.12 before old age and infirmity get to me. So there you go, I’ve gone and made a public declaration of my intentions! That’s the first step, right?

Blogging A to Z – Angst, Anne, and Alex Honnold

OK, I know I’m starting this a couple of days late, but the plan is to make these quick posts, each with a photo and all climbing related (and I say that with a half-hearted apology to all the people who are sick and tired of my current obsession…).

First, up – ANGST – of which there is a lot when I try to lead climb. Here’s me leading a crack climb (I like cracks, that’s why I chose it) at Sunshine Slabs yesterday.



Usually, crack climbs are protected with traditional gear you plug into the crack and then clip your rope to that secure (you hope it’s secure) nut or cam. Leading using gear adds a whole new level of OMG to the effort… In this case, though, there are permanent bolts on the face just to the left of the climb. This, I’m pretty sure, is part of the reason why this particular route has a grade of only 5.6 – which is to say, not very hard. Did that stop me from developing a terrible case of Elvis leg partway up? Or reduce the likelihood of a panic attack right near the top when the anchor bolts were within spitting distance? Nope. Even though the bolts were plentiful and I was never going to be more than a body length above the last safe place where I had fastened the rope, despite the fact the climbing was pretty easy and in a style I usually enjoy (when someone else throws the rope up for me), I still had about 47 heart attacks between the ground and the top. This whole leading thing messes with my head in ways I never would have thought possible.

Fortunately, I have a brilliantly supportive team of fellow climbers who say kind things like, “That corner was terrible. Not a fun climb at all.” Anne, speaker of those reassuring words, is always positive about my efforts, even when my efforts… let’s see, how to say this delicately… when my efforts suck. This is hugely important, though, because without my crew of encouraging people willing to stand there forever and cheer me on while I claw and scrape and quiver my way up the easiest of climbs on those days when I grit my teeth and decide to give leading another try — well – I wouldn’t be making much progress. So, thanks Anne – you get the big shout-out because today is Letter A day, but I could say equally nice things about so many kind climbers who have given me advice and encouragement and hugs when things were looking less than sunny.

Alex Honnold makes the cut because, well, he’s ALEX HONNOLD. I have never had the pleasure of meeting him, but even though Alex does insane things like climb massive vertical walls of granite without a rope I have the feeling that if he saw me struggling away on my version of Heaven (a tricky climb he does rope-free in Yosemite) he would be kind and offer some advice because, despite all that he has accomplished, I like to think he is a climber first and wouldn’t laugh at me. At least, not to my face.

Just watching his videos makes my heart race. And, no – don’t worry. I have no aspirations in the free soloing direction at all… But wow, you have to hand it to Alex – pretty incredible. Watching him boldly climb where no human should go without backup inspires me to try to get out there and try, try again… Because what’s holding me back is not actually a lack of climbing ability (I’m leading stuff that’s much easier than what I can climb with a top rope), but some complex fear psychology that is utterly paralyzing. What happens when I overcome that and actually make it to the top of something that has me quaking in my climbing shoes is a feeling of exhilaration and triumph that is nothing short of intoxicating.


Anne is one of my heroes because she is willing to lead even though she doesn’t like doing it much better than I do! But she does it anyway (though maybe that’s because if she doesn’t lead and we go out together, we won’t get to climb much). Her willingness to keep trying (and her huge improvements every time she does pick up the sharp end of the rope) is as much an inspiration as watching Alex do his thing… Black Diamond take note – sponsor this woman. She represents all the rest of us sport climbers who are not pros, who don’t climb 5.14, who feel nauseous when we think about leading and who spend a lot of money on climbing stuff…