And the Second Ascent of a Nova Scotia 5.13
Party Mom, #Annemal and “the Anne-tourage” are nicknames that have been f loating around the Nova Scotian climbing scene lately. They’ve all been used to describe Halifax climber Anne Giles, who despite her small stature has made a big impact on the Halifax rope climbing community.
Giles, 38, has only been climbing seriously for the last four years, which makes her late- 2017 ascent of Splitting Coins even more impressive. Splitting Coins, a razor-thin 5.13a sport line put up in 2008 by prolific route and boulder developer Ghislain Losier, ascends a beautifully blank 21- metre high slab overlooking Paces Lake in Musquodoboit Harbour, about a 40- minute drive from Halifax. Splitting Coins sat for almost a decade without a second ascent; its sustained, crimpy features turned away anyone who tied in until Giles decided to give it a try.
“When you hike down to E-Gully [the sub-area of Main Face where Splitting Coins is located], it’s the first thing you see, and for me at least, I was hit with, ‘Can I climb that?’” said Giles. “It has small holds, where one wrong move will send you for a whip down the slab. I still don’t know what my style is. I’m still figuring that out. As for the grade, I love that I was able to do it, but it’s just a beautiful climb.” Not only was this Gile’s first 5.13, this may be the first time the grade has been climbed by a woman anywhere in the Maritime provinces.
Nova Scotia has seen a renaissance in route development over the last two years, with hard sport lines being putting up by Sean Therian, Sean Smith, Todd Foster, Ben Smith and others, but Splitting Coins still sits as one of just a handful of 5.13s in the province. Giles would project the route after work in the evenings to try to avoid the high humidity of Nova Scotia’s summers. Giles said that her number-one problem wasn’t the difficulty, but finding a belayer, as she needed about 10 sessions before f inally clipping the chains. Giles said, “I approached a friend from the local bouldering gym with a ‘if you give me a belay on my project I’ll teach you how to climb on a rope,’ deal.”
Compromise is a common theme in Giles’s climbing to date, whether it’s finding a patient belayer to brave Nova Scotia’s black f lies, or striking a balance with her career, family and time on the rock. Giles managed to shoot through the grades while “adulting” with her full-time job, two teenage children and supportive husband, Dave. He’s known by some in the climbing community as “the car whisperer,” due to his skill at sourcing quality climbing vehicles for locals before they head out on road trips. That balance, however, has been known to swing toward climbing when send temps are in, causing Giles to opt out of a parent/teacher meeting or two.
One factor in high-level sport climbing in Nova Scotia is the lack of routes in the 5.11 to 5.12 range, relative to larger climbing regions in North America. Climbers here looking to improve don’t have the luxury of building a pyramid of dozens of 5.11s or 5.12s before projecting the 5.13s. In fact, before sending Splitting Coins, Giles says she had only climbed “a few 5.11s and a few 5.12s,” mostly in destination climbing regions such as Cuba, Spain and Red Rocks, which are not a proxy for Nova Scotia’s microscopic granite crimps.
Giles attributes her success to copious amounts of Bulwark Cider and Vandal Donuts (a local hot spot for gourmet doughnuts), but anyone who has spent time climbing with her knows it’s because of her work ethic and dedication to the sport. When asked what’s next, as she often was following her send, Giles said, “I have big plans to drink cider, laugh with friends and fall off hard rock climbs – probably in reverse order though.”