Re­mem­ber­ing Anna Smith

Gripped - - NEWS - By Derek Cheng

Anna Clare Smith had a ra­di­ant energy that ex­ploded from her lungs in the form of a rau­cous laugh that echoed around the world, from the hal­lowed gran­ite of Yosemite, to the pet­ri­fied ice lines of the Bow Val­ley, to the tow­er­ing spires of Baff in Is­land.

She was an in­spi­ra­tional climber, not be­cause she was par­tic­u­larly strong, but be­cause she blazed a trail up fa­mous, hard and bold lines where most climbers fear to tread. Anna didn’t care about send­ing. She chased the ex­pe­ri­ence, the high and the wild, the re­mote and the ma­jes­tic. She mar­velled at how priv­i­leged we were to be about to ac­cess and ex­plore such gor­geous places and do the things that brought us great joy.

She trag­i­cally left this world on Sept. 30 while on ex­pe­di­tion in the In­dian Hi­malaya. She was 31.

I first met Anna in New Zealand, where she whip­ping off 5.8s on the lime­stone cliffs of Paynes Ford, but still throw­ing her­self on 5.10s with courage and am­bi­tion. When our paths crossed again in her home in Golden, B.C., six years later, she in­sisted I take from the house any­thing I needed for the Bu­ga­boos, in­clud­ing pre-pre­pared de­hy­drated meals. “You must also finish my blue­berry waff le mix for break­fast.”

Last April, Anna drove f rom Canada to col­lect me from Las Vegas air­port and, when she had to re­turn home im­me­di­ately for f am­ily rea­sons, left me her Ta­coma truck with her en­tire life in it. We had barely spent more than a few days to­gether at the time, but she had noth­ing but the most open of hearts and the most giv­ing of spir­its.

When she re­turned, Anna al­ways pushed for the most spec­tac­u­lar of lines. Half Dome, El Cap and Astro­man in Yosemite. Cloud Tower and Rain­bow Wall in Red Rocks. Within a day of ar­riv­ing in Zion, we found our­selves on Moon­light But­tress, bat­tling our way up a crack line with six con­sec­u­tive 5.12 pitches.

Were we strong enough to free Moon­light? Did that mat­ter? We pushed our­selves far be­yond what we thought we were ca­pa­ble of and had an un­for­get­table day on one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful rock climbs. That was Anna. She took pre-con­ceived l im­its and stomped all over them with her in­fec­tious drive for the sub­lime. She changed not just the way you looked at climb­ing, but the way you viewed life in gen­eral.

She was never far from a bag of wine or a cig­a­rette, never shy of a word or three on the hand­some­ness of Roger Fed­erer and never short on wise words on the artis­tic mer­its of Wu Tang or Im­mor­tal Tech­nique, though her eclec­tic mu­sic tastes also in­cluded clas­si­cal, jazz and blue­grass artists. She was al­ways on the cusp of oblit­er­at­ing any seren­ity in the area with her ram­bunc­tious laugh­ter.

One evening in Red Rocks, a group of climbers kept hav­ing their peace­ful evening in­ter­rupted by Anna’s boom­ing laugh, f loat­ing in from the other side of the camp­site. “There she goes again,” one of the climbers in the group said. “Who is that girl? What could pos­si­bly be that funny?” A few days later, we be­friended a mem­ber of this group, who told us this story, adding: “And now I can tell them that I met that girl … and that it re­ally is that funny.”

Anna was born in Manch­ester, Eng­land and moved with her par­ents Ju­dith and Christo­pher to Hong Kong for four years, be­fore set­tling i n Can­more, where she at­tended el­e­men­tary, mid­dle and high schools – ex­cept for year 10, which she spent at Brent­wood School on Van­cou­ver Is­land. She played the French horn and stud­ied mu­sic, spend­ing a year each at the Univer­sity of Toronto, the Univer­sity of Cal­gary and Leth­bridge Col­lege.

She spent every sum­mer since end­ing high school work­ing for Parks Canada and be­gan f ull-time work there as the ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant to the su­per­in­ten­dent in Lake Louise. She worked her way up to a pol­icy po­si­tion, jok­ing that the par­tic­u­lar lan­guage of pol­icy made her adept at writ­ing at­trac­tive ap­pli­ca­tions for alpine grants.

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