Remembering Anna Smith
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.