We talk to the climbers racking up in the valleys, roosting in the crags, and reliving their ascents in the pubs of the Lakes this summer. Second in our Q&A is Jenny Foster, Lakeland Revival Big Weekend Attendant, Currently hailing Southhampton.
Name, Age, Main activity when not climbing;
Jenny Foster, 36, been climbing for four years with a slow move into outdoor climbing. I’ve always been sporty though. I squeeze in plenty of hiking, trail running when I can and have been known to take the odd wild swim when the opportunity arises. Back at home I’m a keen DIYer and also make prints inspired by my adventures. More prosaically I’m a librarian and rather sadly love my job, not least because its just allowed me to relocate me back in the northwest!
Your favourite Lake District Route and why?
I’d have to say the only route I’ve done – Route No. 1 at Upper Scout Crag – completed as part of the multi pitch clinic I did. Although I’ve been climbing for nearly four years I’ve spent all but six months of that time living in Southampton – and the Lakes is an awful long way away from the south coast!. What I can say with certainty is that I’m sure I’ll be finding new favourites once I’ve trained up my new belay partner. Sitting in our campsite at the end of the Langdale Valley I looked around and realised just how much excellent climbing there was around me. Plus unlike much of the south coast the rock actually stays where it is meant to.
What words or phrases do you most overuse when tradding?
“I’m not awfully happy right now”
What’s your worst climbing habit?
I’m chronically untidy when racking my gear. Although I’m chronically untidy generally so at least I’m consistent! I’m definitely improving though, at least on the gear side. The house not so much.
What’s your most treasured piece of kit?
Probably the Cam that got returned to me after I over cammed it on a climb on the Roaches. It was the first time I’d led for a while, was feeling a bit exposed and was desperate just to get anything in. My second spent a good twenty minutes trying to get it out but in the end had to abandon it. Although considering that the only reason it got returned to me was because it had a tough tag on it, maybe i should make the tough tag my treasured kit!
Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?
I think I’d like to spend a day with some of the early pioneers of women’s climbing, those women who climbed despite the expectations that they stay at home and keep house. I’m not really one for fandom, in any of my hobbies or interests, but to learn more about how they achieved what the did, and what their beliefs were politically and socially would be really interesting.
What about the current state of climbing makes you happy?
The extent to which the community comes together. Whether it’s beta at a bouldering wall, fundraising and volunteering to maintain sport routes (Dorset Bolt Fund I’m looking at you) or the individuals who run clubs. I think in any sport there is a core that contribute more for the benefit of others – but in climbing it feels more apparent.
The thing that makes me unhappy is mess left at crags. I see it all the time and there’s simply not excuse for it. Take your crap home people, all of it!
What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?
That I can overcome (the not unrealistic) fear of falling. I’ll always be a cautious climber, but trad has definitely pushed me past my mental limits at times.
To what do you owe your climbing mentors?
I consider my friends at Southampton Climbing Club to be my mentors. They took me from an inexperienced indoor climber and made possible what seemed impossible to me and have taken me on climbs i wouldn’t have considered on my own.
Suffering from anxiety breaking into the climbing world was incredibly daunting, there was so much alien language that was thrown around casually and everyone seemed so good. The club was so welcoming though and most importantly gave me the time, support and training I needed to get to grips with both the mental and physical aspects of climbing. I’m currently part of the expanding northern sector of SCC and have no intention of changing that.
What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?
A horrible greasy climb near the Don Whilans hut that ended with a squeeze through a tight hole. I’m never going to be a particulary svelte climber and it was no mean feat getting myself through that hole. I honestly didn’t think i was going to make it at one point and given the climb I’d had didn’t want to go back down!
When where you happiest on rock?
I think when I find that spot, with an incredible view, that you know most people will never see. Climbing literally gives you a different perspective on the amazing island that is the UK. Every time it makes me feel incredibly privileged.
Climbing has been incredibly important to me as I’ve fought depression and anxiety over the last few years. Thinking about this now I’m well (or at least as well as I’ll ever be) a lot is down to the space I’ve been able to find through climbing. Those moments alone while at the same time being surrounded by friends, whether that be on the rock, at the wall or at the pub. When you know you’re not capable of interacting but also know that you need to surround yourself with people. Bouldering especially has helped massively as it requires both mental and physical concentration, allowing me to focus for a short period on the present, working on my problems alone while having friends round me.
What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?
Time, and right now getting my partner to learn how to lead belay!
What does the Lakes mean to you?
Growing up in Manchester I probably visited the Peaks more than the Lakes simply because it was more accessible. However i was still shocked when I moved down south and people told me they had never visited the Lakes. To me it was like saying you’d never tried cake. Some of my earliest outdoor memories are from the lakes, kayaking, abseiling and caving with the Woodcraft Folk as a child and it’ll always be special for that reason. In later years it was a refuge when i needed space and will always be somewhere i can find peace and happiness.
What does the future of climbing hold for you?
I hope many more adventures, many more views and many more nights round a campfire sharing climbing stories with friends. I’m still climbing relatively low grades and while I’ll never be the sort of person who is constantly looking for the next big challenge I would like to climb harder and get to the point where I’d be comfortable on big multi pitches. I also had my first taste of winter climbing in the Cairngorms in February and cannot wait to get back out and improve my skills in winter.