"Over the years I have realized that the accomplishments of other women have the most power to inspire and motivate me.", states Jasmin Caton, an Innate friend, pro athlete, and ACMG guide, who lives the maxim that today’s limits will be tomorrow’s satisfying accomplishments. We couldn't agree more and are honoured to feature her guest blog about the connection between her own adventures and her dedication as a professional guide encouraging women to achieve their goals and dreams. Enjoy
During a wilderness camping trip as a little girl with my family, my Dad taught me to go to the bathroom while sitting with my butt hanging over the edge of a fallen log. This innovative technique allowed me to pee and poo in the woods without soiling my clothing or shoes before I had the balance and coordination to squat with any great control.
Fast-forward 20 years and there I am on the Nose of El Cap, lining up my Freshette for a much needed pee. A Freshette is a “feminine urinary director”; picture an ergonomic labia-cradling funnel and attached straw. According to the few female climbing mentors I had at that time, it was the only way to go on big walls when the staggering amount of gear dangling from your harness and cramped belay stances made going pee without contaminating gear, rope or your own face in the scenario of enduring a brisk updraft an epic in itself.
Unfortunately, the Freshette was not fool proof… especially if the fool trying to use it was tired and shaky from the excitement and effort of climbing El Cap for the first time. In this particular instance, a user-error resulted in a misalignment of the plumbing which caused exactly no pee to come out the straw. At first, it seemed like magic, but almost immediately a warm spreading sensation on my inner thigh followed by a large wet patch on my pants revealed the horrifying source of the illusion. In the two more days it took to finish El Cap, my pee-soaked pants also ripped across the entire bum and had to be patched with duct tape. When I finally made it back to the valley floor, my pissy-pants and any reservations I had about showing my butt to take a pee during a climb went straight to the dumpster.
Fast-forward another 10 years to today. I am now an ACMG rock and ski guide and many of the most exciting guiding and personal trips I do are with women. Over the years I have realized that the accomplishments of other women have the most power to inspire and motivate me. Sharing experiences with women, whether in a peer or guide-client mode, is intensely satisfying, fun and supportive. If the 32 year old me from the present had been there when the 21 year old me who peed her pants on El Cap, I would have shared a laugh, handed over the wet wipes and taken the lead so that her wet pants could dry in the wind at the belay.
Some great examples of how women encourage and inspire each other were highlighted during a big day of climbing I had recently in Squamish. I linked up Northern Lights (5.12a, 11 pitches), Freeway (5.11c, 10 pitches) and The Grand Wall (5.11a, 10 pitches) in an exhausting 17 hour day that started and ended with climbing by headlamp. My first partner for the day, Katy Holm, is an amazing climber who was out for her first multi-pitch only four months after giving birth to her first child. Climbing non-stop up the seriously physical pitches of Northern Lights didn’t phase her. With our snacks and water on her back, she seconded every pitch while remaining relentlessly positive, encouraging and psyched all day long. With an inspirational performance like that to start my day, how could I give up just because I was tired?
The next phase of the day was with Kinley Aitken, a fellow ACMG rock guide with whom I was fortunate enough to share a recent trip to the Waddington Range. Kinley is the ultimate feminine hardwoman, turning heads with her blond hair and fetching curves wherever she goes. She can scurry up a burly pitch of crack climbing like nobody’s business. Her unabashed girliness is entirely her own: on our Waddington trip she carried a pink compact mirror and matching tweezers for an epic 2.5 day climb on Serra 2. On the linkup day in Squamish, I was maxing on the cruxes of Freeway in the late afternoon sun, feeling way less than solid. The long morning of climbing had taken a toll on my muscles and energy level, but Kinley brought my psyche back up as she cruised up her leads, exuding pure, contagious joy for climbing classic granite after a busy month had kept her off the rock.
My search to find a female partner for the Grand Wall was unsuccessful. Of the small number of Squamish women I know who would find racing up the Grand Wall in the dark fun, not a single one was available on the evening of my link-up. Difficulty connecting with the right female partners who are motivated for the same objectives is something many active women I know have experienced at some time or another. The reality is we are still a minority in the outdoor adventure sports world.
Helping more women gain the skills and experience to go climbing and backcountry skiing with confidence is something I have been focusing my guiding on in the past few years: women’s specific climbing technique courses, women’s climbing and yoga retreats, and plenty of guiding women on routes they have dreamed of climbing or skiing. For women seeking a complete yet comfortable winter experience, I am delving into the world of women’s wellness ski trips, which include a weeklong retreat to our family run business, Valhalla Mountain Touring. At our comfortable backcountry ski lodge participants are treated to daily yoga classes, guided backcountry ski touring, professional ski technique coaching and delicious, healthy meals (www.vmt.ca).
Even though I couldn’t find a female partner for the Grand Wall, I am lucky to have one of the most competent and supportive husbands imaginable. In fact, it was his completion of the linkup years ago that had inspired me to try it. He agreed to climb the Grand Wall in the dark with me, and as I led up Perry’s Layback, tired arms threatening to fail me after so many hours of pulling, the sound of him yelling “Come on! Dig deep!” powered me to the anchor.
While I thrutched out the undercling on the last pitch of the Grand Wall, as if to remind me of the incredibly supportive and inspirational women in my life, my friend Mandoline honked up at us from the highway as she drove home from work. I mantled up onto Bellygood Ledge, clove hitched into the anchor and let out a joyful howl into the starry night.