Collette Haig – there’s so much to say about this incredible woman. Brought up in Ayreshire she was confined to bed for many years as a child due and into her 20’s due to illness only to emerge as a determined and focused outdoor enthusiast. Being Scottish she was drawn to the mountains and all things snowy. Brrr! She had to make up for all those lost years and her life is full of adventure.
She moved to the South-west in April and made inquiries about joining the Pinnacle club and although she had lots of mountain experience she had never actually lead climbed on rock – and that’s where I came in.
Collette is one of the most modest and personable people I have ever met – we hit it off immediately. At the Yat we talked about gear, placed it, built directional belays with a central point, mock top roped, mock led on a traverse, marked the gear out of 10 for downward and outward pull – basically we got close and personal with the kit – too personal in Collette’s case. I had to check har rucksack at the end of each day to make sure nothing had accidentally fallen in!!
Collettte followed the first route then led it with preplaced gear and then solely on her own gear, building belays at the top of the route. We looked at abseiling, how to set up, how to retrieve the rope – she even abseiled off a belay she’d set up using nuts and threads and was amazed she was allowed to do this!!
Collette worked me so hard I fell asleep on the way back – fortunately I wasn’t driving.
Day 2 it was straight to the top of the crag – set up the abseil and we were at the bottom of the crag. She then led 2 routes on her own gear, built belays at the top, brought me up and we ab’d off. We also looked at belays out of reach and how to use the rope, tying off with clove hitches and a threaded figure of 8 – and when and where to use each technique. We also looked at stacked abseils and Collette made me safe as I abseiled down prussik free.
The piece de resistance came at the end of the day where Collette led Golden Fleece HS 4b. I didn’t tell her the grade but led it first showing her that as a corner it was easy to stay in balance and place gear, I also put a couple of bits in to give her confidence on the trickier sections. She led it with determination, good technique and flow. There was one little hiccough where she ‘just couldn’t see it’ and I gently encouraged her to move her feet up which she did apologising for being so slow!!
Collette was absolutely ecstatic when she returned to the ground even more so when I told her the grade. She said she felt empowered by the course and that she felt confident to go lead climbing independently.
I am always amazed by the people I meet – the progress they make and the developing confidence, but it’s just a case of introducing skills, building blocks and giving opportunities to practice those skills in ever more challenging situations. Collette is an inspirational woman – she has overcome so much and lives life to the full. I hope to see more of her in the future and know she will do well.