As a professional rock climbing guide and top Canadian climber, Leslie Timms is a fixture in the Southern Ontario climbing community. She is also one the few women in Canada to develop new routes and has put up sport and traditional first ascents at Lion’s Head and the Beaver Valley in Ontario. Leslie is an incredibly well-rounded climber with an impressive list of sport, boulder, and traditional ascents across the globe. She juggles her two passions of climbing hard and guiding rocks by living half the year as a full-time guide and the other half on the road as a full-time climber with her husband.
About Her Presentation
You could say that rock climbing has completely taken over Leslie’s life since first trying it at age 21. From her bold first ascents in Ontario to some stunning accomplishments in the US, Leslie talks about the selfish path of an obsessed rock climber and how a relatively recent and rather traumatic experience forced new perspectives on her approach to climbing, and to life.
Welcome to MULTIPLICITY. Tell us a little bit about your presentation.
Thank you, I’m excited. My presentation—a good way of describing it is confessions of a climb-aholic. I’ve been climbing obsessively for about 12 years now and I guess I kind of lost touch with a lot of things with this crazy obsession. So, it’s a little bit about that. And I had a relatively recent life-changing event in 2016 that kind of changed my perspective around a lot of things.
How did you discover climbing?
In college. I actually started out as a whitewater canoe guide. I was obsessed with canoe trips. And I went to college for Outdoor Ed, because of it. A couple of friends took me out to boulder and try climbing. That day, I literally climbed until my fingers were bleeding. I bought all my climbing gear that weekend. I was immediately hooked.
So it became an addiction right away.
I’d say so. After college, my boyfriend at the time and I hit the road on a climbing road trip. You could say the climbing road trip never ended. Since then, I’ve gone on to become a climbing guide. I’ve always had a passion for guiding, so continued on with that.
In your presentation synopsis, you mention being on a “selfish path.” What do you mean by that?
A lot of climbers describe themselves as incredibly selfish. I guess like any addiction, you become self-absorbed. I’m always trying to get my next fix in rock climbing. I guess you can say I’ve been so selfishly obsessed with climbing for years that I forgot about other things that are important in life. I think it just kind of took control.
Are you more focused on finding balance now?
Now I am. For years I wasn’t. I literally climbed until I fell apart. And then that’s when I was pretty much forced to find balance. So I’d say the last two or three years, I’ve really been focused on trying to find balance, whether it is with my body, or work or just life in general.
You mentioned going through a life-changing experience?
2016 was terrible in a lot of ways. My parents were really sick, and I ended up getting really sick as well. You could say that was my life -changing experience for sure, just dealing with all that. It just put everything into perspective as to what’s really important in life.
Do you have any ascents you’re especially proud of?
Definitely. I would say the best climbing day of my life, undoubtedly a dream come true, was the first ascent of Above the Clouds at Lion’s Head. The first time I walked the cliff, I looked up and saw this giant line, like 45 metres, super steep, this perfect crack that ran up, and it summits the famous Lion’s Head lookout. So I was like, wow, this is the most amazing line at the cliff.
How did you set that climb in motion?
I asked people, “Oh, what’s that?” And everyone was like, “Oh, that’s nothing. It’s never gone free. Somebody’s aided it once, but it’s just sat there.” So for years, I thought about this thing. I mentioned it to a friend of mine who was like “Oh, I’ve thought about that thing for years, too.” And that summer we went to work on it, and ended up putting up this incredible line. It was probably the hardest traditional/mixed line at Lion’s Head, a 5.13b.
Are there any big climbs you’ve been thirsting after? Any plans to tackle them?
Right now, I’ve recently sat down and written a life list—or an apoca-list, you could say. I have all these climbs I’ve seen in magazines, and just thought of them for years. I’m getting to the point now, mid-thirties, and things are starting to hurt a lot more, injuries are more frequent. It’s like, OK, my clock’s ticking and I want to go and accomplish all these things while I can. You could say I’m in Operation Life List right now.
What do you hope the audience takes away from your presentation?
I hope to inspire people to get out and chase their dreams while they can. But also appreciate the important things in life, like friends and family and your health. Hopefully my presentation will inspire other people to chase their passions and their dreams.
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