Trails and Mountains – A Chat With Anna Wells

Some big…big, big wall climbing!
Tell us about yourself!

Hi I’m Anna, I am 28 years old and currently living in Fort William. I grew up in Inverness then spent four years in Aberdeen doing a mathematics degree (and working full time at the climbing wall!) before spent five years in Dundee doing a medical degree. Im now coming to the end of my two years as a junior doctor, for which I was fortunate enough to get a place on the rural-track programme working in Inverness and Fort William….and here we are!

Competition time!

“I think pride comes from putting a lot of effort into something and seeing those results pay off”

Proudest moments?

I was very pleased to do a fast Cuillin traverse in 6h35m last year which I believe is the unofficial female record, although I would like to do it again faster.  I was also proud of one particular ice climbing world cup in 2014 where I trained hard within my last year of university and managed to come 11th which is not brilliant but I was proud because I had put a lot of dedication into training (traveling hundreds of miles every weekend) and this was my best result so far. I think pride comes from putting a lot of effort into something and seeing those results pay off. On that note, I am extremely proud to have persisted through these two years working as a junior doctor…I have found this incredibly challenging. 


“I always had this fire in my belly!”

What got you into climbing?

When I was 12, I joined an indoor kids club at the Inverness Leisure Centre and immediately loved it! For the first few years I climbed exclusively indoors and on the youth competition series. I was lucky to be part of a very enthusiastic group of kids at the time, we were all great friends and we were fortunate to have great coaching input from Ruaridh Mackenzie and Scott Muir, both well established climbers. I spent all my free time down at that wall and loved it. However, I always had this feeling of wanting something more. I remember often feeling frustrated that I didn’t have the means to get out into the mountains and always had this fire in my belly!

When I went to university in Aberdeen, I got a job at the climbing wall. I met loads of like minded people and was rapidly introduced to the great outdoors! 


A great we rest ledge!
What is your favourite style of climbing?
My favourite climbing style is Alpinism. I absolutely love the fast-and-light approach, moving quickly along ridges high in the snowy mountains with breathtaking views. I love massive long days of endurance, with interesting scrambling terrain that keeps your mind occupied but easy enough to keep moving without stopping to pitch (place in secure gear/ use ropes) too much as I struggle with the cold!.

“…moving quickly along ridges high in the snowy mountains with breathtaking views.”

I also love trad (Traditional climbing in which a climber places all gear required to protect against falls, and remove it when a pitch is complete) because of the combination of problem solving, physical challenge, and psychological challenge! It makes every climb such a memorable experience, you learn about your limits of comfort and learn how to control your mind in stressful scenarios, and feel 100% intensely focussed on every movement.
For totally different reasons I love indoor sport climbing and bouldering (something I used to be ashamed to admit!) for the interesting gymnastic movements and for the feeling of pushing yourself to your absolute physical limits with no need to worry about safety…plus, I really enjoy competing. 
Beautiful frozen caves in Montana
Why do you love the mountains?
The mountains just make me feel completely happy and free. They are always there and dependable, they are just an epic playground that is free to go and explore. We can enjoy them in so many ways – for running, scrambling, climbing, biking, skiing – and they can provide a totally different experience in different weather or seasons. Mountaineering is also a brilliant reason to travel around the world and immediately feel a sense of belonging in a far away place, providing a connection with so many fascinating people. 

“Mountaineering is also a brilliant reason to travel around the world and immediately feel a sense of belonging in a far away place…”

Just about to clip the rope!
What inspires you, drives you and keeps you going?
The constant challenge to better myself, to become fitter, faster, and more skilled. I really enjoy having a challenge or a project to pursue even if it’s completely trivial, arbitrary, and pointless! 
Example: Doing X-many-metres of ascent, all five ridges on the North face of Ben Nevis ridges, or half iron man in the gym within a day.
I just like neat little challenges. I also get very inspired and motivated by other people. Finlay Wild and Tom Ballard are probably the people who inspire me the most at the moment. I also follow the competition scene pretty closely and am inspired by the likes of Petra Klinger who just dedicates herself to training and improving.
I absolutely love taking novice friends out climbing and these have made up most of my favourite experiences, for example a trip last year up the Old Man of Hoy with two friends from work was just such a brilliant adventure (it was their second ever rock climb!). Its a whole different dimension when you feel more responsibility to look after someone else but also knowing you are helping them have this really cool experience they might not otherwise have. 
What does an average week look like for you?
At the moment I work 9am-6pm at a GP practice. This is a massive relief after two years of erratic shift patterns and night shifts, which I found pretty hard! I like routine. A couple of evenings a week I try to go and do something cool in the mountains (I have done numerous after-work ascents of Ben Nevis via its various ridges). I’ve also been doing a bit of open water swimming!
During the weekend it depends on the weather. I usually get in one big mountain day and the other day might be rock climbing or mountain biking. 
How do you balance such a time consuming job with all your adventures?
Sometimes I think if you are more busy then you manage to fit in more, because you have your designated “free time” and pack it! Also, I suppose work uses a different type of energy so even though I might feel emotionally drained when I leave the GP practice, by the time I am half way up Ben Nevis I realise my legs and lungs are happy to work hard!
When I was practising for my Mountain Leader assessment I did a few after-work bivvis to practice night navigation. But that said, I have definitely sacrificed a lot of my climbing/mountaineering ambitions to follow this career, and now I am so happy to be at a point where I can take a bit of time off. 
When in doubt, jam yourself in!
Favourite routes (climbing and running!)
Cuilin Ridge on Skye, hands down!! I love it.
It’s the perfect blend of scrambling and running with a few difficult sections. Its just awesome to feel so liberated and free, moving quickly up there with a tiny rucksack.

“…took us 3 days and involved sleeping on tiny ledges”

I also love all the Ben Nevis ridges (especially Observatory Ridge) and the Aonach Eagach (which I actually did three times overnight, including a winter traverse, before ever doing it in the daytime). A couple of years ago I climbed a massive route on El Capitan in Yosemite which took us 3 days and involved sleeping on tiny ledges, that was one of my all time favourite experiences. 
Dream climbing destination/ why?
Of the places I have been, I would love to go back to the Lofoten Islands in Norway. It is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever seen, with vast granite rocky mountains rising steeply from the ocean. I would love to go back both for climbing and running/scrambling – I think the ridges must be incredible. But there are so many other places I would like to go. I would love to do some high altitude stuff, e.g. in the Himalaya, but I don’t know much about this type of thing yet. 
What could you not venture into the mountains or crags without?
I am fortunate to be supported by DMM and Alpkit and find their gear to be dependable and brilliant. For mountain scrambling adventures I always wear my DMM Zenith rucksack, and Alpkit clothing. I especially love my filoment hoody because it packs small and light. 
Your go to treat after a long day out?
Banana milkshake! (blended myself, with bananas, whole milk, double cream + cacoa powder). 
Lets just ignore the “Ice” part of ice axe!
Your leaving your job in a few weeks, what are your plans?

Big question! My initial plan was to train very hard and try to do a couple of good competition seasons – I’ve literally been excited about this idea for years, but tragically I’ve injured my shoulder and haven’t been able to climb properly for several months. So, I am currently re-adjusting my dreams! I can see myself transitioning to hill running! I’m going to go to the Alps for July and August to try and do more 4000 metre peaks, tick some classic ridges and get super fit. I’m a bit limited because I can’t carry a heavy rucksack due to the shoulder. So it takes generous partners or very technically easy routes that need minimal gear! I’d also like to do a fast munro-round, and a faster Cuillin traverse. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do. I feel a bit scared and  very excited! At some point I will settle and do my GP training, which will be another three years of full time work, but I feel a bit burnt out and need a break first! 

Beautiful snowy ridges
Where can we follow your journey?
Follow me on instagram! @annawells89 

Love – Live – Run and get out and hit the trails!

Thank you for reading!

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