Laurel Fan

StuartGlacierIt’s an odds game, this climbing thing we do, especially when we do it in the mountains. While we do our best to understand the risks and account for them, when we go out to pursue our passion, sometimes the odds simply aren’t in our favor. If you’ve been climbing as long as I have, you or someone you know are bound to either fall prey to unfortunate circumstances or find yourself at some point counting your lucky stars. It’s not often, but it happens.

Laurel Fan came to me looking to improve her mental game and become stronger for the Alpine-scapes she loved. In fact, we were supposed to connect after my return from Europe so we could climb together. I am disheartened to hear that she was lost to the mountains this past week because I was looking forward to reconnecting. Tragically, rescue attempts were unsuccessful and conditions have made it such that the search for her has been called off. ūüė¶

As a former coaching client of mine, I would be lying if I said she was the easiest person to work with when in fact, she was my most challenging client in all of the years I have been coaching. And I mean this in a positive way.

She had an analytical side and a deeply rooted desire to be perfect, which drove¬†me crazy! ūüėČ Mostly because I identified with this struggle. I remember a past coach of mine calling me out on my own continued pursuit towards perfection. ūüôā

Through the time I knew her, I learned from her and admired her patience, openness, frankness, and passion for the outdoors. Peppering me with an array of questions and curiosities about everything we discussed during training forced me to step up my confidence in my coaching as well as pushed me to be better equipped and thorough in the information and intentions I wanted to portray. As she told me once that she could not be lazy about her climbing, I have to say because of her, I could not be lazy about my coaching. Note, I would not use lazy and Laurel in the same sentence, ever. To me, she was a go-getter!

Although she wanted me to “tell her what to do and she would do it,” she actually needed to understand the whys behind doing it before she could execute it. I’m a pretty direct and frank person, sometimes to a fault, but Laurel was a tough person, responding to my frankness with equal frankness. ūüôā

“…I wish I could get more feedback like that but think I appear to be a lot more fragile and sensitive than I am (or maybe than I want to be).”

This was refreshing for me to hear and experience as well because it meant we could talk with no BS or fringe. Upon reflection, I suppose this is how much trust she put in me. I only hope she would think that I handled that with the utmost care and respect deserving of this vulnerability.

Over the course of our time together and the 3 months of weekly emails and skypes, I listened as she portrayed this image of herself as lacking confidence, being weak, and not making progress like others around her. The more I learned about her, the more I realized she was neither weak minded, nor weak skilled. She was actually quite ballsy and a well rounded climber. In fact, in many ways, she had a lot of confidence even if it seemed to her that this same confidence in her abilities was holding her back. We all struggle with these feelings of competence but rather than settle for this perception, she took initiative to find a way to break this invisible ceiling in her mind.

After hearing the news of her fall from an admirer of hers, then reading the many wonderful stories of her, it is clear that she was admired for her climbing talents and achievements. And, if climbing the things she did was considered in her mind as under her limit, then imagine like she did, what other opportunities would have opened up to her if she had had more time. Waddington was only the tip of her climbing aspirations iceberg. 

It’s never a good day when we lose someone from our community, and I know shit happens, but it sucks that it happened to her…and I can hardly process the news. It’s still very surreal.¬†She will be missed.

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
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