Shelley Nairn began climbing in 1995 at the age of 20, primarily in the Jasper area. In 1999, she moved to Canmore, Alberta and began to pursue climbing at a whole new level.
A year after living in Canmore, she embarked on an across the states climbing trip. Before she left, Walson Tai offered to sponsor her with some clothes from his new clothing line – Flashed. To this day, the tank top and pants that he gave her have been her favourite climbing clothes… no joke! 😊
After this road trip, Shelley went on to take care of a new bouldering gym in Canmore called The Rock Gardens and she lived there in exchange for route setting, simple cash outs and routine cleaning. After the owners decided to sell the gym and return to Saskatoon, Shelley helped the new owner, Dung Nguyen secure the sale and then helped him move in, cleaning, painting, and route setting! Shelley believes that Dung and his purchase of what was called the Vsion Climbing Gym was a historical moment in the bouldering movement in Alberta.
Shelley continued to help at the Vsion until the Banff Centre climbing wall opened and she was able to secure more hours there. She helped route set at the Vsion and Banff climbing centre for junior and adult competitions until she moved out of Canmore in 2012. She also helped in the capacity of Assistant Coach for the climbing team from 2005-2012.
As far as outdoor bouldering, Shelley spent countless hours in 2002 in the Cathedral Forest area cleaning, moving boulders to create safe landings and put up a few dozen first sends (V0-V7). Similarly, at Big Choss, she put up a handful of first sends. She even bouldered at Big Choss on the day that she went into labour in 2004!
Shelley shared that her biggest accomplishment in climbing was this:
“I think maybe one of the most important things I accomplished in climbing is simply showing up with confidence…even if I was the underdog. After having a gigantic ground fall ice climbing accident, I continued to climb and push myself. After my accident, I went to the Ouray Ice Festival to compete when Sean Isaac asked me to come because he said they didn’t have many women competitors that year. So even though I was going to be up against a few seasoned veterans, I agreed to go because I didn’t have anything to lose. I wanted to go for the experience because I loved climbing and I ended up winning!
And although it was a slap in the face by Rock and Ice to only be mentioned for this accomplishment in parenthesis after the names of the top 10 or so men were listed, the following year saw a bigger turnout of women than ever before and I feel I might have had something to do with that. Unfortunately I could not return to defend my title because I was 4 months pregnant and had morning sickness through my first two trimesters.”
After taking a break from climbing, Shelley has now re-kindled her love for climbing, enjoying outings with her 18 year old son!