Anna Wells

Anna Wells

Anna is a veritable mountain woman. Having made a name for herself on the UK dry-tooling circuit, represented Great Britain at Ice Climbing World Cups, set the female FKT for both summer and winter traverses of Skye’s Cuillin Ridge and having climbed 55 of the 82 4000m peaks in the Alps, she is now turning her attention to the high mountains and is certainly one to watch in the field of fast and light alpinism.

Anna started climbing with a kids club at her local climbing wall in Inverness when she was 12. For the following four years she climbed mostly indoors, participating in youth climbing and dry-tooling competitions.

In her late teens she became more interested in trad climbing and adventuring in the Scottish mountains, but also went further afield to world-class locations like the Dolomites, Tatry Mountains, Atlas Mountains and Lofoten, becoming ever more efficient and inspired by the challenges she faced. She also developed her interest in dry-tooling, competing regularly on the UK circuit and local series and has, in fact, won every UK competition she has entered since 2010. 

Anna competing at Red Bull White Cliffs competition on the Isle of White
Anna competing at Red Bull White Cliffs competition on the Isle of White © Red Bull Media

In 2011 Anna, after achieving a first-class honours degree in maths, started studying to become a doctor but still found time to satisfy her need for the mountains. Evidence of her determination came in 2013 when Anna climbed 38 of the 4000m peaks in the Alps in a single summer season. 

This was an ambitious trip where my friend and I attempted to climb as many of the 82 peaks as we could in a single season,” says Anna. “We were both very inexperienced but learned a huge amount in the process! I have now climbed a total of 55. I would like to climb all of them but more so I would still like to try and climb them all in a single season!

In 2014 Anna won every dry-tooling event she entered, from local series events to the Petzl Dutch Dry-Tooling Competition and the Thunderdome. That year she also took 2nd place in the British Speed Climbing Championships and 7th place in the British Lead Climbing Championships. The following year Anna gave her best ever World Cup performance, coming a very commendable 11th in Saas Fee, Switzerland.

During these two years Anna also climbed three hard dry-tooling routes: Neomania (M10+, flash) and Ready Steady Hook (M10) in North Wales and Fast and Furious (M10) in Perthshire, thereby joining the very few British females to have climbed the M10 grade and potentially being the only one to have claimed multiple. 

Anna dry tooling in Wales.
© Ramon Marin

2016 was equally busy for the newly qualified junior doctor, who tried her hand at big wall aid climbing, successfully ticking Triple Direct (5.9 C2, 35 pitches) and Lurking Fear (5.7 C2, 19 pitches) on El Capitan during a trip to Yosemite. Back on Scottish soil she set the female FKT of 12 hours for a winter traverse of the Cuillin Ridge.

This was a long-term dream of mine!” says Anna. “Until recently it was very rare to complete a single-day winter traverse and I believe I am the first female to do so. I think with a shift in mind set, one-day winter traverses will become more common and I would like to go back and do this faster.

The following summer Anna returned to Skype to set the female FKT for a summer traverse of the ridge, with an impressive time of 6 hours 34 minutes. 

I have spent a lot of time on the Cuillin Ridge,” explains Anna, “learning the intricacies of the route but also rehearsing the climbing sections so that I am comfortable soloing these. There are three particular sections, which are very serious (usually climbed with ropes/abseiled). This is an ongoing project for me, as I would like to significantly cut down my time!

Anna on the Lenspitze Nadelhorn traverse © Neil Adams
Anna on the Lenspitze Nadelhorn traverse © Neil Adams

In July 2018 Anna left her job as a junior doctor to spend more time in the mountains, focussing on fast and light alpinism and climbing several 4000m peaks, including Mont Blanc, Aiguille Verte, Dent Blanche, Lenzspitze, Nadelhorn, Rimpfischhorn and Weissmies in single-day pushes from the valley, without using lifts or huts. 

I have a shoulder injury that prevents me doing any hard rock climbing or carrying heavy rucksacks,” explains Anna, “so this style of alpinism has suited me well!

I love massive endurance days and the feeling of exhaustion after I push myself hard,” says Anna when asked what her motivation is for climbing. “But I also love indoor climbing and competition climbing; the athleticism of trying hard routes in a totally safe environment and the feeling of training and seeing results.

Anna is also a keen runner and skier and is currently based in Chamonix where she is learning French and computer programming and working on improving her skiing. 

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Anna Wells