In Memory of Rachel Slater
By Penny Harvey:
‘An amazing climber who never failed to inspire those she met’
Rachel Slater touched the lives of many people. She squeezed more into her 24 short years than most people even dare to dream about. She wasn’t always fearless, but she was always brave, determined, kind and humble. She believed in many people more than they dared to themselves. Her passion and her character inspired many; those of us blessed enough to call her a friend will never forget her spirit. Here are some snapshots of her life from people who will continue to honour her memory.
“They say that best friends are the family that you choose.
Rachel Slater was family to me.
I met Rachel when we both joined Manchester University Mountaineering Club in September 2009. I was quickly drawn to her infectious enthusiasm for life. From the outside we might have appeared an unlikely friendship; Rachel being an exceptional climber and general crusher of every adventure going, and myself who’s best climbing achievement is leading VS trad routes. But Rachel was the most modest and patient person I’ve ever met; she always took the time to coach me on my climbing technique and seconded routes way below her grade so that I could lead. I climbed some of my hardest routes with Rachel leading the way ahead of me. We didn’t just have climbing adventures though, living together we had so many fun times: lots of fancy dress, microwave cake competitions, particularly competitive bouts of sock wrestling, amazing house parties and plenty of Yorkshire tea. Rachel will always be my role model and I hope that she inspires others too. Her spirit will always live on in those of us that take up the mantle of adventure in life & living every moment. Rachel was an amazing person to know, always full of life and energy in everything from pushing herself on a new route to challenging us to a speed baking competition! I will never forget the fun we had.”
-Alex Shermer and Sarah Harrison-
“When I first met Rachel, we were sat outside the friendship pub in Fallowfield. With no more than a simple introduction she put her arm around me because I looked cold. This was typical of Rachel’s character; she was always happy to make new friends and treat them like family. Rachel quickly became my friend and I always looked forward to climbing sessions with her. Though she climbed much better than me and carried year’s more experience she seemed happy helping me to get up 6b’s – a climb which she often used to warm up on. It was with Rachel’s encouragement that I lead my first 6b, 6c and attempted my first 7a. She was also the person who pushed me so hard that I unwillingly took my first lead fall (once
this happened my climbing drastically improved). No matter where we were climbing she always had more faith in my climbing than I did, always encouraging me to ‘just try it’. My last trip with Rachel is one I will never forget. She invited me to join her and her family (who all climbed several grades harder than me) on the
west coast in America. This was my first winter living in America and I was psyched to join a familiar face on some sunny rock. I figured I’d join Rachel on her warm up routes and be an extra belayer for someone when they needed me. Yet from our first day at Joshua Tree, Rachel insisted I follow her up every route. By day three I was so tired I didn’t think I was going to make it to day 8. But she believed in me and dragged me behind her as she cruised route after route. Day four came and I guess my muscles had given up revolting and I was able to climb for the rest of the trip with little hindrance. Even leading a few pitches myself.
But it wasn’t just the climbs and the location that made this trip special. It was being welcomed into her family vacation. Getting to spend time with my friend, it was the small moments like eating free cookies from the lobby or jumping into the freezing cold swimming pool that are so memorable. It was reminiscing about our time together in MUMC and listening to Rachel’s plans for the future. It saddens me that her life was cut short, but I’ll take solace in all that I learnt from her, as I know many will. Rachel was the type of climber everyone should aspire to be, not because of the grades she climbed or her ability to crush any style of route, but because she quietly enacted the true values of climbing; determination, belief, friendship and a true sense of adventure.”
“When I was younger Rachel told me the most ridiculous things and I would believe her without thinking twice. To me, she knew everything because she was determined to learn something new every day. She was modest about her skill as a climber but really the reason why she wouldn’t boast about her accomplishments to others was because she already knew how awesome she was. I admire her strength and confidence to show everyone, even guys, how to climb like a girl.
During our trip to Spain she inspired me through
climbing and showed me how to enjoy life and live every moment. It doesn’t
matter that it was 3am, why not run up a via ferrata with someone you have just met? Or borrow a stranger’s car to sleep in when it’s raining. Or sleep right where you are on the pebbly floor of the parking lot because you want to stay and climb one more day. Or drive out of the city to take some star trail photos late at night even though you have to get up for training at 5am the next day. You cannot wait for another opportunity to come up, it is up to us to do what we want and be happy.
I could not wait for more climbing trips to come and was super excited for her and Tim to come to Canada, to show them the Bugaboos and my favourite places. I will never stop climbing, skiing and playing in the mountains. Without taking risks our lives aren’t meaningful. We can all learn from Rachel that what matters the most is not the number of years you live but the amount of times you’ve felt really alive from doing whatever it is that you love.”
We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this beautiful and touching tribute to Rachel Slater who sadly passed away in February 2016, after being avalanched on Ben Nevis with her boyfriend, Tim Newton. Our thoughts are with family and friends of Rachel at this time and going forward in their lives. The climbing community mourns.
If you would like to make a contribution to Lochaber Mountain Rescue, their work is funded almost entirely from your donations. The team fought fierce conditions in their search for Rachel & Tim; please give generously to help them in their continued outstanding work: