Barb Clemes

Barb Clemes

Portrait by Robert Howson

When you see pictures of Barb Clemes doing what she does best, you’re left shaking your head. There she is on a sheer cliff, seemingly suspended in midair and the only thing between her and a tragic accident are the tips of her fingers and toes. Clemes is a climber. In fact she was a member of the first Canadian women’s team to climb North America’s highest peak, Mount McKinley/Denali in 1982.

Clemes became the first Canadian woman to climb the most difficult grade (at that time) of 5:12 which in layman’s terms is basically a sheer cliff, straight up. She was a key member of Canada’s National Sport Climbing team, competing around the world between 1989 and 1992 and participated in the Colorado X Games in the event of ice climbing. Ice climbing became a specialty for Clemes who ascended many of the Rockies greatest frozen waterfalls.

Perhaps her love of adventure was formed as a young gymnast on the balance beam. She was a member of the Ontario gymnastics team that won the gold medal at the national championships in 1972. She remains involved with that sport as a judge and coach in Alberta and still leads a very active lifestyle. Just to shake things up a little bit she tried her hand at mountain biking and was a medalist at the World Masters Games in 2005. When asked what her amazing climbing feats taught her she replied “Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of fear.”

Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Athlete category – on October 26, 2011