The 2017 Women's Climbing Festival : Why not?

The 2017 Women's Climbing Festival : Why not?

Why go to a women's climbing festival? Don’t you already climb with women? I was asked this by many friends when I mentioned I’d be attending and sponsoring this year's event.

I imagine a lot of women respond with an instinctual “hell yeah!” when they envision a group of women climbing together, and anticipate an overall positive experience. But since I’d been asked so directly, I wanted to think about this a little more. Why did I go? What was different about this organized event versus getting a few lady friends together to climb?

It's hard to say what's so great about climbing with hundreds of women until you're actually there.

Women's Climbing Festival
Many women (and a few men) escaping the snow on Weekender V4.
My usual experience climbing outdoors is in a mixed crowd with slight variations in climbing ability. Sometimes the women are the stronger climbers, and sometimes the men are — it just depends on who shows up that day. However, males are usually the majority, both within the group and outside the group.

Being somewhere between 5'1" and 5'2", and having a negative ape index, it is very evident that most people I encounter outdoors don’t look like me. I’m also of average fitness — I’m neither super slim or have extraordinary muscle structure. I get really excited when I see someone of my body type climbing harder than I do, because that's encouraging for me. It means that my size is not a limitation. Sometimes I’ll be working on a climb and a bigger guy will step in and get up it by way of sheer force and length. This is not inspiring to me. I must also admit (with guilt) that I have a tendency to excuse myself on certain climbs by saying those moves must be achieved by having a longer reach and testosterone-boosted muscles when most people at the crag are male and much much bigger than you.

NOT SO when you’re climbing at the Women’s Climbing Festival. The best thing about this event is getting outside and seeing women of all climbing abilities trying hard. Although my body type is still a minority, it is a difference of seeing two to three people who look like me working on the same problem versus the usual zero. That’s huge! As I’m walking around, there are short women working on hard problems, problems I haven’t considered, and doing moves that I’m not entirely sure I can do but am now willing to give it a try. I love seeing a group of people who look like you make progress on a climb that you never thought you’d get on in a million years. There are fewer excuses to give up. The organized events are also a great way to catch up with familiar faces and connect with women from all around the country. I realize now, after two years of attending the women’s climbing festival, that it’s really the outdoor vibe that I’ve come to love. 

Ashley Nguyen on Claudius Roofus
Ashley Nguyen works the heel hooks on Son of Claudius Roofus, V5.

If you reversed the genders of all the people at the crag during the women’s climbing festival, that’s probably what a normal day outdoors would look like. Mostly male, with a decent number of women sprinkled in. I'm so glad that people out there take the time and energy to make women the majority outdoors, even if only for a few days. To me, the women’s climbing festival is a dream weekend where I can climb with people who understand my beta, and I can talk ideas without being looked at quizzically.

So here’s to women climbing with women, people like Shelma Jun who are willing to put events like this together, the amazing town of Bishop that opens up their roads and rocks to us visiting climbers. It’s a sneak peek into what the outdoor world would be like with women as the majority, and it’s a wonderful world out there.

On our way out of the Happies
The Happy hike down, and a happy finale to the Women's Climbing Festival!

Dynamite Starfish vendor table

Our vendor table at the Open Air Market

Shirts on people

Just a few of our lovely customers and models!


Leslie Kim
Leslie Kim

1 Response

Ishani Sawant
Ishani Sawant

April 21, 2017

I love the way you describe it. I have been asked same question when going for UK Womens Climbing Meet.. and going there proved to be a life changing experience.

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