To the Women’s Climbing Community: A Note of Support, Encouragement, and Challenge

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Alyse Dietel is an amazingly strong woman and one of my climbing role models.

“Hi, I’m Jess,” she said before gliding her way up my project.

Thirty-five seconds later she was smiling down from the topout. “The heel-hook beta is the way to go,” she shouted down to me. She was right. Her beta was amazing, her hair was flowing, and her technique was flawless.

Why didn’t I get her number?!

No this is not a climbing love story. I’m 90-percent sure that Jess is dating one of my favorite beta gurus and route setters at The Spot. But bouldering with her at the gym that rainy Saturday afternoon made me remember just how much I love climbing with other women. I could actually steal her beta! And, let’s be real, strong women are beautiful climbers. I love watching them flow up my projects before I try matching their movement and perfect foot placements to hopefully, eventually send too. There’s also something special about the encouragement and energy of a group of women supporting each other. Another climber even came up to me toward the end of our session and said how much she appreciated seeing Jess and I encourage each another. I invited her to join us.

Having moved to Boulder, Colorado, I have more women to climb with than when I lived in rural New England, but somehow my indoor bouldering buds and outdoor partners seem to mostly be male. In fact, I’ve yet to climb outside with another female (and I’ve been lucky enough to average about two outdoor sessions a week since mid-January).

So, while I love my various crews of guys and only occasionally notice when I’m, once again, the only female braving the winds of Eldorado Canyon on a Thursday morning, I do wish I could climb with other ladies more often. Hence why I wish I’d snagged Jess’s number before she left the gym and why I make a special effort to text the few women I do know whenever I go to The Spot. I’ve also encouraged the gym to restart its weekly women’s bouldering night.

Now ladies, this is my shout out to you: You are amazing, strong, and beautiful, and you should do everything you can to connect with other strong, amazing, beautiful, dedicated women climbers. Climbing is no longer the heavily male dominated sport it was ten years ago, with one climber chica for every 23 rock-obsessed dudes. There are so many strong females out there, just look at Ashima Shiraishi, Margo Hayes, and Alex Puccio to name a small few, and we need to support one another in our goals and projects if we are to further strengthen the women’s climbing community.

We climb because it’s fun, because we’re addicted, because we love the feeling of moving between holds, and because we love to be active outside while challenging ourselves mentally and physically. And, while we love our male climbing partners, how often can we steal their beta move-for-move? How often do they truly understand that we simply cannot always just huck up to “that jug” without an intermediate or crank out 20 pull-ups no big deal (unless you’re Alex Puccio). Not to say that every guy lives to campus, or that women can’t make powerful dynamic movements, but there’s a special understanding, energy, and connection between women training and projecting together.

I challenge you, my fellow lady crushers, to make a little extra effort to support the other women climbing next to you, to join the ladies night at your gym if it has one, and to call your climbing girlfriends when you’re headed out on the weekend instead of always relying on your longtime male climbing partners to give you a catch/spot. And, if you already do all of those, I ask you to encourage other women to do the same. I’m here for you ladies, I’d love to climb with you, and I’d love to see the women’s side of the climbing community continue to grow stronger and more tight-knit.

Note: If you are craving a crew of dedicated, supportive females but find there are very few women climbers in your area, consider checking out Flash Foxy, a group dedicated to celebrating and facilitating women climbing with women, and try to attend one of their events, such as the Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop, CA, this March or go on a guided all-female climbing trip. 

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