It was good ol' 100 dolla Benjamin who famously said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Here at Touchstone Climbing, we strive to do just that. Sure, you can watch YouTube videos teaching you how to belay safely, but chances are you're not reeeeally going to retain and learn anything unless you try it out for yourself in a climbing class.
Same goes for any climbing skill. We often hear from our members that they want to climb outside. We are lucky enough to be in California, where the only thing you have to consider when choosing your climbing destination is the season. Too hot out? Maybe it's Tahoe season. Too cold? Perfect temps on the Valley floor...
But taking the leap from indoor top roping to climbing outdoors can be understandably daunting. What gear do you need? How do you get the rope up there? How do you get the rope down from there? The history of climbing is closely tied to a spirit of mentorship. Someone took us under their wing to teach us the ways of the climber, and we want to share that knowledge, safety practices, and etiquette with you.
One opportunity to do just that is the Anchors Clinic with Hans Florine offered at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord. Hans is a bit of a rock star in the climbing community, holding the speed record with Alex Honnold for climbing The Nose on El Capitan, bagging countless accents around the country, and literally writing the book on Speed Climbing.
Hans is the manager Diablo Rock Gym, and his endless energy and psych for pushing personal limits definitely shows. Since becoming the manager in 2011, Hans has inspired countless members and guests to challenge themselves and 'do hard things.' Hans also spends time in front of the desk, teaching skills he has picked up over years of climbing.
Last year, Hans began teaching an Anchor Building Clinic at DRG. In this 2 hour clinic, members get a chance to set up, asses, equalize and test anchors in the safety of the gym. "You'll learn sport climbing anchors, trad anchors, multi-pitch anchoring, and more!" said Hans. "Everyone walks away with a tool or two to make their outdoor anchoring safer."
If you're interested in signing up for this clinic - click the button below!
Join yoga instructor Sandra Razieli in a Yogathon to raise funds for Mind Body Solutions, an organization that makes yoga available to people who have suffered from trauma, loss and disability.
I am happy to share that I am participating in a yogathon called Kiss My Asana. It's a fundraiser for Mind Body Solutions, an organization whose members are doing great work in the world. I invite you to read more about it below or go directly to the website to sponsor me.
Those of you who have been in my classes, practiced yoga with me, played soccer with me, shared the bimah or have just hung out together, know that one of my favorite poses is what I affectionately call Bigasana. It’s simple -take your legs wide, take your arms wide and breathe. Open to the space around you, open to your potential, open to life.
This is what Mind Body Solutions does for so many people and in order for them to do it more, they need financial support.
Mind Body Solutions is a Minnesota based organization whose mission is to transform trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body. They are best known for adapting yoga for persons living with disabilities. They also offer innovative workshops for caregivers and healthcare professionals, teaching to integrate practical mind-body techniques into daily practices, resulting in more satisfied, committed caregivers and better patient outcomes.
To support them, I am participating in their Kiss My Asana Yogathon and I invite you to join me in this endeavor. For the month of April, I will dedicate my practice to focusing on opening up some of my constricted places; to step into what is more difficult for me. I tend to love forward bends and avoid backbends. So for this month, I'm going to dedicate my practice to backbends. You may find me teaching them more often in class too.
I invite you to sponsor me (all the money goes directly to Mind Body Solutions) or make your own page and ask others to sponsor you.
Connecting with this fascinating, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating experience of living with and in my body has led me to more fully embrace life and simply feel better. This is an experience that I want to share as widely as possible. And this is why I teach and practice.
I am grateful for any way that you can support this endeavor.
It's something we've heard time and time again, 'I wish I'd discovered climbing sooner!'
Maybe you totally blew your undergraduate years living in Los Angeles but not visiting Joshua Tree, or you're lamenting the tendons of steal that could have been yours if your parents had only pushed climbing on you instead of violin. Either way, hindsight is 20-20, and we can learn from our pre-climbing lives and do better for the next generation of climbers! If you have kids, get them into climbing!
In 2012, when Dogpatch Boulders was but a twinkle in our eye, we knew that we needed to think about a kids climbing area. With a dedicated kids climbing area the little ones are able to scramble around an awesome castle complete with slide, ladder, shorter slab walls and turrets from which to keep a watchful eye on the front desk! The castle has become a popular part of the gym where members bring their kids to climb, play, run and jump.
We now have several options to kids to climb at Dogpatch Boulders with our friendly and knowledgeable staff. We've worked to develop programs to encourage climbing to kids of all ages. "Kids are natural climbers. Its amazing to see how quickly and intuitively they take on the same moves that challenge adults," said Dogpatch Boulders manager Justin Alarcon. Bring your little one to the gym and see for yourself!
After School Camp
Members $225 | Non-Members $275
Talk about a great after school program! Watch your children build confidence, make friends, and learn to climb in one of our ten week sessions. Bouldering is a great way to get your kids interested in climbing or to help them burn off a little (or a lot) of that excess energy. The next session will begin April 7th! There are still a few spots open, click HERE to register.
Members $200 | Non-Members $250
Kids get a chance to meet for 1 week with our amazing instructors to build skills, make friends and have a blast! Participants will learn the fundamentals of climbing movement, spotting, falling and route reading. Our experienced and supportive staff emphasize personal responsibility and encourage each camper to develop greater self confidence throughout the session. Weekly classes start in mid June and run through mid August for children ages 7-12 at Dogpatch Boulders. Sign up for five days of climbing from 10am to 1pm. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced level climbers are welcome. Please arrange to pick up your children promptly and please send your children to class with a healthy lunch or money to purchase snacks. Please Note: Under-enrolled summer camps may be canceled 7 days prior to start date.
Plan your next climbing birthday party at Dogpatch Boulders! Are you tired of having your child’s birthday party at a jump house, or worse… Your house? Then a rock climbing party is for you! Our staff provides basic instruction and climbing gear for all party participants. The kids will be climb, learn games, and... just PLAY. What a concept, right?! Be sure to encourage the kids to wear comfortable clothing and close toed shoes. We're happy to be collaborating with our neighbors, Kara's Cupcakes, to make Birthday Parties at Dogpatch Boulders fun and easy for parents too. When you book your party online, you'll have an option to order yummy cupcakes that can be delivered right to the gym! Click HERE to book a Birthday Party at Dogpatch Boulders.
This April, The Studio Climbing will be hosting our second SCS Youth Locals Competition. Kids from all over the Bay Area will be able to climb and compete on our walls! We're expecting a great turn out and we couldn't be happier to support the next generation of happy and healthy climbers. But what about our lovely members?! Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about you! Which is why we're planning a climbing event just for you!
The Sunday Funday Big Kid Climbing Comp will be a chance for you to climb day old routes from the SCS comp. "Comp setting is different from our usual style of setting, said Head Route Setter Jeremy Ho. "You can expect more volumes, more mantles, and more intellectual movement. The setting doesn’t necessarily focus solely on the strength of the climbing, but on the mental growth in climbing." If you're usually of the bouldering persuasion, you'll get a kick out of the new routes.
"There is nothing better than a summer BBQ," said Studio Climbing Manager and Texan Diane Ortega. "Oh wait, a BBQ at a climbing gym?! That's a thing? This changes everything." We'll fire up the grill, and members and guest are welcome to enjoy sunny San Jose after crushing the comp routes.
Local companies are pitching in to make this event an even bigger success. If your Downtown San Jose business would like to donate prizes or get involved in the Sunday Funday Big Kid Climbing Comp, please contact Diane Ortega.
Mark you're calendars and invite your friends!
If you've ever visited Mission Cliffs on a busy Thursday night, then you've seen our bike parking.. situation. When the gym was first built in 1995, bike parking wasn't taken into consideration. When we first embarked on the Mission Cliffs Expansion project, we knew that having amazing climbing terrain, killer classes, and a fantastic fitness area wouldn't be enough. We had to provide a designated bike parking area for our members and guest to safely park their rides.
We're happy to announce that after months of working with the city, our plans have been approved! We are excited to be able to move forward with our plans to build the largest outdoor bike barking area in San Francisco! "I'm so excited that we are able to provide our neighborhood with such a large public bike parking area," said Mission Cliffs manager Donna Hawkins. "It's great for our members and great for the city's bike culture."
"Our many trips to city hall have paid off," said facilities manager Russell Olson. "We're excited to begin work on the outdoor structure." The bike parking area will be 108 ft long, and located directly in front of the new entrance to the gym. Not only will visitors be greeted by our bright Walltopia climbing walls, they'll see how our members got to the gym; on their bikes!
Stay tuned for more Mission Cliffs Expansion updates. Once the front desk moves to the north side of the gym, we'll begin construction on our programs room! We owe a huge thank you to our members as we work to build something truly spectacular in San Francisco.
By guest blogger and yoga instructor Avram Pearlman
In yoga, there is a concept called the edge. Think of it as the limit of your practice in the present moment. Even if yoga is not part of your weekly routine, visualize a place between reaching a little farther and falling over while stretching. This place is your edge.
Another way to think about the edge is to do an image search for yoga on the Internet. You get these pictures of people doing amazing things, and you can imagine trying these things. There will be a point where you just can't get your leg into that position you see on the screen no matter how hard you try. The bad news is your edge is somewhat closer than the edge for the person in that picture, but the good news is it might not always be that way.
The edge is not unique to yoga, think about a boulder problem you are working on that keeps making you look like a barn door at the gym. The moment we fall when bouldering, on lead, or even on top rope is the moment right after our edge has been reached. Perhaps what defines us is our personal sense of what we can and can't do. What is it about ourselves we can find when we are looking so closely at our limitations?
One of the great things about the edge is it exists only in the present moment. Your edge is not stationary, and was likely different years ago when that 5.9 got you so pumped it was your last route of the day. When the edge becomes clear, we can look back, measuring how far we have come and start inching forward.
Perhaps when we know our edge we can approach it slowly, and work on reaching beyond in a constructive way. When the edge is reached, we are clear and focused. Sometimes the greatest possible outcome is to know this place and push the envelope little by little. Breathing, nothing else exists besides you and that next move.
Perhaps when we get to this point, there is an awakening of the self to know what is possible. Perhaps this question might sound familiar: Why? Why do I always loose my balance when I stand on one leg? Why does my hand always slip off that third hold on the V6 I am working on? If it's my flexibility in yoga, or if it's my balance on this sloper that I can't hold onto, then my work is clear. What can I do to get past this point?
Awareness is a great start, but action is the key to success. If you know your edge, then you have a clear view of your limitation. Now it's time for some hard work. And I don't mean throwing yourself at your project repeatedly without thought, instead ask yourself how you can work on your limitations in a constructive way. Is it possible to look at the problem from a different angle? Maybe it's not your hand on the sloper, but the position of your feet...
The greatest reward comes from doing something previously thought to be personally impossible. Challenge yourself but don't get discouraged. The feeling of success that comes from pushing this edge is beyond measure.
Avram teaches Yoga at Great Western Power Company in Oakland, California. Be sure to check out one of his classes! Thanks so much for contributing Avram!
Reader Q and A
In a blog post last week entitled 'Learning to Sport Climb,' we included the following statement when giving tips on climbing routes. "..Feeling relaxed on a sport route is essential. Breathe well. Move efficiently. Despite 13 years of climbing, I still get terrified climbing. To overcome my fear on a difficult route, I test falls. “Every time I fall, I get less scared,” said Mary-kate. Being comfortable with the falls will help you move fluidly and well."
After the post, a reader reached out with the following question:
I wanted to ask this in message concerning your recent blog post. One of the things mentioned was 'test' falling. Everything I have read on climbing contradicts this idea. "If you fall, you fail" is what I have always heard. The equipment is a safety net, not an aid, and resting on your harness/anchor puts undue strain on it. Plus, you never know how good the bolt is unless you placed it yourself. Am I reading your blog post wrong, or am I mis-informed? Thank you for providing the gyms as a great place to learn.
We wanted to really tackle this interesting question that mixes safety, ethics, and climbing culture. Justin Alarcon, manager of Dogpatch Boulders and avid climber jumped at the chance to respond.
I'll offer you two answers, a short one and a long one. The short answer is that in the past falling was not okay because it meant you were likely to get hurt. Even to this day a climb is not considered a free climb unless it is done without the use of aid (including hanging on the rope) except at belay stances. In modern sport climbing and top rope climbing falling is a regular part of the activity, though one should not claim a free ascent of a route if they had to hang on the rope before making it to the top.
Long answer, and forgive me if I ramble here because there is actually a lot to say on this subject.
In early climbing history climbers had very little to protect themselves with. They climbed using static goldline rope tied around their waists and very little protection in the rock (if any) to protect a fall. If they somehow managed to escape a fall unscathed but were left hanging on the rope it would quickly start to crush their rib cage and make it difficult to breath. It wasn't a pleasant experience. This is why the 'do not fall' mentality is so ingrained in climbing culture even to this day.
As climbing technology improved, dynamic ropes were invented, nuts supplemented bolts and pitons, swami belts and eventually harnesses replaced a rope tied around one's waist, falling became less hazardous. Climbing standards went up as a result. No longer was 5.9 the limit. Still, the old mentality persisted. Yo-yo-ing a route was a technique that was born out of these developments. 'Yo-yo-ingA climber could try a difficult route, one that they might expect to fall on, but the ethics of the day dictated that they would then be lowered to the ground where they could begin again without having to pull the rope or all the gear they left on the climb.
The next development in climbing tactics was the 'hangdog' technique whereby a climber would fall, hang on the rope and try again to sort out the moves. Once the moves were learned they would lower, pull the rope and gear, finally starting again from the bottom with the intention of climbing it from bottom to top without falling.
In the early 1970s Kurt Albert of Germany started a free climbing revolution by developing a technique now known as 'redpointing' or 'Rotpunkt' in German. Kurt realized that by using hangdog techniques over a long period of time he could master very difficult climbs that he would never be able to climb first try, without any prior knowledge of the route (a style we now call 'onsight').
So, fast forward another 40 years and here we are today. There are a lot of people that really hold dear the old-school belief that onsight climbing is the purest style of climbing. These die-hards are the ones most likely to propagate the adage 'falling is failing' and they're not wrong in so far as the pursuit of their goals. Other climbers are more interested in testing their limits by climbing the most difficult series of moves they can possibly climb. Almost by definition, these climbers must rehearse the climbs they're trying, which means falling and hanging on the route. Neither camp is right nor wrong, they're just different.
As far as safety is concerned there are several things to consider. If you are sport climbing, bolts should be free of corrosion, nuts should be tight and bolt hangers should be the same type of metal as the bolt. Unfortunately, its impossible to know how well the bolt was placed, but with modern drills it is pretty easy and you can reasonably assume that a popular route with no signs of corrosion probably has decent bolts. For traditional climbs, even those with a few bolts, there are other considerations. The bolts on these routes (especially old routes) are often crappy and could snap or pull if they are in poor condition. If you are using cams or nuts you have to consider the quality of the rock and the quality of the placement. Even a well placed cam in fragile rock may fail. Conversely, a skinny nut on a thin wire placed in a perfect crack with solid rock can be as strong as a well placed bolt.
Regardless of what kind of climbing you're doing, you'll always want to be aware of the condition of your rope. A high quality rope can last a very long time and hold a ton of falls without any noticeable dip in performance. That said, even a brand new rope can be cut in half by a sharp edge on the very first fall if one isn't careful.
If you are climbing in the gym don't worry too much about the ethics of it all. Just have a good time and do what feels right.
I hope this helps, and wish you good luck in your climbing adventures.
Moonlight Buttress in Zion is one of the world's best crack climbs. With four hundred feet of fun sandstone followed by six hundred feet of amazing crack climbing, the exposure, consistency, and aesthetics make the route nothing short of amazing. Free climbing such a difficult route seems daunting but it is fully possible. While Zion may be a bit far for your next weekend trip, these tips can help you on your next long, difficult Yosemite route.
Most professional climbers who want to send a difficult traditionally protected climb at their limit start by getting the rope to the top. Sometimes that means aiding or French-freeing, pulling on gear. Other times, climbers rappell into the crux.Do what ever is the most efficient. Conserve your energy for the climbing instead of the toiling. The hardest part of climbing big routes is the hiking and carrying gear. Once you have the rope up there, begin interrogating the route.
Toprope, toprope, toprope. Start by finding the crux of the route. Figure out the difficult moves. Next, decipher the climbing into and out of the crux. Are there other spots where you might have a section of unprotected climbing or where there are hard moves? Finally, find where you can place gear on the pitch. Take the time to find stances, good locks, or stems where you can jam in some gear. Having the moves figured out can help significantly with being confident when you're leading. It becomes easier to punch through difficult sections high above gear if you are confident on the climbing. Some people rope solo routes to decipher the moves. On steeper traditional routes, it is easier to lead climb them. This is true if finding partners will be difficult as well. In that case, make sure you're going to send the route quickly.
Set yourself up for success. When you're leading a pitch only carry what you absolutely need. Going light helps you climb faster, easier and keeps you out of bad weather. You should be keeping tabs on the weather report anyway. Climb in the shade or when conditions are best. Conserve your energy as best as possible. Often, tagging a thin line and hauling a small bag with extra water and gear can save time and eneregy. Use a Guide ATC or Petzl Reverso to hand haul the bag. Sometimes, it is easier to lead in blocks, where the leader leads a few pitches in a row. Swinging leads can be taxing because the follower climbs then leads. However you decide to climb, do so in the style that gives you the most satisfaction. Make sure you're efficient at belays and can make quick change overs. A huge amount of energy can be spent hanging at belays.
Train before the route. Chances are that climbing a big route with a difficult pitch will make you weaker. The best way to fight this is to be extremely strong before heading out to the crag. Boulder and sport climb in the winter before your spring trad climbing. It's hard to gain strength on the wall. Make sure you're fit before hand.
Most importantly, be willing to try. Climb as hard as you can and if that doesn't work, try again.
By guest blogger Georgie Abel
"You're pretty strong for a girl," he says to me. I clench my jaw. I'm sitting around a campfire in the Buttermilks with three of my closest male friends. The apparent attempt at a compliment comes from a guy we met earlier that day. The space between my shoulder blades aches from multiple burns on my project and I'm mentally exhausted. I tilt my beer back, trying to muster the energy to come back with some witty response, even though I just want to pretend I'm one of those girls who isn't bothered by a comment like that. My eye catches a glance from one of my friends. His brow furrows and his mouth looks tight, he does not approve of what the dude said. I know in that moment that I shouldn't either.
"That's a really weird thing to say," I say to the guy. "That compliment was spiked with something that feels pretty demeaning." My friend's face softens and he nods, the other guy doesn't know what to say. He doesn't climb with us the next day.
Being a climber and a writer naturally makes me a curious person. Being a woman in a sport that is ruled (for the most part) by men makes for a lot of gender-related experiences, all of which I find to be really interesting. I knew that other female climbers were interested in this too, and that they had stories of their own about being a woman in the bro-ed out world of rock climbing. I wanted to hear their stories. So, I asked.
I asked almost 100 female climbers of varying ages and ability levels to tell me a story about a notable experience they had while climbing with a male. Most of the women are from the San Francisco Bay Area, some are from elsewhere in the United States, and a few are overseas. I have kept their names anonymous, mostly for the sake of the men who their stories are about.
I have arranged this article in the same manner that the responses were received. Initially I was told about moments when women felt degraded, looked down upon, or judged. Then, slowly, the positive stories started coming in--stories of empowerment, inspiration, and recognition. You'll find those accounts toward the end of the article. No matter the age, strength, or experience level of the woman, the themes of their negative experiences could easily be grouped under a few main categories. I decided to share only a fraction of the stories I received, selecting the ones I did because they echoed what many other women had expressed, or because they were particularly hilarious.
These are the true stories of female climbers--from five-year old girls who only climb the routes in the gym that have purple tape, to professional female climbers who have established routes on multiple continents, competed for national titles, and ticked countless 5.14s. And of course, all of us in between.
Here is what we've experienced while climbing with the boys.
- There was no conversation about who would lead what pitch, he just assumed I didn't want to lead at all.
- He told me not to worry because there were some smaller, easier boulders down the hill, unaware that I was completely comfortable with highballs and trying hard boulder problems.
- He set up a top rope on a climb I had led as a warm up several times in the past and told me it would be a little heady for me.
- He kept on shouting beta to me on a climb that was like five V-grades below what I usually climb.
- This guy was spotting me on Acid Wash, a really low climb in the Happy boulders. I really didn't want a spot because it's so low and I had enough pads, and he wasn't spotting any of his guy friends.
- One time a boy said I probably couldn't do the one he did because I don't play any sports.
- All of my friends had to leave Smith, so I met up with this guy who was a mutual friend. I had never climbed with him before. We got to the wall and he started teaching me how to tie a figure eight knot. This was the day after I sent my first 5.13.
Discouraging women from trying hard, heady, or powerful climbs:
- He told me I should stick to vertical climbing because girls aren't built to climb anything steep.
- We were climbing at the Red and he said I shouldn't try anything in the Motherlode because women don't usually like those kinds of routes.
- My boyfriend was belaying me on Pope's Crack in Joshua Tree and some random guy walked past him and said, "Bro, I hope you know this isn't one of those easy climbs. She probably shouldn't be on that."
- The same dude at Dogpatch tells me not to even attempt a problem because it's too hard for me because I'm short.
- I like climbing with girls because they say, "Good job! You're almost there!" And they cheer me on. Boys don't usually say that stuff.
- A guy told me I probably shouldn't try any highballs because women are all afraid of heights, and the only reason why they climb heady stuff is because they want to be seen as a badass.
- My climbing partner never encourages me to try anything harder than what he can climb.
- One time this guy I barely knew told me that if I was going to try this certain route that I should be very careful because it's sandbagged, has tricky pro, long runouts, and insecure feet. I did the route and yeah, it was hard, but none of what he said was true.
- He discouraged me from climbing a certain boulder problem because he said if I sent it, it would probably get downgraded.
Being Bro-ey, Cocky, or Douchy
- When I said that I wanted to onsight a route he started racking the quick draws on to his harness and said that putting up the draws was the only was he could control the situation of me leading.
- One time at a birthday party there was a boy who climbed all the routes I couldn't get to the top of and then he told me about it a lot.
- He told me that I need to wear Lululemons to do a high step.
- I was warming up in the gym and this guy started tickling me while I was climbing.
- I don't think I'll want to climb with boys when I get older because I usually don't like people who show their nipples in public.
- About five other girls and I were trying Go Granny Go in the Buttermilks and this guy came and did it in his approach shoes and then did pull ups on the finish jug.
- When we were climbing in Joshua Tree he asked me and my friend if our boyfriends had given us enough pro for the climb we were about to do.
- I climbed with a boy once and he got mad because he couldn't get to the top.
- I was climbing a boulder problem in the local climbing gym and about four guys were watching me climb, but none of them pulled the mats underneath me. I fell and landed on the floor, which is cement.
- There is this one guy at the gym who follows me around and only climbs the boulder problems I try, even though he is much stronger than me.
- One time one of the boys in my climbing camp was belaying me and I looked back at him and he wasn't looking at me so I got really scared. I think he was looking at his friend doing a handstand.
Attributing our strength to something other than...our strength:
- I overheard a guy say that the only reason why this girl sent Tales of Power in Yosemite is because she has tiny hands.
- He told me that I was better at slab climbing than him because having my center of gravity lower on my body gives me an advantage.
- After I sent my project, he said that it was probably easier for me than him because I weigh less.
- Whenever I send something that climbers typically think of as "girly" (slabby, balancy, delicate, or crimpy) he always mentions that I did it because I'm a girl.
- If I can climb a crimpy boulder problem he can't, he says it's because I have small hands.
- One time when I was climbing with a male, I suggested that we avoid a certain pitch because I had a bad feeling about it. It looked like it could be chossy and maybe even wet. We ended up doing a variation that led us to the left of the line we were originally planning to do, and as we climbed we could see that it was in fact chossy and damp. He asked, "Who told you to avoid that pitch?" totally assuming that I couldn't have predicted the bad conditions all on my own.
So there you have it. To be honest, when the stories started rolling in, I cringed a little (after laughing out loud in a coffee shop and nodding my head in agreement). I so badly didn't want to write some man-hating article that bashed on dudes and didn't address the fact that men can be valuable climbing partners. But, that's not what I was hearing from the girls. I thought to myself: where are the stories of that time you sent your highball project because you had some burly dude spotting you? What about when that guy said, "You're gonna crush this," even after he flailed? What about when he asked you if you thought you guys should rappel down or walk off the back, because you're always good at judging that kind of stuff? What about that time it wasn't about gender at all, what about when it was just rock climbing?
Slowly, I started hearing about these experiences. I didn't have to ask for them. It usually happened like this: a woman would tell me about a time a guy did something totally degrading, and then a few minutes or days later, she would come back and say something such as, But I have a lot of male climbing partners who don't act like this. Many of them treat me no differently than their guy friends and recognize that I bring something unique and valuable to the table, that they can learn things from me that they can't learn from male climbers.
Yes, how true that is: women experience this sport in a way that is so different from men, and we all have a lot to learn from each other. All of the negative stories were that of men assuming we had nothing to teach them. That's the common thread.
I received one story about a positive experience while climbing with a male that captures the spirit and character of all the other stories as well. Here is it:
I'm all racked up. My shoes are on, uncomfortable as always. They feel tighter than normal. The brisk Squamish air bites at the back of my neck. I tuck the remaining stray peices of hair behind my helmet. I take a deep breath and look up at my climb. I think of turning to my partner and telling him to go ahead. Tie in to the sharp end, I want to say. Lead this pitch. Lead all of the pitches. It's not that hard. You're much better than me anyways. My pride or my stubbornness stops me. My male counterpart is a much stronger climber than me and he's much more experienced - perhaps not in trad climbing, but he's certainly been exposed (and exceled) at this sport much longer than I have. Squamish used to be his stomping grounds anyways and for more than one reason I feel like I haven't earned my spot here. I feel pre-emptively embarassed and also that I have something to prove. You've got this, he tells me. Against almost exactly 50% of my will, I slip my hand into the crack. I make a fist and feel the granite against my knuckles. Right, I think. This is about climbing. Four pitches later and we're at the top, looking over a beautiful deep blue sky filled with clouds and mountains. I stopped being concerned with if the climb was hard enough or if my technique was good enough a long time ago, somewhere on Pitch 1. I looked at my partner and his male-ness did not concern me, impress me, depress me, or intimidate me. In fact it did not enter into my mind at all. It was just beauty and human-ness that filled my soul now. Weeks later we are sitting in his father's kitchen, recounting details of our Canadian explorations. He says, completey seamlessly, that I'm actually the better climber in a lot of ways. I think he's insane but that is besides the point. He tells of how he respects the way I push my limits, how I deal with my fear. He is being genuine. Honest. His ego isn't in the room and though he could walk up boulder problems I could only dream of one day touching, he isn't concerned with that. He's not trying to prove anything. I didn't need his validation; certainly not in the way that I as a female would want validation from a male. It's not about who the better climber is and in what ways. It never really is about that, for me at least. I didn't need his encouragement as a male, only as a climbing partner. And yet. I have to admit that I've had enough experiences as a female climber that make me weary; weary of being judged, weary of being undervalued, weary of being categorized by something other than my experience or my ability. I'm not afraid because I'm a girl. I'm afraid because I'm 30 feet up on a highball and this crimp is fucking tiny. I'm not sending my projects - not because I'm a girl, but because I haven't been training. You can go ahead and include me in the list of people who would like to lead this pitch. I'm a girl and I'm also capable of placing gear. Sometimes those dynamics are real and sometimes they are imagined. But what a nice experience to have had, a really lovely break from the chain of stereotypical bro-yness that can wear us ladies down sometimes. I'm sure we have our own stereotypes to break too. I've tried my best to let go of taking too seriously the gendered aspect of climbing now. There are those experiences that will re-affirm the great things about climbing with guys and there are the experiences that will inspire us to prove them wrong. It's kind of a win-win if you ask me.
A sincere thank you goes to all of the women who contributed their stories. You are the authors of this article. I'll leave you with more of their words; this is very important and overdue: To the males respecting and encouraging the females out there, a big thank you. We know you need the respect and encouragement too and we've got your back.
Mary-Kate fought through a series of pockets. At the last bolt, she grabbed a sidepull, pressed her foot onto nothing and made a delicate mantle to the anchors. Ecstatic, she clipped the anchors of Pocket Line, a 5.11 at The Wailing Wall, sending her hardest sport route to date.
Mary-Kate, a long time boulderer, has enjoyed the new transition into sport climbing. “It’s humbling and super fun,” said Mary-kate. One of the best parts about trying a new aspect of climbing is the quick acceleration. The learning curve moves quickly. No matter what your experience level, learning to sport climb can be a challenge. Below are a few tips on beginning to sport climb.
Warm Up Well
Some crags have plenty of warm-up routes and picking a suitable route is easy. At crags like Jailhouse, the warm-up can be a project. Make sure to warm-up properly. Hang if you get pumped to avoid the dreaded flash-pump, where your forearms fill with lactic acid and recovering becomes impossible. Climbing the bottom of a route several times can be a good way to loosen your muscles. Traverse the base, do a short run, swing your arms, or be like Ethan Pringle and bring a jump rope to the crag.
ABS- Always Be Sending
Sport climbing can send people deep into project mode. You try a route once then suddenly you’re spending days interrogating the route for better beta. You focus only on sending that one route and each day at the crag becomes a routine. Escape the bad habit of total route fixation. Make sure to mix it up a little bit and climb easier routes that you can complete quickly. This will teach you how to fight to redpoint and give you confidence on your project. “Climb at a place where you can succeed,” said Mary-kate. This will keep your confidence high, a crucial ingredient to climbing hard. It will also increase your technique for climbing other routes as well.
Feeling relaxed on a sport route is essential. Breathe well. Move efficiently. Despite 13 years of climbing, I still get terrified climbing. To overcome my fear on a difficult route, I test falls. “Every time I fall, I get less scared,” said Mary-kate. Being comfortable with the falls will help you move fluidly and well. Make sure you know where you’re clipping from. It’s easiest to clip when the draw is at your chest or waist. Depending on where the good holds are, you may need to clip from lower or higher. Be aware of which way the carabiner gate faces and clip quickly.
There’s a ton of strategy involved in sport climbing. To redpoint the most difficult routes involves being extremely efficient. Learn the basics of dogging up a route, how to rest well on holds, and how to memorize long sequences of beta. If you fall onsighting a route, make sure to figure out all the beta so that you can climb it better your second try. Also climb where and when conditions are good. Sometimes that means waking up early. More than anything, the best sport climbers are tenacious. Get after it!