Part of our mission for the Woman Up Climbing Festival is to encourage womxn to share their stories and experiences across the climbing industry. The Woman Up panel closes out the entire event, creating space to carry the conversations started at the festival into the world at large. This year’s panel theme is Breaking Boundaries, where we’ve invited womxn who’ve carved out spaces for themselves in the industry and paved the way to a better future for everyone. Get to know a bit about our panelists here, and be sure to join the conversation at 4pm on Sunday, July 21st at Dogpatch Boulders!
Sydney McNair has been the Head Routesetter at EVO Rock+Fitness in Concord, NH for the past 6 years. She’s been routesetting since 2004 and used to be a competitive climber. This will be her third year as a Senior Routesetter for Woman Up. Her favorite part of routesetting is finding ways to challenge climbers of all sizes and abilities.
A natural athlete, Hill has competed as a gymnast and runner as well as in climbing. She first roped up at the age of 14 and excelled immediately. By the late 1970s she was climbing near the top standards of the day. In 1979, she was the first woman to climb a route of the grade 5.12d. She continued to climb routes at the highest standards of difficulty over the years to follow.
Hill discovered competition climbing during a visit to France in 1986. She quickly moved into the top ranks and won more than 30 international competitions, including five times at the Arco Rock Master, the Wimbleton of competitive climbing. Hill has also climbed some of the hardest outdoor routes in the world, succeeding on a 5.14a route in France called Masse Critique in 1991, the first 5.14 completed by a woman. In 1992, Lynn was also the first woman to make an on-sight ascent of a climb rated 5.13b.
Hill possesses a combination of power, grace and endurance that has enabled her to tackle some of the most difficult challenges in the world of climbing. In 1992, she speed climbed The Nose of El Capitan, Yosemite’s most famous aid route, in just over 8 hours. The following year, she returned to Yosemite to make the first free ascent, encountering two pitches of 5.13 and several 5.12 pitches. A year later, she topped that feat with the first one-day free ascent of The Nose, leading every one of The Nose’s 33 pitches in 23 hours. The feat will long stand among the world’s great rock climbing accomplishments. It has only been repeated by one person: Tommy Caldwell, who is also known for his first free ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan. In 1995, Hill took her big wall skills to the high peaks of Kyrgyzstan. There she made the first free ascents of two 5.12 walls: the 4,000-foot west face of Peak 4810 with the late Alex Lowe and the Perestroika Crack of Peak 4240 with Greg Child. On an expedition to Morocco in 1996, Lynn established “Tete de Chou.” Rated 5.13b, this route is the hardest climb established by a woman in Morocco. In 1999, Lynn led a small team of women to the island of Madagascar (located off the coast of Africa) to do a first ascent up a steep, two-thousand-foot wall of granite. This route turned out to be perhaps the most difficult first ascent of a big wall ever done by a team of women (5.13d/A0).
Among America’s best-known climbers, Hill has been a guest at the White House and has been featured on television and in many newspaper and magazine articles. She has produced a film about her all free ascent of the Nose and an autobiography about her life as a climber. Her book is titled, Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World (published by W.W. Norton). Lynn currently lives in Boulder, Colorado where she balances her time between climbing, guiding, skiing, speaking, and traveling to cool places around the world and raising her son, Owen Merced Lynch.
For nearly two decades, Nikki Smith’s photography has appeared on magazine covers; in Climbing, Rock and Ice, and Alpinist; as well as in ads, catalogs and websites for many climbing companies.
She’s written five guidebooks, established more than 150 roped first ascents on rock and ice throughout Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, and traveled from Mongolia to Madagascar.
Now, Nikki spends much of her time speaking and advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Mimi Zhang is a climber, Chinese immigrant, engineer-turned-food entrepreneur, avid mushroom hunter, and community organizer, based out of Oakland, CA. Currently, she runs operations and marketing as Co-Founder of Peak Yogurt, the first ever ketogenic yogurt, found in Touchstone gyms throughout the Bay Area. Over the past decade, Mimi found community in climbing groups such as Lesbians Who Climb, The Brown Ascenders, and, more recently, through leading Queer Crush in Berkeley. She was one of the only queer women of color to hike 1500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017. She loves the adventure of trad climbing, and dabbles in bouldering occasionally, thanks to her future wife’s encouragement.
Check out her blog Off Trail Panda for Pacific Crest Trail reference and @mimiyzhang for Instagram (mostly pics of mushrooms and climbing).
Lisa Rands, a former national bouldering champion, has been rock climbing for 25+ years. She has vast experience climbing across the world, from alpine spires in Patagonia to first ascents of now-famed boulder problems in South Africa’s Rocklands. In 2002, Lisa was the first American to win a World Cup Bouldering Competition and was ranked #1 in the world the same year. She went on to break ground for women with ultra-bold ascents of “E8” gritstone testpieces in England and super-highball boulders in California. Lisa has coached elite-level athletes including youth Divisional and National champions. She has an exceptional talent for understanding body mechanics and recognizing deficiencies, and an ability to coach movement skills and effective training at all levels.
Summer is half of the badass duo that created The Brown Ascenders (TBA). TBA is a POC climbing crew working to increase representing and build community with other climber or color. Summer has been climbing for 4 years and loves it even when it doesn’t love them. Outside of climbing Summer is a Professor of Graphic Design and is building a house truck—you can follow their progress on YouTube!