Header photo by Saki Cake.
Wow. Woman Up 2019 concluded last Sunday, and we are still amazed. Even after having two years of the Woman Up Climbing Festival under our belts, nothing could have prepared us for how incredible the third year would be. We returned to Dogpatch Boulders for THREE days of celebrating women and underrepresented genders in the climbing community and industry, and celebrate we did!
This year, we wanted to do something a little special to ring in the whole festival. We hosted a Keynote and Kick-Off Party on Friday evening where climbers of all genders could come together in support of the womxn who would be climbing and participating throughout the weekend. The evening began with a keynote presentation from the inimitable Beth Rodden, who talked about her life as a pro climber and a mother. Hearing her share her remarkable story in a way that was both vulnerable and relatable was a hallmark of the event itself: that across a variety of experiences we are able to relate to and learn from each other.
After a rousing Q&A with Beth, it was party time! Our title sponsor Mountain Hardwear was there in full force with their Space Station Tent and a hangboard contest for everyone to test their finger strength against their friends. Seven Stills came through with beer and high fives. And perhaps most importantly, we got down together in a silent disco dance sesh! You can bet you’ll be seeing more silent discos at Touchstone events in the future…
All-Womxn’s Open Comp Qualifiers and Citizens Comp
The whole preceding week, our crew of all-womxn routesetters had been putting up boulder problems for competitors at all levels to test their mettle. With a handful of highly experienced setters returning to Woman Up for their second or even third year, plus seven of Touchstone’s own female setters, we knew this year was going to be special and their hard work certainly paid off! From entry level problems for new climbers to some of the gnarliest grades for the pros, they put together an entire gym of fresh problems that were creative, inspiring, and fun.
The next morning started early for womxn climbing in the Open Comp Qualifying round. At 8am young phenoms and experienced pros alike started their warmups to try ten qualifying problems that, should their aggregate score be high enough, would be their keys to Open Finals and the $5,000 cash purse later that evening. The competition was stiff, but by noon everyone had climbed their hardest and we emerged with the six womxn who would go on to Finals at 6pm.
While the Open competitors rested, we began our Citizens Comp, the main event of Woman Up. From 11am to 4pm with music from DJ Madre and the hum of Vendor Village in the background, womxn of all ages and abilities came to try their hardest in a welcoming and inclusive comp environment. The vibe was friendly and vibrant, and everyone from staff to spectators to participants seemed to be glowing with joy.
Congratulations to EVERYONE who climbed. Thank you for helping us make this event a special opportunity for womxn to support one another and climb together.
Open Comp Finals
But of course, there was only the big show left after the Citizen’s Comp wrapped up…and what a show it was! Six of some of the strongest and most badass climbers entered the crucible of four highly varied finals problems. From technical slab cruxes to off-balance dynos (often in the same problem), the setters put together a real challenge for Kelly Birch, Alyssa Weber, Kylie Cullen, Cloe Coscoy, Alex Johnson, and Alex Puccio.
The competition was fierce and the problems were brutal, with just a handful of tops across all four boulders from any of the competitors. The slabs were particularly tricky for many of the climbers, at times requiring dynamic movement while demanding slow control at others. Only a few could get the magic combination right on the first three problems, and no one was quite able to top problem #4. In a surprise upset, 14-year-old phenom Kylie Cullen won the crown over the favored winner Alex Puccio! The entire show was an incredible display of focused training and bouldering prowess, and audience was cheering louder than we’d yet heard in the gym.
After Finals was said and done, many of the competitors hopped back on Boulder Problem #4 in hopes of figuring it out. Puccio managed to control the wild dyno and the techy finish to an ecstatic crowd…but unfortunately her right knee buckled after a controlled fall to the mat. She was carried out by EMTs that night, but was well enough the next day to return to the gym to host her clinics in high spirits.
All in all, the Woman Up Open Finals were an incredible and emotional ride for everyone to watch. Our friends at Outpost Digital Cinema captured the magic of the night on a live feed for those who couldn’t make it to the gym that night. We’re so proud of our setters and competitors for such a successful evening.
Sunday morning started bright and early with a slew of clinics led by all-womxn industry pros, from a routesetting clinic to an American Ninja Warrior clinic to technique and power intensives hosted by pros and seasoned Touchstone staff. Woman Up is an important opportunity for us to share skills and experiences with one another, and the clinics were a great way for experienced womxn to pass on their knowledge to others.
The Breaking Boundaries Panel Discussion rounded out the entire Woman Up Climbing Festival, with Lynn Hill, Mimi Zhang, Summer Winston, Nikki Smith, Lisa Rands, and Sydney McNair in conversation with one another about their experiences in climbing. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, each of these womxn brought a unique perspective to the discussion that demonstrated simultaneously both how varied womxn’s experiences can be and also how much is shared.
The panel ended with an emotional Q&A, in which we talked about the vital importance of an intersectional perspective on womxn’s experiences and the need for inclusive practices to be enacted from every level of our community. The panelists responded to the audience with compassion and humility. While we may have a long way to go before everyone feels welcome everywhere, we’ll get there a lot faster with people like this year’s panelists in our midst.
Thank you for making Woman Up 2019 so special!
Overall, Woman Up 2019 was a wild ride of celebration and support of women and underrepresented genders in rock climbing. Every year we throw this event we are astounded by the response from the both the local and broader climbing community. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible, whether by sponsoring, donating, climbing, or just showing up. We can’t wait to see what 2020 holds.