Why More Women Should Start Climbing
“Boys climb trees and girls play with dolls,”—a common refrain many of us remember from childhood. But the biases when it comes to climbing don’t end there. “Witchcraft”, a climbing route in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, is supposedly “just” an “all-woman tour.” Even boulder halls differentiate between feminine and masculine climbing methods. For example: when it comes to solving a problem on the wall, you’ll often find what’s called the “girl variation” with a larger grip. I ask you, ladies: aren’t all these clichés and prejudices starting to get on your nerves?
Historically, climbing was a sport dominated by men. There weren’t so many women who climbed, and those who did were often ridiculed. Despite some lingering stereotypes, things look quite different these days. Today, women are leading the pack: braving the biggest walls and showing what they’re really made of.
Women like Anna Wenzel and Melanie (Melle) Beukert are partially to thank that so many women have gotten interested in climbing. We got the chance to sit down with them in person and ask them why they think every woman should take up climbing.
Anna and Melle are founders of FELSHELDINNEN FESTIVAL, the first official climbing and bouldering festival for women. On International Women’s Day, women from the climbing scene gather together in one place to network, motivate each other and exchange ideas about their passion.
Where did the idea for FELSHELDINNEN FESTIVAL come from?
I had the idea two years ago when I heard a podcast about the Women’s Bouldering Festival in Fontainebleau. I really connected to the idea of “a day exclusively for women to climb and boulder together.” My first thought was: “Why doesn’t something like this exist in Germany, and especially in Berlin, where the climbing scene is growing so rapidly?”
Why, in your opinion, do women need their own climbing and bouldering festival?
Even though the indoor climbing community in Berlin has gotten rather large in recent years, with almost as many women as men showing up in bouldering and climbing halls, I think that it’s just easier for lots of women to go outside their comfort zone when they are alone together.
My feeling is that this is really an opportunity to help women become more independent and confident. Our festival program features climbing-specific and experimental workshops about bouldering, rope climbing, training (mental and physical) and health. We create a necessary space where women can just focus on their workout and forget about any gender-related issues in the climbing world.
Why do you think more women should start climbing?
For me personally, bouldering and climbing is more than just a sport. It’s my passion. The social aspect of climbing plays a huge role for me. You often meet really nice, social and open people when you go climbing. It’s really easy to make new friends who come from a variety of different places and backgrounds. Climbing is just plain fun, and that goes for every man and woman!
For me, bouldering means stress relief and an energy kick at the same time. When I’m stressed, bouldering is the perfect antidote. I find that it’s almost meditation through movement. Whether on the wall or on a cliff out in the natural world, I can fully concentrate on myself, my body and my movement. I don’t think about anything other than the next grip, the next step, the next pull. To be able to climb on the rocks or on the wall with nothing but my own body makes me feel really empowered. To reach the summit all on my own is an enormous boost for my self-esteem. I think other women should get to experience that.
Read here about why bouldering is the optimal workout for your body and mind.
Well, there you have it! Women are really active in the climbing scene and have, in recent years, more than proven what they’re made of in terms of performance and know-how. So, ladies, now you have even more reasons to hit the bouldering hall tonight. Bouldering is not just a whole-body workout, it’s fun from the moment you arrive. Even if the cramps that ensue after the first session are pretty intense, you’ll probably have had so much fun that you’ll keep coming back for more.
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