Guest writer Lorna Potter, founder of Bristol Women Climbers, discusses her insights and suggestions in the set up of a women’s climbing group.
Women’s climbing groups are are a great way to empower women and create a community for women to come together and build friendships around their love for climbing.
I’m Lorna and I run Bristol Women Climbers (BWC), a group for women climbers in Bristol to get to know other local female climbers, make friends, have fun, share skills and inspire each other to climb harder.
I’ve been climbing for 4-5 years and have climbed with a lot of different people in that time. I’ve noticed that climbing with women can be a different experience to climbing with men. Climbing together with other women it’s easier to share beta and suggest moves that work well with our climbing styles. Men are more likely to rely on their strength to get up the wall, whereas women tend to rely on technique and flexibility – although I’ve met some incredible, strong women too! I’ve also found climbing with women can be a more supportive and encouraging environment. With climbing (and outdoor pursuits in general) being male dominated, it means that we’re often extra invested in seeing other women do well and helping each other to push past perceived limits. As a lot of climbing success comes down to the mental side of the sport too, it’s great to be able to talk to other women about this as they’re often really honest about the challenges of dealing with a lack of confidence, fear etc and able to work together to overcome it.
Although a lot of amazing work is being done recently to support women in climbing, most walls are still male dominated. Women are often less supported to get into sport growing up and generally encouraged to avoid taking as many risks as men – so with climbing being an adventurous sport it’s no wonder that there are less women taking part. This is a real shame because climbing is a brilliant activity to help women increase their confidence, become more connected with their bodies and build strong friendships based on mutual support and trust.
Having seen women’s climbing groups being organised in other cities, I was surprised that there wasn’t anything similar in Bristol – despite us having a large climbing community and 4 walls. Having always been a keen organiser, I decided to try to set one up here.
1. Speak to a Climbing Wall
I approached the different Bristol climbing walls with my idea to discuss the possibilities. They were all very supportive, but The Climbing Academy and Undercover Rock (they’re under the same management) were able to put forward a great package for us that meant we could support them fully in return with exclusivity for our sessions.
2. Organise how it will run
As The Climbing Academy (TCA) is a bouldering centre and Undercover Rock (UCR) is predominantly ropes, we rotate between them each week so the sessions have something for everyone. Although we have regulars who come along weekly, we also have women who only come to the TCA or UCR sessions.
3. Plan a launch
The group has proven incredibly popular. On the launch night at TCA we had so many women attend, I don’t think I’d ever seen so many women there all at once. We have new people joining the sessions most weeks and have a wide range of abilities in the group, from complete beginners to experienced crushers. A lot of the women have said the group has given them the confidence and encouragement to learn, get back into or push themselves climbing.
The group has also been a great way for women to find new climbing partners. Our members regularly post in the group to arrange to climb together throughout the week.
4. Plan Events & Trips
Building on the success of the weekly sessions, I’ve started organising more events for the group. We had our first group outdoor trip a few months ago and it was inspiring to see so many strong, brave women climbing hard and challenging themselves to step outside of their comfort zones.
5. Organise Competitions
I also organised a friendly competition over Christmas which was a brilliant opportunity for the women in our group to push themselves and have a go at competing, when they may not have had the confidence or self belief to take part in standard local comps. It was a great day, with everyone having a lot of fun and some very strong women stepping forward to win. To make it inclusive, the scoring was anonymous (except for the top 3 competitors) and everyone who took part was entered into a raffle to win more prizes.
6. Support Everyone
I think it’s really important to strike a balance between celebrating and being inspired by the best climbers, supporting everyone to improve and also just having fun together and respecting differences in abilities. Bristol Women Climbers seems to be doing that perfectly so far!
More, more, more
It would be brilliant to see more women’s groups starting up. I’ve shared some suggestions based on my experience below and I’d also be more than happy to chat with anyone about it, just get in touch!Why set up a women’s climbing group….
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