Let me preface this by saying that I’m new to rock climbing. Although I got addicted to it within my first couple of visits to my local climbing gym, my experience in the sport is very limited. Nevertheless, I have become exposed to many role models, mainly through social media, who are constantly pushing the limits of the sport and keep me motivated to try harder. A few people who make up this list are Alexander Megos, Margo Hayes, Michaela Kiersch, Adam Ondra, among many others.
From the very beginning, I have seen rock climbing as a mixed-gender sport, which is not surprising considering all of the recent accomplishments climbers such as Margo Hayes have made. In case you haven’t been keeping up with the latest climbing news, Margo just became the first female to send “Biographie/Realization,” a 5.15a (meaning VERY hard) sport climb in France which has been dominated by men for the past 15 years!
Even in my local climbing gym, I see many female climbers who are crazy strong and can pull off moves that seem impossible to attempt. But my recent interactions with more female climbers, which includes some of my close friends, have opened up my eyes to the sad reality that gender stereotypes are still alive and negatively affect their performance.
Maybe you’ve heard a dude telling another, “Try the girl beta!” — beta is climbing jargon for how to climb a route — or dudes expressing their astonishment when a girl successfully climbs a challenging route while they don’t even bat an eye at when a guy climbs it. These type of remarks and behavior are far from inoffensive. Rock climbing is a sport that relies very heavily on the mindset of the athlete, which is why being exposed to this type of belittlement directly affects the performance of the climber on the rock (or plastic).
I will never be able to fully understand the challenges of being a female in the sport, but what I do understand very clearly is that rock climbing is not a “man’s sport.” Being able to climb past the stereotypes and demeaning remarks that some of us make (intentionally or unintentionally) shows how strong you are!
Keep on climbing Ladies, because even though there might be lots of men who don’t understand how capable you are, many of us new climbers are coming up in the sport looking to you as a role model.
Header photo: Sierra Knott (@sierraroseknott) sending “A Team” V9 in Black Mountain