Recently I found myself in one of those deadly Youtube spirals that stretches on for eternity. You know, the kind where you stopped folding laundry to watch one 2:43 clip and now the light has changed outside and you’re sitting on pile of sad, unmatched socks?
Generally my Youtube binges consist of Buzzfeed Tasty videos, which leave me feeling sad, lazy and very VERY hungry. This time, however, I watched a solid couple of hours worth of climbing videos, and I came out the other side motivated, and pretty darn happy.
Usually when I watch videos of the climbing greats, Adam Ondra, Chris Sharma, Alex Megos etc., I feel inspired, sure, but I also feel that their strength and skill level is out of my reach. This time, however, was different. Because I was watching the other climbing greats… Sasha Digiulian, Alex Puccio, Hazel Findlay, Emily Harrington. The badass girls of the sport.
I think there’s a pretty big argument to be made that climbing really is a gender neutral sport. Sure, men’s height and natural affinity for power gives them an advantage… but even Men’s Journal acknowledges that sometimes teenage girls put them to shame.
There’s a great video by Epic TV that demonstrates the different strengths that men and women bring to climbing. It compares Alex Megos, Tommy Caldwell, Emily Harrington and Hazel Findlay; four climbers that are dominating climbing across all fields. Alex shows his power on the campus board, but Hazel demonstrates her flexibility in a boulder problem she creates. It makes me wonder what strengths I have that even the strongest men can’t match.
And this doesn’t only apply to the top dogs, it’s something that I experience on a daily basis.
Completely by accident, I have ended up with a group of climbing buddies that is largely male. Now that I think about it, for my past 3 outdoor bouldering sessions, I have been the only girl in a group of men. And it’s pretty great.
I am never made to feel like I can’t do something because I am female. It is assumed that I will have a go on every single problem that the boys are attempting, and the excuse that “I can’t do it because I’m a girl” just won’t cut it. After all, when climbers like Ashima Shiraishi are absolutely dominating, there is absolutely no excuse not to go for it.
Recently I was bouldering at Redhill, and watching my friends Luke and Jason attempt Japanese Steel (7a+). It is a problem that demands immense strength and endurance. It hadn’t even occurred to me to give it a try, until Luke turned to me and said “Hey Em, do you want to hop on?”. It was that simple. No “Yeah, it’s probably too hard for you and you have to reach pretty far, but you can try it I guess?”. It was simply a fact that I was out climbing with them, and of course I was going to try.
And when I inevitably fell off the climb, there were no comments about how maybe it wasn’t a “girl problem”, it was just a matter of needing to get stronger, commit to the moves and try again… the same challenges that the boys were facing.
I’ve also noticed that there is no pressure to act more “masculine” in order to be taken seriously. You can be however “feminine” or “masculine” you want to be, and as long as you’re trying your hardest, you will instantly have the respect of anyone that you’re climbing with.
So, while it may be intimidating to rock up at the climbing gym and see a room full of tall, burly muscle-men… tie back your perfect hair, pull on your badass pink climbing shoes and crush it.
Featured Image: Jason Randall