Spanning the Gender Gap

One Pitch at a Time
By Abby Watkins

Ascending the Nose in a day was a big turning point in my conception of what was possible in my climbing. Moving over that much rock in such a short time opened the door of possibility as to what I could do in the mountains. Yet when I first conceived of the climb, it seemed like an impossible dream. In my mind, such ascents were the realm of supermen with grim, set jaws and strength as rugged as the mountains—and with these men I did not identify.

The media did nothing to quell my insecurities. On the page opposite the hard, scruffy, satisfied men portrayed in the popular climbing magazines were airbrushed beauties hanging delicately onto sunset-drenched rock. Though there are signs of change, it seems that the mainstream climbing media is not ready to showcase female climbers based on their merits rather than their appearances. I know that when I am three days into a big wall or two weeks into an expedition, I do not look anything close to a poster girl. I did not identify with the gorgeous, young faces staring blankly at me from the glossy magazine pages any more than I did with the mighty men of the mountain.

Luckily, however, I was born with stubborn confidence and an inclination toward athletics. Whether competing in gymnastics, playing tennis, or climbing, I have always felt strong and competent. This mind-set, combined with seeing real women going for it—tired, grimy, and happy after a full day of testing their limits—pushed me to pursue lofty goals. Meeting the perfect partner vaulted me to new heights.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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