Spanning the Gender Gap

Ascending Women
By Abby Watkins

This February, I taught two women's ice climbing clinics in the Canadian Rockies. World Cup competitor Kim Csizmasia and I came up with the idea over coffee a few months back. We were discussing the state of women in the sport of ice climbing and lamenting the fact that there weren't enough women out there.

Kim and I have the luxury of being confident enough to excel in the sport of ice climbing. We know women are capable of climbing to any level they wish—we have proven that for ourselves. Why, then, are the frozen waterfalls not crawling with other women climbing well and independently? Our conclusion was that opportunities and role models were still lacking within the sport. Thus, we founded a new company, Ascending Women, so that we could provide events for women. We hardly had the word out when the women's ice clinics filled up. We created something that speaks to women. It's not that they do not want to ice climb—they just want to learn from and with women.

The two weekends brought together amazing women from all walks of life to experience ice climbing in the heart of the Rockies. We had all levels of climber, from raw beginners to women who were quite advanced and accomplished. Thus, goals varied from just making it to the top of a climb to learning the subtleties of weight shift and balance in order to lead more efficiently. My most vivid memories from the weekends are seeing the group get behind whoever was pushing herself to accomplish a certain climb, whether it was the grade-3 flow or the M7 testpiece.

Ice climbing is empowering to women. I watched as each person dropped her persona from her everyday life and hurled her axe into the ice. It makes me smile to think of each of these women back at their jobs, whether marketing executive or teacher, travel agent or designer, with the feeling of firing her way up a frozen waterfall still fresh in her mind.

Because of the response we received to these women's ice clinics, I am excited to create more events: summer rock and alpine clinics, women-only climbs of remote peaks, slide shows, and women-only climbing gatherings. The interest is out there.

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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