Spanning the Gender Gap

Going Forward and Going for It
By Abby Watkins

Today I can clearly see the gifts that climbing has brought me: learning, partnership, perseverance, and success at a high price (if it were easy, I'd quickly move on to something else). There's also the pure kinesthetic joy, fitness, problem solving . . . I could go on. For many others, however, climbing seems to remain the domain of men.

This is backed up by the numbers of men at the crags and by the appearance of women in climbing rags. I counted only two pictures of women really "going for it" in a Rock and Ice magazine on the shelves at the time of Ascending Women's ice clinic. It was nice to see that they were both pushing boundaries. (One was Lisa Rand bouldering V10. The other was Nancy Feagin climbing a rad-looking mixed alpine route.)

Women are coming into their own within the sport. Documentation of their evolution within the larger community provides motivation for aspiring women. My female guiding colleagues continue to impress me with their competence and knowledge. More and more, I see male clients taking for granted that the mountain guide to whom they have trusted their lives is a woman. Yet I think there is still room for improvement, especially in the arena of women's expeditions. Until a women's team in the mountains is seen as equal to a team of men, it is important to give credit to women's accomplishments.

I am delighted to see women climbing hard, climbing for themselves, climbing for the love of it. I have seen women—my partners—out there really going for it, attacking pitches with tenacity and skill. I've seen them overcome startling fear. I've watched my peers grit their teeth to pull off hard leads. I hope that it is just a matter of time before I can hear their stories from the climbing media directly, rather than extrapolating the real story from a softly lit picture.

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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