Women's Climbing Festival Recap: Celebrating Women, Climbing, and Community

For our second annual Lady Crushers Scholarship, we awarded one woman the chance to travel to Bishop for the Women's Climbing Festival hosted by Flash Foxy. We have no recipe for success when choosing an applicant, but Kristina's application stood out for her dedication to helping othersin and outside the climbing community. By day, she is an AmeriCorps Fellow at the New York Immigration Coalition. In her spare time, she is a kickass Cliffs employee and volunteers for the Adaptive Climbing Group. Here, Kristina recounts her trip and the lasting impacts of events like these.

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2017 has been a wild year to be a woman, and we’re only three months in.

Without getting too political, the last 6 months of our nation’s history have been some for the books. And as a young, American woman working in the world of immigrant and refugee rights, I’ve been terrified for most of it. Yet through the murky, political swamp of current affairs, two things have given me hope to cling to: the resilience and power of the American woman, and climbing rocks.

2017 has also had its fair share of silver linings. It has been a year for celebration, gratitude, and hope.

Three days after I got the call saying that I was heading west for the Women’s Climbing Festival, I tightened my laces and marched with nearly 3 million women around the world in solidarity: to join voices with those whose rights are on the chopping block. That morning, I scrambled up a small tree outside the Smithsonian Archives of American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. and stared out onto an unending sea of human beings: humans who were angry, inspired, and hungry for the victory of change. I sat amid the barren-branches and listened to the voices from a far-off stage ring clear over our nation’s capital: the voices of women standing up for our generations, past, present, and future. Women standing up for their beliefs, their bodies, and their rights to health care, immigration reform, and equality. Powerful doesn’t even begin to cover the feeling of that moment. This may be a bit of a stretch, but the energy and excitement of protests always reminds me of the process of climbing.  It starts with the general approach of “yeah, this is a good idea”, which then morphs into frustration, repetition, and projecting. And then the send, such a small victory that means so much. At the end, we feel powerful.

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2017 has also had its fair share of silver linings. It has been a year for celebration, gratitude, and hope. We have seen our climbing and outdoor communities rally behind the conservation of crucial protected lands. We cried and rejoiced at Margo Hayes's send of La Rambla. We followed along as Puccio made the comeback of the century. Our hearts soared as Ashima, Nina Williams, and countless other lady crushers continued to celebrate their victories, and redefine the role of women in our climbing communities. In the New York Climbing World, I get to watch and celebrate as born-and-bred-city-folk walk into The Cliffs, slip into a harness, and experience the thrill and pure joy of climbing every single day. Our community is evolving constantly. We are becoming more diverse, more inclusive, more accessible, and increasingly educated on protecting our planet. It is for these reasons, and countless others, that the Women’s Climbing Festival has quickly become a crucial asset in climbing world.

It was three days of harmony. It was three days of seeing everything that I wish the climbing community to be.

I never win anything—nothing as cool as this scholarship at least. As a kid, I collected my fair share of participation medals and trophies, but never stood out in a crowd. So when I found out that I was going to the festival, that I was flying home to California, I cried. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. The WCF was three days of joy, stoke, and warmth (metaphorically...it snowed in reality). It was three days of harmony. It was three days of seeing everything that I wish the climbing community to be: packed with inspiring, strong women; flowing with constant conversation on the roles of feminism, race, and socio-economic disparity in the outdoor world; seemingly-endless free wine; a celebration of local art, food, and humans; and an abundance of climbing partners that I felt comfortable, safe, and empowered to be with.  

My biggest takeaway from the festival was that I felt safe in that space. Which, as someone who battles crippling anxiety in crowds, is something I rarely feel when spending a day at a busy crag, or attending festivals of any form. As I huddled against the cold, Sierra air on the first night of the festival, listening to the stories of badass photographers and climbers amidst a sea of colorful puffy jackets with pony-tails and nose rings, I felt a sense of gratitude that I hadn’t felt in years. To stand among so many women who were filled with such sheer joy and genuine stoke to be physically and emotionally in that space was too amazing to put into any form of coherent written word. The anxiety that I carry on my shoulders day in and day out evaporated. I laughed, I made friends, and I shared tales of my favorite corners of earth.

 The ladies of the Intro to Trad Clinic at the WCF, taught by Katie Lambert

The ladies of the Intro to Trad Clinic at the WCF, taught by Katie Lambert

On Saturday of the WCF, I took the “Intro to Trad Clinic” with the flawless Katie Lambert. We hiked down into Owen’s River Gorge under an unusually bright and warm California winter sun, surrounded by stark granite cliffs on all sides. We made camp at the base of the crag next to a rushing river, and spent the subsequent four hours learning all the ins, outs, and side-to-sides of placing pro, making anchors, and trusting our bodies and our gear when trad climbing up a large wall. It was absolutely fantastic, and made me reminisce on the many summers of my life that I spent at summer camps in the Sierras. Saturday also boasted booths of women artists, jewelry makers, tea-drinkers, apparel-enthusiasts, and more. We had delicious warm meals together, and chatted about all of the different workshops and clinics that we had done that day. We laughed and cried (mostly cried) during the AMAZING No Man’s Land Film Festival, a series of short films made by women, and highlighting women in the outdoors. On Sunday, we woke up to a rather sloppy dusting of snow in Bishop, taking any decent sending attempts off the menu. Instead we celebrated stewardship, the breath-taking views of the mountains, warm coffee, local shopping, and, for me, a large brunch with my older brother who made the drive through the desert to see me. Sunday was filled with love, as all the best days are.

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The WCF was a fantastic reminder that this earth is beautiful, our community is powerful, and, when united, strong women can change the world.

I am so in awe of Shelma and the Flash Foxy Girl Crew for creating and cultivating this wonderful event. The WCF was a fantastic reminder that this earth is beautiful, our community is powerful, and, when united, strong women can change the world. Infinite love to The Cliffs for not only being my community and my family in New York City, but for giving me the chance to be home for a short sliver of time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.