Bishop, California is a bouldering epicenter, a place that any climber recognizes, and a place that we need no excuse to visit. When we heard that there was going to be a Women’s Climbing Festival there, we HAD to go! Thanks to the fabulous ladies at Flash Foxy for putting on an inspiring and unique event in one of climbing’s most revered locales – it couldn’t have been more fun and motivational! Here’s a quick event recap from our ambassadors who were on-site teaching and climbing.
I arrived in Bishop on Thursday afternoon, the day before the Flash Foxy Women’s Festival was set to begin. I drove straight to the Happy Boulders for a sunset session. There was already a buzz in the air amongst every group of ladies I encountered, each one excitedly asking, “Are you here for the Climbing Festival?”
Pro climbers like Daila Ojeda, Babera Zangerl and Nina Williams climbed alongside ladies off all ability levels. Whether it was their first time outside, or they were seasoned athletes didn’t matter; the vibe was supportive, friendly and encouraging.
Check-in and kickoff on Friday night at the Mountain Rambler Brewery was festive, beginning the official event with with an opportunity to relax and meet new friends. Everyone settled in to watch the slideshows, inspired by videos of the women at the forefront of the sport, climbing, whipping, laughing and doing yoga in beautiful settings around the globe.
On Saturday, the uniqueness of a women’s-only climbing event really began to take shape with clinics like, Shorty Beta, How to Highball, and Techniques For Redpointing and Projecting. My contribution, along with my co-teacher Kelley Doyle, was a yoga class on making a calm mind-body connection, and how to care for your body and prevent injury for a lifetime of rock climbing.
Everywhere, I encountered courageous women opening up about their fear of leading, the emotion involved in climbing highballs and runouts and an ongoing conversation about how to care for our bodies and minds despite the intensity climbing outs on them.
For the first time in a climbing setting, I felt normal for having fear of exposure. I felt heard and supported, not awkward or ashamed for speaking about the enormous and challenging mental aspect of climbing. I felt understood, not because men don’t also get afraid, but for how women typically respond to each other during these times. Bringing so many women rock climbers together in one place was more than just a festival, it was like coming home to a family you never even knew existed.
Bishop is an iconic destination for climbing. I have been to the Buttermilks, Happy Boulders, and Sad Boulders before, as well as the Owen’s River Gorge for rock climbing. Just never with 150 other women all at once!
I drove through 7 hours of traffic and winding high desert roads to reach the inagural Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival. I was deeply rewarded for my efforts. Maria, my climbing gym and yogi friend accompanied me. First off, she had previously never been to Bishop for rock climbing, and has only bouldered outdoors a handful of times thus far. To see the experience through her eyes was magical, and to see so many women enjoying Bishop for the very first time was mesmerizing. It reminded me of the enchantment I once experienced so long ago visiting these boulders and topping out on many of them for my own first time.
More than a decade later this sport, this lifestyle, continues to enrich my life in surprising ways. The women I met were kind, generous, supportive, cheerful, strong, and brave. I was honored to spot ladies on their very first outdoor bouldering climbs. The pure joy and huge smiles smeared across their faces lit up my spirit. It is equally inspiring to see the sport’s strongest climbers speak about their years of experience and watch them send tall projects.
Previously I had met professional climber Nina Williams on quite a few occasions. The energy she brings to the gym and the crag is infectious. I participated in her clinic called Strategic Projecting, for those interested in unblocking the pathway to sending progressively harder grades. The group was made up of women from all climbing backgrounds and varying years of experience. Once we were at the face of a boulder all of our predispositions melted away as we stood below cheering on and spotting each other sending various problems and personal cruxes. We were all there simply to climb, and that’s it. Everyone’s individual goals for the day were taken on by the group, in a serious effort to help one another achieve success. There was no conflict, no competition, no complaining, and lots of commraderie! We all did our best, and went back to camp with a magical feeling that can only arise from spending all day climbing with just women.
Overall the experience was deeply enriching. Many women spoke of feeling more open to try harder problems and felt secure in climbing higher than they ever had before. I myself felt surpisinlgy relaxed 25 plus feet off the deck, knowing the women below had my spot, and that my own ideas of success were all that mattered. Yes it was exciting to see so many strong women climb, but it was even more inspiring to see all the women trying so hard, digging deep, and pulling down to lift us all up.
The motivation is high now that I’m back home. I’m inspired to find other women, gather them up, climb hard in the gym, and then take that psyche outdoors! I would definitely return to the festival. The food was great, the hospitality of local businesses was welcoming, and the support from so many industry related companies was overwhelming. The organizers did a highly professional job and the value of the experience was worth much more than I paid for! See you all next year!