Women’s Wednesdays Provide Supportive Climbing Environment

Rock climbing has been seen as a macho boy’s club since its inception in the Alps. However, as the 20th century passed its halfway point, a few women began to make a name for themselves in the climbing world. During the 80s, a 16-year-old named Lynn Hill showed up at the famous Camp 4 in Yosemite. From the mid-80s to the early 90s Hill was one of the world’s top sport climbers. She is best known for being the first person to free climb The Nose on El Capitan and also for her sub-24-hour ascent of The Nose a year later.

Ever since Hill broke into the male bastion of Yosemite climbing, many women have proven that they can hold their own in the sport. In recent years, more women have joined the sport of climbing than ever before.

First-year Meredith Fossitt climbing in the Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym. Photo by Mary Murphy

The Colorado College Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym is the unofficial headquarters for the climbing community. It is common to see a mix of guys and girls in the climbing gym at any given time.

“I’d say as a woman I definitely notice the difference in ratio,” said first-year Hiromi Kondo, “but everyone is always willing to help you out and there are always different levels of climbers, which can make the difference less stark.”

Despite the noticeable gender gap, the Ritt Kellogg Gym strives to encourage women in the sport of climbing. One such way is through the weekly event Women’s Wednesday. It is an event every Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. where only individuals who identify as female are permitted to climb.

No one close to the gym remembers when the tradition of Women’s Wednesday began. However, Assistant Director of Outdoor Education David Crye guessed that it began sometime after the overhaul of the climbing gym in 2012.

First-year Cat Gill attempting a V3 bouldering problem. Photo by Mary Murphy.

Yet, in the past couple of years, attendance of Women’s Wednesday has declined. Some days very few people show up at all. When asked, some people didn’t know that it was still a thing. Others claimed that they went to the gym at other times of the week. One male stated that he can’t go to the Ritt Kellogg Gym at all because Wednesday from 4 to 6 is the only time during his busy week that he has free time to climb.

The lack of excitement has led some students to question whether Women’s Wednesday is still necessary or wanted.

“I was in the gym on Monday evening and there were about 30 men in the gym, some with shirts on, some not,” said sophomore gym monitor Nikki Mills. “The only women in the gym were myself and the other monitor. For a woman, especially a beginner, that scene would be incredibly intimidating. That’s why it’s important to have a designated two hours for women to climb together without the machismo attitude permeating such a small space.”

Women’s Wednesday has become a tradition for a reason. Despite criticisms, it is still seen as a necessary and beneficial event. There can always be improvement of the gender norms in climbing. Likewise, it introduces people to the sport who have not tried it otherwise.

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