The Women’s Climbing Symposium (WCS) has gone from strength to strength (that’s core, technical, dynamic, you name it) since its first year at the home ground of its organisers Shauna Coxsey and Steph Meysner in Liverpool. Claire Jane Carter tells us why this year's WCS in Glasgow is the place to be for women climbers everywhere.
After two years at the Hangar in Liverpool, the WCS road-showed to the capital with a very successful event at the Arch in London featuring female climbers as diverse as Angela Soper, Fran Brown, Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and Ella Kirkpatrick. This year the WCS will land at The Climbing Academy in Glasgow on 27 September, and boy (or girl) are they in for a treat. Drum roll please, here are 14 reasons why you shouldn’t miss out on WCS 14.
1. Hazel Findlay
The headliner. The first British woman to climb E9, the first to climb 8c and probably the last to tell you about it. Hazel is, some might say, unbelievably good at rock climbing, and yet she makes it all seem quite normal by making droll Youtube videos of recent ascents, answering to the nickname ‘Hammy’ and being brilliantly uncompromising in interviews;
‘Climbing is a deeply personal sport. If you feel put down by the person you're climbing with, if you feel scared above a bolt, if you worried because you're starting to look a bit too muscled... these are all issues inside your own head. They are your issues to deal with and no one else's fault.’
That book of excuses has just self imploded…
Yes, it’s a hashtag, but twitterage aside, this is an exciting focus for the WCS. It’s a boggy subject matter, but one the speakers and coaches are going to wade into without wellies. Is bravery innate? Is boldness a gender thing? How do can you use them? When should you not use them? How do they equate with consequence? What other alliterative synonyms should we bandy about? Anyone for #beballsy…
3. Amateur adventurers
More alliteration, but those that saw Emma Flaherty’s talk last year would concur that there is nothing quite as inspiring as a woman that makes a full-time, normal (ish) job and no sponsorship result in awesome climbing trips and very high psyche. This years ‘Amateur Adventurer’ is Claire Youdale, a damn good boulderer, particularly keen on getting plastic climbers out on rock, and able to plan a trip practically anywhere. Midnight sun or mozzie nets, there’s rock to be found, go get on it.
The Climbing Academy Glasgow (TCA) is home to one of the few female route setters in Britain, and Jacqui Sequira is on board to make the plastic element of the WCS day cutting edge. But this is not just an inside trip. Just outside of the city is Dumbarton Rocks, a fantastic climbing venue to spend your Sunday in Scotland putting it all into practice. You can read more about Dumby, and other local (and not so local) Scottish crags in Jacqui’s recommendation article on the WCS website. Getting outside around WCS14!
5. Shauna Coxsey
The woman who brought the WCS in to being. She came second in the IFSC Boulder World Cup circuit, and just became the first British woman to climb 8b+. Numbers aside, Shauna is passionate about the positive effect of coaching and communication amongst female climbers.
"After spending some time coaching a women’s climbing class, I realised there were common barriers that the women faced. Initially I struggled to understand as I had never experienced these barriers personally. It’s important for me to give something back to the sport and I felt WCS was a great opportunity to do that. This year’s symposium has been organised and designed to suit all climbers of all abilities. I want everyone who attends the day to leave with new knowledge and high levels of motivation!"
There are no princesses at the WCS and delegates aren’t asked to perform their logbook in the form of an epic poem, but the atmosphere of the day lends itself to sharing experiences. It’s pretty good discovering someone’s faced the same challenges, fallen off similar wagons or walls and had similar psyche inducing success. Climbing is tribal, and the immediate language of routes, moves and crags, hell, even sublimity, is what pulls climbers together and has spawned so much mountain literature. WCS gives you a unique opportunity to encounter a ton of other women who have discovered the rock genie and been granted wild adventures. It’s going to be noisy.
This year the WCS coaching sessions are on your metal approach to climbing - motivation, brain training, confidence and commitment and game playing. The sessions will be fun, to the point and free from training jargon and indecipherable geekery. The event is all about breaking down barriers and the team of eight top level coaches are very experienced at making women feel comfortable and able to ask questions. No mind games, just you and your climbing. From trad, sport, bouldering, new routing or ice climbing to facing personal challenges such as illness, injury and climbing through pregnancy, these women have amassed experience in all avenues of the sport. Meet Emma Twyford, Leah Crane, Katherine Schirrmacher, Suz Dudink, Naomi Buys, Natalie Berry, Ellie Howard and Lucinda Whittaker and learn about their climbing brains.
8. Jen Randall and the premiere of ‘Project Mina’
Jen makes climbing movies. There’s no shifty way of saying this, there just aren’t many other women doing it. Jen also makes honest, beautiful films with a good dose of self depreciating humour. She is quite special. Her debut was ‘Push It’, a short film about the women climbers that inspire her, and her own attempt to climb El Cap. This went down a treat and since then she’s been very, very busy. Not only a woman who makes climbing movies but a woman who manages to make a creative living doing what she loves. Last year Jen followed Mina Leslie-Wujastyk on the World Cup Circuit, and the result is the biopic film ‘Project Mina’. We saw clips of this at last year’s WCS13 and it was moving to say the least. WCS14 will host a premier of ‘Project Mina’, followed by a talk from Jen on the process of making such a personal climbing film.
WATCH: Project Mina trailer on BMC TV
The festival '25 minute' version of Project Mina will be premiered at the WCS on 27 September. The full 32 minute film of Project Mina will be premiered on Sunday 28 September also at The Climbing Academy (TCA) in Glasgow and there will be another full screening at TCA Bristol on Saturday 4 October, both with Mina in attendance. It is also part of the Brit Rock Tour.
9. Fleshy climbers
They make headlines, they go on sunny trips. You see them magazine-flat, chalk floating like gossamer clouds around their heads, never smeared across their tops in unfortunate places. ‘Pro-climbers’, ‘athletes’. An alien breed? At the WCS you can meet women like Mina from ‘Project Mina' in 3D, sweaty, chalky, most importantly up for a chat. What would you ask women at the cutting edge of the sport? Which shoes are really the stickiest? How do you start head-pointing? Is coaching worth it? How can you make a living from climbing? Could you eat a Gortex jacket if you had too? Meet some ‘climbing celebrities’ in the flesh at WCS and get rock struck and inspired.
10. Women sharing wheels
No car, or only a few millimetres of petrol in the tank and one Dolly Parton CD to take you to Scotland? Get on the Liftshare thread on the WCS Facebook and find someone from your town who is offering or needs a lift. There are already lifts being sorted from North Wales, let’s add London, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Cardiff, Bristol… Alternatively check out www.liftshare.com.
11. 8 til 8
The TCA will be open for the symposium from 8am till 8pm, so you can get inspired, plan a trip, train your brain and most importantly climb for 12 hours if you wish. And then go to Dumby with the WCS gang the next day. #beboldbebravebebloodyexhausted
12. Talk only tickets
Got an injury? You can buy a Talk Only Ticket for £40. Seven hours of presentations and lectures including the three headliners Hazel, Shauna and Jen, not to mention the atmosphere, the chalky light, the goody bags, the glitter (perhaps not). This is a really good option if you aren’t currently climbing. However, if you’ve got any concerns about the day or want to check which ticket option is right for you just drop the WCS team a line on email@example.com.
13. Michaela Tracy
Smashing on to the competition consciousness this year is the blonde bombshell Michaela Tracy. She’s actually been around for a while, competing since her teens, battling back and forth with the head game and this year some seriously hard work has seriously paid off. As well as facing training head-on, Michaela can deal with a full-on debate, and is one of the few climbers willing to try and articulate difficult issues such as body image. She will be leading a debate style workshop at WCS14 on what we are actually afraid of in climbing. Being bold and brave is all very well, but what are we facing?
14. A rare experience
Hanging out with just women is a rare thing in contemporary Britain, for some very good reasons. However, as we’ve already touched on in this article, sharing experiences within a common group, whether that’s climbers or women or women climbers, can be exciting. You might not realise what you have in common with other women climbers, you might not think it’s important, and that’s fair enough, but we invite you to come and try it out. It’s a powerful thing.
There's just one thing left to say... book your ticket!
WCS14 will take place on 27 September at The Climbing Academy in Glasgow. Tickets are £60 each and can be bought from the Womens Climbing Symposium website. Keep in touch with the WCS on Facebook and on Twitter @womenclimbs, or send the team questions or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The WCS 2014 is supported by the BMC, MCofS, Beastmaker, Crimp Oil, Five Ten and Cliff Bar.
WATCH BMC TV: Women's Climbing Symposium 2013
Women's Climbing Symposium 2013 on BMC TV.
Watch our film on BMC TV about being a woman and a climber by Mina Leslie-Wujastk:
Watch our film on BMC TV about climbing as a mum: