Ladies nights are giving a boost to the skills, confidence and morale of an increasing number of climbers all around the country. But a casual observer would be forgiven for not realising it's ladies night at the wall, considering the number of males they seem to attract!
WATCH: A short film by Jen Randall/Light Shed Pictures perfectly capturing the fun and relaxed atmosphere of Ladies Night at the Climbing Hangar, Liverpool on BMC TV.
We catch up with Mikaela Toczek who regularly attends a ladies night at Dynamic Rock in Swansea to find out why it has reinvigorated her climbing.
MT: I've always had a passion for outdoor activities. I come from a background of mountain walking and recently completed my Mountain Leader assessment. But I didn’t start climbing until I was much older and I was introduced to climbing through friends at university.
I think there are a number of barriers to women in climbing, starting with access at a young age. There needs to be a bigger drive to make children (boys as well as girls) aware of the different activities they can get involved in. Currently, unless parents or friends are involved in the sport there seems to be few opportunities to get started and try it out. If climbing was more available to girls in school, they may be more likely to develop a sustained interest in it. [Ed: Thankfully a growing number of schools are getting hooked on climbing]
As an adult, another problem is trying to find other women of a similar ability to climb with. It's not always as easy as simply joining a club or a team to get started and it can be costly to invest in courses where you may get to know people. For this reason I took a break from climbing of about five years, only going occasionally once I graduated. It was seeing a poster for the ladies night last year that prompted me to go along.
I get so much out of a ladies night that I don't on a normal night at the wall. Having the opportunity to climb informally with a group of likeminded women, who are just looking to enjoy the sport together (not necessarily compete) and improve on our own terms, has been the driving force behind my renewed enjoyment in the sport.
When I started attending the ladies night at Dynamic Rock there was no official coach, but the evening was initiated by Jacky Tyrie, a regular and experienced climber. Jacky and the other women at the wall provide support throughout the evening, as well as tips, and suggestions for training and equipment, but more importantly it is simply a chance to climb in a group and get to know other women interested in climbing in all its forms.
So, what happens at a ladies night? On an average evening we tend to complete a warm-up together and highlight our priorities for the night, for example working on stamina, fall practice, bouldering or simply enjoying some routes. We then split off into smaller groups or pairs and enjoy the evening’s session. Most sessions last around 2 and a half hours, although there is plenty of chatting and socialising in amongst the training.
We have a wide range of abilities, ages and backgrounds in our group, although everyone that joins is able to belay and climb on a top rope, which makes for a fun and varied night. The climbing centre offer us a free hot chocolate at the end of the evening and so we normally spend a little time relaxing after our climb. I am sure it is not unique to our ladies night that there are also a lot of other shared interests aside from outdoor activities, crochet being a favourite topic of ours!
Last summer we ventured outdoors for a few sessions on the Gower and I also meet regularly to climb outside with a number of women who I met through ladies night.
Ladies night has definitely helped to reinvigorate my passion for climbing. All in all it has been a great opportunity to get back into climbing and make lots of new friends. I have become much more confident with my lead climbing, improving my technique and fitness a huge amount and this is predominantly down to attending ladies night.
Earlier this year, Jacky passed on the organisation of the night to Yasmine Grainger at Dynamic Rock. I hope it continues to grow and provide a supportive atmosphere for women around Swansea with Yasmine at the helm!
When can I go?
Dynamic Rock's ladies night takes place every Wednesday at 7pm. Female climbers get cheap entry into the climbing wall and a free hot drink (all for £5). You can go in a group or rock up on your own.
Is it for me?
Of course, women's only sessions aren't to everybody's taste but if you want to find out more of the benefits of women's sessions and clubs read this blog post 'who needs a women's club' on the WomenClimb website.
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