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Why do you choose to climb - women in the sport
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Jan 23, 2013, 8:25 AM
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Registered: Oct 25, 2002
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Why do you choose to climb - women in the sport
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So this questionare led me to think about the fact that there are way more men than women that climb. But I don't think there are really very different motivational differences of long term climbers between the sexes.

I think the number of women who start and stick with the sport more has to do with personality types than our motivations for climbing. The female climbers I know seem to have fairly strong personalities and are usually driven. I bet there are certain personality types that are more drawn to this sport than others (on top of the gender based expectations and exposures in society).

But I'm an engineer, not a sociologist. Apparently I need a university student to make up a survey and write up a project on this. Laugh


Jan 23, 2013, 12:48 PM
Post #2 of 5 (4815 views)

Registered: Jun 27, 2006
Posts: 6087

Re: [granite_grrl] Why do you choose to climb - women in the sport [In reply to]
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I do think that serious/regular climbers of both genders, at least the ones that I know, keep climbing for the same (and multiple) reasons.

The gender discrepancy that I see is at

1) the rate at which men vs. women decide to "try" climbing.

2) the rate at which women vs. men STICK with climbing, once they try it and decide that they like it enough to come back regularly.

This is where sociological factors such as gender-based expectations come into play. Just one example --There are WAY more boy than girl birthday parties scheduled at the rock gym, and WAY more girl birthday parties scheduled at the nail-and-hair salons, and the discrepancy sharpens even more by the time kids enter teenage years. I've seen plenty of bar-mitzvah parties at the gym, but I am yet to see any BAT-mitzvahs there.

And for the second part, climbing gyms are dominated by guys, especially in the bouldering areas. A girl, unless she is coming with a boyfriend, usually tries to find a "buddy" to go with, but for reasons listed above, it is probably hard-ish for her to find another girl friend to go with (not impossible, but hard).

So a woman coming to the gym alone has to start with bouldering, and has to get over the fact that while she is struggling ( embarrassingly) on the easiest problem, there would be a bunch of guys staring at her ass while she is climbing, offering maybe overly enthusiastic spotting, and hitting on her... even if it is not in a creepy way, it can still be annoying if the attention is unwanted.

And then there are the gym problems -- predominantly burly, disproportionately reachy, set by guys for other guys. Any new climber can be discouraged by it, but combination of the above could make female climbers disproportionately discouraged..


Feb 1, 2013, 10:48 AM
Post #3 of 5 (4653 views)

Registered: Nov 11, 2003
Posts: 301

Re: [granite_grrl] Why do you choose to climb - women in the sport [In reply to]
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I won't comment on the differences between men and women but I'll add why I climbed and why I no longer climb.

I climbed becouse I enjoyed it. Then I asked myself why did I enjoy it? I think the answer to that is its the one thing that totally took my mind off work and its an activity I enjoy with my husband. I have always been a workaholic, at school, university, during my graduate studies and postdoctoral work and now at work. Long hours, taking the laptop home, worrying all the time, stressing about deadlines. I enjoy work (I'd even go as far as to say I love my subject) but it was pretty all consuming. My husband is a very similar personallity and worked even longer hours then me, though did not get so stressed. So although we lived together and worked for the same company in a way we didnt' spend all that much time relaxing together.

We just tried climbing for something to do for a weekend away, enjoyed it, took it slowly, used guides and gradually became independent, competant (albeit at modest grades) climbers. We climbed in the gym a couple of time in the week, outside most weekends and took vacations around the world to climb and really enjoyed this aspect of our lives for about 8 years. When I was climbing I never thought of work and all the stress. In particular leading is somethign that demands so much focus I almost did find I moved into a sort of zen state with the only thing that mattered being the safe completion of the climb. And then at the end of the weekend I'd think "wow, I didn't stress about work once over the last two days". ALthough I enjoy other sports as well they never had quite the same effect in distracting me.

Anyway that is all in the past as we have not climbed outside since baby 1, 2.5 years ago and have not climbed at all since baby 1 became mobile. And now there is baby 2 as well.

Now the questions is why don't I (or my husband) climb any more? In theory we could take it in turns to go to the gym and boulder. There is a group from work that go (we introduced them to the sport) I could go with them. In theory I could post on here and try to get a partner for an occaisional day at the Gunks in the summer. But I'd feel guilty being away from the kids, I'd feel bad leaving hubby to have to look after them alone all day. And one of the reasons I enjoyed climbing so much was becouse it was an activity we did together, and I know that might make me sound like a pathetic dependent female, but that was part of the enjoyment of climbing. The two of us, outside, having fun, away from work.

So thats why I climbed, and thats why I no longer climb. But I hope we will return to it once the kids are a little older and I really hope it will have the same positive impact on their life that it had on mine.


Feb 11, 2013, 8:31 PM
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Registered: Sep 11, 2008
Posts: 5206

Re: [smallclimber] Why do you choose to climb - women in the sport [In reply to]
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I hope this is a little inspiration for your future. In the photo are my wife Ann (over 45 and climbing), Clare (7 and been climbing for 3 years) in the fab pants, and slightly hidden is the belayer Hannah (25 and just starting to climb outside)

May your best (or at least most fun) climbing still be ahead of you.
Attachments: Clare on climb.jpg (100.0 KB)


Mar 3, 2013, 10:22 PM
Post #5 of 5 (4327 views)

Registered: Oct 29, 2004
Posts: 785

Re: [granite_grrl] Why do you choose to climb - women in the sport [In reply to]
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Why do I climb?
For the pure joy it brings me. But of I have to break it down, I also experience the flow or the Zen state, or whatever you want to call it. I love the challenge, both mental and physical. It takes me to beautiful places. I even love the social aspect whether it be a single partner on long climb or a group in cragging days.

Sure, sure, I don't climb as much with 2 little kids under the age of 3 (and hopefully one more at some point), but I still love climbing. It's just that my time is limited, and I have finally found another passion in life that I find as or more fulfilling as climbing, and now I have to share that time with parenting.

Thank goodness climbing and parenting doesn't have to be mutually exclusive!

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