Women's Climbing Symposium 2014: Report

© WCS 2014

On Saturday 27th September the fourth annual Women's Climbing Symposium took place at The Climbing Academy in Glasgow. 160 women attended the event to listen to talks, watch films and participate in coaching workshops featuring inspirational women who each had something significant to share with the female climbing community.

The day was as much about learning from other women as it was about sharing your own experiences, whether you had climbed 5c or 8c. Hazel Findlay opened the event with a talk titled "Girl Power - Spice up your mind." Hazel's experience of hard, bold traditional ascents coupled with her humorous delivery made for a very engaging talk centred around "being bold and being brave" - the tagline of this year's event. Hazel spoke of the differences between men and women within climbing and attempted to answer questions such as "Why do women lean more towards sport and bouldering over trad?" She highlighted the tendency people often have to focus on the fact that women are weaker physically, forgetting that perhaps our minds have a part to play in holding us back too. 

"Physical attributes shouldn't hold us back too much."

Hazel emphasised the importance of understanding the influence of social conditioning on our perceptions of male and female traits, that although women in the UK have more or less the same rights as men these days, there still remains a difference in the way we bring up children of either sex and the manner in which the media and society portray stereotypical gender roles and behaviours. 

"I tried to be more confident, more reckless as a young girl and get away from what society expected me to be. I wasn't born brave, I had to train bravery."

Sharing experiences at the WCS 2014  © WCS 2014
Sharing experiences at the WCS 2014
© WCS 2014

Summing up her gender section of the talk, Hazel reiterated the fact that the climbing community in general is massively supportive and inclusive: "As a microcosm for society as a whole, we are doing well." She then addressed areas such as 'leaving your comfort zone' and making process goals and end goals in order to make progress in climbing.

Alongside the premiere of Project Mina - Jen Randall's new film following Mina Leslie-Wujastyk's year on the Boulder World Cup circuit and beyond - Jen gave a talk on being the sole female filmmaker in a male-dominated industry. She commented: "It's so rare to have 150 like-minded people all in one room for a day, sharing ideas/experiences/psyche. It was an honour to make the first screening of Project Mina at the event this year, and a pleasure to share some of my filmmaking experiences with such a supportive crowd."

Jen Randall presents Project Mina  © WCS 2014
Jen Randall presents Project Mina
© WCS 2014

Presentations, debates and lectures ran throughout the day on various aspects of women's climbing, alongside four coaching workshops and a yoga class. The coaching sessions run by seven of Britain's top female coaches covered the following areas: Training and Motivation, Brain Training, Confidence on the Wall and Game Time - a.k.a. making training fun. Women of all abilities and all levels of experience co-operated with the coaches and each other to make for fun, informal workshops focussed on self-confidence and working weaknesses. 

To end the event, Shauna Coxsey closed with a presentation on competing in the Boulder World Cup circuit this year, titled Holding on to the Rollercoaster. Shauna - organiser of the event alongside Claire-Jane Carter and Steph Meysner - highlighted the success of the event: "The 4th Womens Climbing Symposium was a huge success - thank you to everyone who made the event happen! I find it unbelievably exciting how fast our sport is growing and how many people there are who want to be part of the positive development of climbing. I hope everyone who attended our event left with new knowledge, motivation and inspiration."

Claire-Jane added: "I loved how much humour everyone brought to the day. The #bebravebebold theme got a good level of banter going, it was great to discuss the challenges in climbing with such high psyche. All the girls seemed really up for some fast debate and motivated climbing, clearly inspired by some very intelligent and considered presentations and workshops."

Participant Rebecca Bowman of Edinburgh commented on her experience of the day: "The talks were a particular highlight for me - seeing how modest, grounded and funny the top women climbers are was great to see and listen too. The variety of talks were really interesting - it was not just about competing at the top level but also about personal adventures, helping others, mind games, success and the usually forgotten failures. Menna Pritchard's talk about balancing climbing with a busy lifestyle ( in her case being a mum) was a great honest and personal account which I think everyone related to. The phrase ' see the beauty of every day' definitely stuck in my head. I was inspired from the day to get outdoors, book a climbing trip and enjoy it as much as possible! "

Attendee Rachel Carr - Junior GB Bouldering Team Captain added: "I found the WCS helped me see how much women can struggle with confidence in their abilities. I felt I could relate to Shauna and Mina in their competition experiences as well as getting really psyched for my future competitions."



Steph Meysner, Shauna Coxsey and Claire-Jane Carter  © WCS 2014
Steph Meysner, Shauna Coxsey and Claire-Jane Carter
© WCS 2014

For more information visit the WCS website here. have just published a video of the event:

Missing video!

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16 Oct, 2014
The pink post-its were a great touch.
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