Women's Trad Festival 2016: Report

Last weekend the Women's Trad Festival took place for the first time in the Peak District. It brought together over 65 climbers from all over the country, of all abilities, ages and genders, aiming to help bridge the gap between indoor and outdoor climbing and get more women into trad climbing. There was a great atmosphere of sharing, learning and fun, as experienced trad leaders introduced new climbers to the joys of Peak gritstone trad. Although for many this was their first outside climbing experience, by the end of the weekend at least 20 women had completed their first lead climbs.

The Women's Trad Festival 2016 was a free event, organised as part of the #WomenOutdoors week from 12th-14th August. Based at the Eric Byne Memorial Campsite, it was an ideal 15 minute walk away from Birchen Edge and Gardoms Edge, both crags well suited to a first introduction to outdoor climbing. Many groups climbed there, while others headed further afield to Stanage North, Burbage North, Lawrencefield and Millstone Edge.

The format was an informal style of learning, where inexperienced climbers were paired up with competent leaders and went out to climb together. There were a number of trad leaders at the festival. Some were qualified instructors, many SPA and one MIA, Ali Taylor, and others had a wealth of experience behind them. All came with a willingness to offer their skills and knowledge to new climbers who wanted to learn.

Kasia Rzepka, SPA instructor, came as a leader:


Some of the women had never climbed outside before, but during the festival, under guidance from the leaders, they learnt rope work skills, as well as how to lead belay, place and clean gear and set up anchors. There were some gear-placement workshops, but on the whole people learnt from each other in their climbing groups. It was amazing watching the women gain confidence over the weekend as they built on existing skills and gathered new ones; a process that for a good number of them resulted in first lead climbs.

Sammi climbing at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival, 71 kb
Sammi climbing at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival
© Charlie Low Photography
Natalie Bowen on her first lead at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival, 73 kb
Natalie Bowen on her first lead at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival
© Charlie Low Photography

The leaders all brought their own gear and for those without, DMM provided helmets, harnesses and trad racks for anyone to borrow. This meant that anyone could come, even if all they had to their name as a climber was a pair of shoes!

On Saturday night, Jess Mor and Alice Hafer from 3RD ROCK, after having climbed with us all day, held a sample sale which proved highly popular. Then everyone gathered round a communal BBQ, sharing stories about the day's climbing.

Women's Trad Festival organiser, Charlie Low, and Gemma Purser shared the psyche on Instagram:






The idea behind the festival came about at the Women's International Climbing Meet earlier this summer, when Vicki Mayes and I, despite everyone thinking we were more than a little crazy, drove off to Gogarth in the pouring rain. On arrival the sun was shining, we shared Wen Zawn with only the seals, and the idea was born. Inspired in part by that week spent in North Wales with strong, psyched female climbers, we realised that there might be a need for something that enabled women at an entry level to access this amazing world of trad climbing.

The transition from indoor to outdoor climbing - especially trad - isn't always easy, and while increasingly more women climb indoors, there are far fewer out on the crags.


Initially the idea was a small meet-up between the ladies' coaching groups we ran at Ratho, Edinburgh and The Climbing Station, Loughborough. However, before we knew it, we had over 50 women wanting to come and within a month the festival was oversubscribed. Such massive interest showed that this kind of event was really wanted; there is currently a real need and demand for more ways for women, in particular, to get into trad climbing.

However, although the focus was on helping women get into trad climbing, the festival was very much open to men as well. We had a few attend, including a couple of instructors. There was also a real intergenerational mix, with women of all ages as well as experience levels. A few children came with their parents, including Sam and Lily, 7 and 8, who enjoyed their first time climbing outdoors. According to their Mum 'they had day a fantastic day' and Lily now apparently 'prefers climbing outdoor to indoors'.

The future of women in trad climbing in the UK is looking bright with with these ladies emerging on the scene!


Women's Trad Festival 2016 was organised by Charlie Low and Ellie Fuller and sponsored and supported by: 3rd Rock Clothing, DMM, Mountain Equipment, Rab, Outside Ltd and The Pinnacle Club.

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