Women's Trad Festival 2017 - Report

Last weekend over a hundred climbers, predominantly women, some men, a few children and a dog or two gathered together in the Peak District for the second Women's Trad Festival. The name of the game was trad climbing, and women connecting, sharing skills, and inspiring each other.

Women's Trad Festival 2017, 161 kb
Women's Trad Festival 2017
© Charlie Low Photography


Women came from all over the country, some with their ladies-climbing-group mates, others braving it alone. Hailing from Scotland, London and everywhere in between (one even flew over specially from Zurich!), they were an enthusiastic lot!

You could turn up with nothing, borrow shoes, harness and helmet from DMM and Tenaya and be given instruction based on your personal needs. Some wanted to learn lead belaying, others how to place gea, and some hoped to lead for the first time. Overwhelmingly the desire was to gain experience and confidence outside and meet new climbing friends.

Saturday's showery weather saw plenty of time for building a solid base of rope-work, gear placement and belay-building skills. This preparation set everyone up excellently for a sunshine-filled Sunday spent on the rock. Everywhere you looked, women were seconding and leading with skill and sureness, pushing abilities and comfort zones.

It was amazing to witness the confidence with which women who'd barely, or never, climbed outdoors before, dispatch routes under their leader's careful guidance. It didn't match their nerves as they tied in.

There was plenty of laughter, and the inevitable matchy-matchy photo opportunities were a must too, of course.


The leaders were an incredibly strong group of experienced climbers. There were SPA, MIA and MIC holders, and guides-in-training. Many were working toward further qualifications, while others' skills rested on a wealth of personal experience.

Mountaineering Instructor, Rachael Crewesmith commented on the leaders in particular:

'The thing that stood out to me this weekend was the quality of the instruction coming from our awesome group of leaders. I did a lot of eavesdropping into conversations at the top and bottom of the crag and everything was spot on. The learners have all taken away a clear picture of the gold standard for everything from crag etiquette to belay set up. The future of mountaineering instruction is bright!'

The focus of the festival was also on supporting women pursuing outdoor leadership careers, in partnership with Mountain Training and the BMC. Cath Wilson and Rachael Crewesmith from Plas Y Brenin were there, as well as self-employed mountaineering instructor Esther Foster. This three-women-strong team led the way, ensuring the leaders were skilled and safe, offering advice and expertise throughout.

Experienced female instructors like these also served as visible role models for those less experienced. There was many a conversation floating around about how to take outdoor leadership skills further, and hopefully seeds were planted in a few minds for the future too.

Many of the sponsor reps were incredibly psyched women too. To have people like Jess, who founded 3rd Rock, and Kate, clothing designer at Rab, to talk to and climb with showed those new to the scene a range of visible and accessible role models. Indeed, the festival showcased the variety of careers possible within the outdoors: instructors, mountain guides, sponsor reps, marketing managers, designers, company founders, event organisers, writers, photographers and film-makers; there were women leading the way in all areas to chat to and get advice from.

These three heros, as well as being about to drop the hottest new album, totally crushed it at Women's Trad Festival. Here they're celebrating Clare's latest trad lead. Expertly coached by Esther (@esther_foster), and encouraged by belayer Rose, Clare (@ccclifton) dispatched it with a confidence that didn't match her nerves as she tied in. ALSO: Rose and Clare both came to the festival with crews from their respective ladies climbing groups in Bristol and @londonladiesclimb. So cool to see these groups springing up all over the country! #takethelead #leanin #womenstradfestival #learnconnectinspire #tradclimbing #wonderfulwildwomen @dmm_wales @tenayaclimbing @mtntraining @teambmc @3rdrocking 📷: @elliefuller5

A post shared by Women's Trad Festival (@womenstradfestival) on


However, perhaps most important for learners, leaders and organisers alike, was meeting other women doing the same thing, on a similar level, or just a bit further on than themselves. This is something that many women in the outdoors maybe don't get to experience quite as often. This kind of role modelling as a source of inspiration can be incredibly valuable, and shouldn't be underestimated. Whether it's a career path or a difficulty of climb, having someone to look to who is just one step ahead makes it suddenly feel achievable.

There were so many connections of this kind made: a new climbing buddy on the other side of the country to visit, a new training buddy to get experience days with, new friends, new mentors. There were certainly a lot of plans and psyche floating around the campfire in the evening. It felt empowering. It felt contagious!

If even one of the seeds planted or connections made flowers in the future then the weekend achieved something worthwhile. From the organiser to all the participants: 'Go out and do your own things: create groups, arrange meet-ups, climb trad, make a film, take a photo, write a poem and most of all, share your skills, enthusiasm and take the lead.'

Women's Trad Festival was made possible by DMM, who lent gear and gave everyone custom 'WTF17' 'biners; Tenaya, who lent out shoes; Rab, who provided T-shirts; the BMC, who covered insurance; and Mountain Training, who supported the leaders. 3rd Rock also made custom goody bags, and Outside Shop in Hathersage offered discounted gear to everyone once they were hooked on trad!

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