On the first weekend of November, over 400 women from eight countries (including a group of seven from Iceland!) converged on Bloc Climbing in Bristol for the seventh annual Women's Climbing Symposium.
"Inspire" was the order of the day, and Anoushé Husain kicked off the event in fine style, fresh from winning the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration at The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Awards earlier in the week. Her talk set the bar for the day, telling her amazing story of overcoming obstacles, encouraging attendees to push their personal boundaries and "lean in to the fear".
Then it was all go as everyone started on their own pathways through the day. Nine coached workshops delivered by top female coaches helped develop climbing, training and specialist skills. New this year was Acrobalance, taught by climber and circus aerialist Emily Nicholl, and Movement, delivered by the WCS expert duo of Suz Dudink and Kath Schirrmacher.
This year's focus talks were slightly different. The big topics (training, injury, psychology, trad progression) were covered on the main stage by Ella Russell, Nina Tappin, Emma Wood and Sam Leary respectively, drawing large crowds looking to develop their climbing game.
The second parallel stream featured smaller interactive group sessions discussing topics such as careers in the outdoors (Rab Panel), balancing career, children and climbing (Naomi Cokell), local adventuring (Llinos Cassidy) and telling women's stories (Anna Paxton and Emine Guler). These proved really popular and encouraged attendees to connect with each other and share stories and experiences.
There is never enough time in the day, and this year the lunch "break" was even more jam-packed than usual, featuring slacklining demos from Sarah Rixham, a chance to try the new Wild Country Revo, a ropework clinic by Sam Leary and Cath Wilson of Leading Edge, film premieres from HelliVentures and BMC TV and possibly just enough time to eat...
After lunch it was over to Shelley Rudman, Olympic Silver Medallist in the skeleton bobsleigh. There was definitely lots to learn on head game and making brave choices from someone whose sport is travelling head-first down a tube of ice at 90mph!
And then there was Lynn Hill…
From the moment she landed Lynn was infinitely generous with her time, pushing through jetlag to squeeze in some routes on The Ramp on Friday afternoon, and spending the whole of Saturday joining in with workshops, talking to attendees and signing autographs before giving the final headline talk of the day.
From early promise ("She climbs the monkey bars like a pro" – aged 3), to finishing her elder siblings' leads when they got too scared to the world of competition climbing and the first free ascent of The Nose, Lynn's talk was full of inspiration, humour and love for climbing and the people she has shared it with. This perfectly captured the theme of the day, bringing home that inspiration can be drawn from amazing pioneering role models, but also from the friendship and sharing of experiences with those around us. The whole room erupted in appreciation with WCS's first ever standing ovation.
Summing up the day, WCS Director Shauna Coxsey said:
"Every year the event gets better and better. I met so many wonderful, inspiring women! I really enjoyed coaching the dyno workshop with Leah - seeing people try hard, push themselves and achieve things they thought were impossible is magical! The best inspiration I could ask for! Huge thanks to all the attendees, sponsors, coaches, speakers and volunteers who made this such an incredible day!"
And a final word from attendee Bryony Weathers who encapsulated the event perfectly:
The Women's Climbing Symposium is sponsored by: 3rd Rock Clothing, BMC, Banana Fingers, Beastmaker, Betamonkeys, Bloc Climbing, Clif Bar, Core Climbing, Friction Labs, Hold Breaker, Organic, Rab, Scarpa, UKB, Wild Country and adidas