This August saw the Women's Trad Festival return to the Peak District for a joyous and action-packed weekend of climbing. Heading into its 7th year, the festival is based on three core values: mental well-being, sustainability and accessibility. Gathering just outside Sheffield, this year's event saw over 350 climbers from all over the UK and beyond come together to share their passion for the outdoors.
Staying true to its original aims, the festival has three clear goals. The first of these is to help beginners transition from indoor to outdoor climbing. Knowing that trad climbing is not the most accessible of sports, the Women's Trad Festival creates a space for beginners to learn how to climb, providing everything from instructors to hardware and hardnesses.
The second aim is to support women and other marginalised genders in outdoor leadership. This is done through a carefully crafted mentorship scheme, working closely with AMI and their instructors. This mentorship ensures that climbers of all levels and abilities have clear role models they can connect with and learn from to achieve their goals.
The festival's third aim is to create an inclusive network of trad climbers. Brightly coloured matching t-shirts aside, this is fundamental to the festival as evidence shows that one of the best ways to stay engaged with a sport and progress is by surrounding yourself with supportive, like-minded individuals.
The 'Learner' tickets are the most popular at the event. These carefully paired climbers (often with no experience outdoors) have similar abilities and aims, and may live near each other. They are partnered with a 'Leader' (a qualified Rock Climbing Instructor) for a weekend of instruction.
The Leaders are matched to their Learners from the information in their application forms. Whether that's shared interests, similar experiences or being located close to each other - the festival tries to match climbers in a way that enables them to keep climbing together long after the weekend is over.
The festival works closely with AMI to gather a highly qualified group of 'Mentors' to support the Leaders. The Mentors role at the festival is to oversee the climbing, provide safety briefings and be an extra set of eyes at the crag to ensure that gold standard instruction is taking place. Alongside this - and most importantly - they offer mentorship and advice to any Leaders looking to further their qualifications or experience.
In addition to the Learner ticket, there are also a number of workshops. If you have a child who loves climbing, you don't always have the skills needed to take them out yourself. That's why the Parent & Child workshop was set up. Over the weekend, both parent and child get so much from this partnership under the instruction of a climbing professional. By the end of the festival, they should have the skills needed to go climbing outdoors independently.
Those on their journey towards working in the outdoors can take part in the RCI Trainee workshop. This space allows trainee Rock Climbing Instructors to hone new skills and gain experience under the watchful eye of supportive instructors.
Another workshop at the festival is called 'Learn to Lead', supported by Mountain Training. Here, aspirant trad lead climbers who already know the basics can learn how to place gear and lead an a safe and encouraging environment.
2022 saw the return of the ever-popular 'Breaking Barriers' workshop. Supported by Rab, this workshop allowed climbers to delve deep into the mental aspect of climbing to overcome what's holding them back. For all involved, this was incredibly rewarding.
The 'Self Rescue' workshop was first profiled by DMM at Women's Trad Festival some years ago, and teaches a set of skills every climber should know about. It covers everything a climbing partnership needs to know for those situations we all hope we never encounter.
The final workshop at WTF2022 was the DMM 'Crack Climbing' workshop. This gave attendees the chance to learn all of the skills required to crack climb, from gear placement to taping and technique. And where better to learn than the Peak District!
Whatever ticket type or workshop climbers arrived to enjoy, one of the challenges and barriers to trad climbing can be making sure folk have all the clothing and equipment they need. With that in mind, WTF works with supporting brands to make sure ticket holders can borrow or try out all the equipment they need. From the latest Tenaya and La Sportiva shoes to DMM helmets, harnesses and gear - all were available to borrow over the weekend for free. This year support also extended beyond the rock, with Outside in Hathersage ensuring those without camping equipment were able to attend the festival too.
Alongside this, the Women's Trad Festival is based on an understanding that being outside in nature is incredibly impactful for mental wellbeing, and that trad climbing, whilst challenging, can be hugely rewarding. Throughout the event, attendees are encouraged to be open about how they feel when climbing, and to celebrate wins of all sizes and scales.
Away from the rock, the festival site and evening social have always been a real highlight of the event. This year was no different; with engaging haybale session talks on everything from sphagnum moss to head game, morning yoga sessions from BAM and plenty of games, there was something for everyone to join in with.
A few highlights from Saturday night included the BMC 'racking up' competition (which got very heated at times!), a 'rebuild a carabiner' game from DMM, and an informal meditation with BAM ambassador Helen Roscoe.
Food is always a much talked about topic at the festival! As in previous years, all the food for the festival was either vegetarian or vegan, and sourced locally from small independent suppliers offering hungry climbers a varied and tasty menu to refuel for the second day of climbing.
Festival attendees all brought their own cutlery, plates and mugs to minimise single-use plastic on site. An extensive recycling system was put into place to ensure the impact of the event was kept to a minimum, and ticket holders were encouraged to travel using public transport and car share. From working with local suppliers to solar-powered lights and breezy eco loos, every detail was considered from a sustainability perspective.
The brands supporting the festival also got on board with this too, making sure everything they brought to the event had a clear purpose and wouldn't impact the environment in a negative way. Anyone attending the festival can vouch for Dometic's zone being incredibly popular, as they presented attendees with reusable flasks filled with punch or juice!
The Beta Quiet Zone was an exciting new addition to this year's festival. Filled with books, blankets and beanbags, it was inspired by feedback from the 2021 event. It was designed to carve out a space for those who may find festivals overwhelming or intense, and allowed them to take a moment of calm, whilst still feeling part of the festival. It was well used over the weekend and became a quiet haven for many.
There are many people and organisations to thank for making Women's Trad Festival 2022 the huge success it was. The first thanks must go to those behind the scenes. The logistics of the event are understandably quite complicated, and the event wouldn't be possible without the amazing volunteers, many of whom have been with the festival right from the very beginning.
Alongside this, thanks must go to the brands who support the festival: DMM, Rab, Pertex, AMI, Tenaya, Mountain Training, La Sportiva, BMC, Dometic, BAM Clothing, Outside, UKC and Pure & Fair.
For those keen to attend the 2023 festival, keep an eye on the Women's Trad Festival website and social media - the dates and how to apply for a ticket will be announced soon.
You can find out more information about Women's Trad Festival at womenstradfestival.co.uk and instagram.com/womenstradfestival
All photos by Lena Drapella, Veronica Melkonian and Charlie Low