On the weekend of March 23, hundreds of women from across the country will flock to Bishop, California, for the third annual Women’s Climbing Fest. For three days, they’ll participate in workshops and clinics and hear from athletes, coaches, and other professionals in the climbing industry. They’ll also get to experience world-class bouldering, hundreds of options for sport climbing, and plenty of trad.
“One of the best parts about the festival is the experience of being in a climbing area with 300 women,” says fest founder Shelma Jun. “You park in the Birthday Boulders parking lot and start walking. About 20 steps in, you encounter a group of 15 women bouldering together. It’s pretty awesome to be a part of.” This year, Outside is a proud media sponsor of the Women’s Climbing Fest, and here’s what we’re looking forward to the most.
Meeting Pro Athletes
In addition to hundreds of attendees, the festival invites some big-name climbers to participate in workshops, speak on panels, and hang out and climb. This year, the list includes names like professional climber Katie Lambert, Prana ambassador and yogi Olivia Hsu, and Patagonia athlete Kate Rutherford.
Clinics and Workshops
Many of the pro athletes, in addition to other women in climbing, such as guides and doctors, lead clinics throughout the festival. Clinics range in topics and skill levels, covering everything from intro to trad workshops to dynamic bouldering. Participants learn mental techniques to combat fear, along with technical skills like gear placement and how to fall safely. “I believe strongly in the idea of women teaching women—it reinforces the fact that we can be the experts, the leaders, the decision-makers,” Jun says.
With more than 1,200 bouldering problems, 700 sport-climbing routes, and 300 trad routes, there’s no shortage of rock to climb in Bishop. Average highs hover in the sixties, and there’s plenty of sunshine, making March prime sending season in the East Sierra town. “You wake up in California’s beautiful Owens Valley on a crisp winter morning and you’re stoked,” Jun says. “You can’t wait to get out to the Buttermilks and crank on some granite.”
The Women in Climbing Panel
Each year, the fest hosts a panel with professional athletes, photographers, and other women who work in the climbing industry to tackle tough questions around sexism in climbing and the continued rise of women in the sport. “This provides us with an opportunity to create a safe space to discuss the challenges, triumphs, and questions around being a female climber, a female in the outdoor space, or even just being a female,” Jun says. “Beyond that, we utilize the space to discuss intersectional feminism—bringing to light the additional challenges that women of color, queer women, adaptive women, and others face on top of the challenge of being a female.”
Hanging Out in Bishop with 300 Women
There’s a reason this festival sells out every year. “As each year goes by, friendships and climbing partnerships are developing more and more,” Jun says. “Two women came up to me last year and told me they had met at the first Women’s Climbing Fest in 2016, spent the year climbing together, and returned to the festival as friends.”