On Saturday, Oct. 21, a group of women gathered in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center (ARC) for climbing club’s ladies’ night, an occasion where female-identifying climbers can practice their skills together in a supportive environment. Ladies’ night is run by climbing club president Caitlin Schoen, which she started during her sophomore year.
Schoen says that she hosts the event because, “I want the women at the school to not feel intimidated, and to have at least one day out of the semester that they can climb without feeling like there’s gonna be a bunch of guys and they’re gonna be judging them because they can’t climb as well.”
Senior Becca Herckner, who was attempting climbing for the first time, said, “It’s a good environment to start in and not feel intimidated by people that are climbing all over the wall.”
The event precedes the climbing competition hosted by the climbing club on Nov. 4, which Schoen and other climbing club members orchestrate through the process of “setting,” or creating the climbing routes the competitors will complete and rating their levels of difficulty. The setting process takes days, and involves estimating difficulty ratings via comparison to prior climbs, which requires experience on many different levels.
While some sports apply different standards to competitors according to gender, climbing is different. Schoen explained, “If you’ve got a woman who can climb the hardest climb in the gym, then she’s more than welcome to climb the hardest climb in the gym, and we actually have had, on occasion, some girls who just smoke the guys.”
She also noted that, right now, a 16-year-old girl named Ashima Shiraishi is considered by many to be one of, if not the best, climbers in the world. A Time headline from 2016 posits, “This 15-Year-Old Girl Could Be the Best Rock Climber Ever.” A slideshow near the rock wall cycled images of other notable women climbers who occupy the same top-climber lists as men in the sport, including Lynn Hill, Beth Rodden, Margo Hayes, and Alex Puccio, among others.
Sophomore Victoria Chang said that she appreciated ladies’ night as an event separate from regular climbing club because, “I feel like a lot of times in society girls are pit against each other, and in this it’s more us just like, ‘Hey, go do it, you can do it. Even if you don’t think you can, you can.’”