Female climbers on the rise

Women are getting on the ropes in Cardiff, but could climbing be the great equaliser in the world of sport?

female climbers

Female climbers training at Boulders. Photo courtesy of Simon Rawlinson

Boulders climbing centre says it’s seen a rise in female climbers in recent years, with young girls making up 70% of their development and competition squad.  

Michelle Bernard, Boulders administrator, has seen the number of female members grow during her three years of employment.

Michelle says climbing was intimidating for some, and seen as male-dominated.

Now the majority of climbers in the children’s classes are girls, and female competitors are proving themselves repeatedly in competitions all over the country.

Zaneta Williams, a trainee instructor at Boulders in Saint Catherine’s Park, has been climbing since she was 11 years old.

Zaneta climbing

Zaneta climbs between her work sessions at Boulders.

In her experience, women don’t always respond to the competitive element in sport, but once they get on a climbing wall, they’re always keen to come back.

Zaneta says: “Typically it has been, and still is to some extent, a male-dominated sport, but in my opinion, it isn’t a gendered issue.”

She believes women are climbing because of strong female role models and greater accessibility, with more climbing centres and readily available equipment. 

Some women are still concerned about social barriers within climbing.

Michelle says mothers often have difficulty with childcare, and insecurities about weight.

“Either they can’t get childcare or they think that after having a child they’re too big to climb,” she says.  

Michelle is keen to encourage mums to get together and organise timings for a parent’s climbing group at the centre.   

Boulders is collaborating with Letzshare, an organisation encouraging women to take part in alternative sports.

Letzshare is holding an indoor climbing trial session at Boulders on 18 November.

Giorgia Rescigno, founder of Letzshare, says climbing is a highly popular activity amongst members.

Simon Rawlinson, performance coach of 15 years, says: “Women may be drawn to climbing because ‘mainstream’ sports, such as football, traditionally target men.

“Climbing is a very personal sport that feels like it’s your own, regardless of gender or background.”