They waited, mouses poised, hoping to score one of 200 spots. Within one minute of ticket sales opening, the second annual Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival was sold out. Those who secured a spot would be on their way to Bishop, California in the first weekend of March to meet female climbers from across the country.

The demand was high because the festival answered a need for female climbers: it serves as a mass gathering of girl beta and community.

Many women attended alone because their friends weren’t able to register in time. But what may have initially felt unfortunate became a positive: many participants said attending solo pushed them out of their comfort zone. The result was a welcoming group of new friends and willing spotters.

Flash Foxy Women's Climbing Festival - Camping

“Saturday morning of the climbing festival. As the sun comes up into the basin we are camped in, I hop out of my sleeping bag. I’m ready for a full day of climbing and can’t wait to get to know the group of women I’ve come to the festival with. I’m also excited to meet women from all over the country and to soak up the energy and excitement out among the boulders. But before any of that, I’ve got to load up on breakfast burritos — a crucial element to any successful day of bouldering.” – Kayleen

Flash Foxy Women's Climbing Festival - Approach Trail

“The stoke is high as a seemingly endless crew of female climbers ascend the approach trail for ‘The Happies’ early Saturday morning. We were hoping for perfect weather and we got it!” – Annie

Two of us, Annie Lawson and Kayleen Glaser — both of us leaders of Outdoor Women’s Alliance (OWA) Front Range Grassroots Team, arrived in Bishop for the event on Friday afternoon. Although the festival would not start until the evening, women were already out exploring the area.

We followed suit. As soon as we arrived, we headed over to boulder the area called “Happy Boulders”. We watched as women approached the area in groups of seven or eight, faces shadowed by their crash pads, or approaching solo to introduce themselves to others.

Excitement was in the air. Climbers ranged from new — having only climbed a couple of times before or never before — to well-seasoned climbers trying boulder problems that were hard enough to have small groups stopping to cheer and watch in wonder.

Flash Foxy Women's Climbing Festival - Bishop

“I’m breathing heavy as I top out my first highball bouldering problem. The top of the boulder is relatively flat, so I sit, savoring my accomplishment and soaking in the sun. I look around for the first time and the view mesmerizes me. Near me is a sandy canyon full of ornate boulders. Women are climbing everywhere. Laughter and cheers ring through the rocks. Snow-capped mountains rise in the background, contrasting against the desert to create a surreal landscape. The moment is perfect.” – Kayleen

Flash Foxy Women's Climbing Festival - Bouldering Beta

“Brittany Takai, member of OWA’s Southern California Grassroots Team, makes easy work of the roof pull on Hanging Monkey, a V3 in the Happies. Up next: a new problem creation by combining three routes on adjacent rocks.” – Annie

As the sun set, we gathered in town to officially register for the festival, receive names cards, and socialize. During this, we found that women came from all over the country — New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, California, etc. — and as far away as Norway and Sweden. Though we came from different places, we were united by our passion for climbing and desire to feel part of a bigger community.

The next day, after breakfast and a panel discussion on women’s issues in climbing, attendees parted ways. Those who opted to attend clinics learned about trad climbing, spotting, pad placement, dynamic movement and using efficient movements in sport climbing. Others opted to climb right away. These women either went to the Buttermilks to try their hand at high-ball boulder problems or trad and sport climb at the Owens River Gorge.

Flash Foxy Women's Climbing Festival - Spotting

“Mary Grace Stocker, member of OWA’s Front Range Grassroots Team, works a bouldering problem, as Brittany Takai, member of OWA’s Southern California Grassroots Team, spots her. The Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival was a great time to reflect on how organizations like Flash Foxy and OWA connect people — not just through social media, but in real life.” – Kayleen

Flash Foxy Women's Climbing Festival - Bouldering

“Mary Grace Stocker works her way out of a roof and onto the top of the boulder. We had a great group of women — five of us — working the moves and discussing foot work.
There’s unity in not only trying hard together, but also both failing and succeeding together.” – Kayleen

That night, we reunited under a screen displaying films from No Man’s Land Film Festival. The atmosphere was incredible; for an hour and a half, we watched women ski extreme lines in Alaska, climb desert sandstone in Zion National Park, and balance adventure with having a child. We cheered through the videos and laughed during the breaks.

The festival left us a feeling empowered and feeling part of a strong community of female climbers.

Flash Foxy Women's Climbing Festival - Approach

“The end of a try-hard day! It was time to pack up the pads and head back to Bishop for a group meal and No Man’s Land Film Festival.” – Annie


About the authors

Annie Lawson is co-manager of Outdoor Women’s Alliance’s Grassroots Team program. Kayleen Glaser is a co-leader of OWA’s Front Range Grassroots Team in Colorado. To connect with both, find their information on the Colorado Front Range Grassroots Team page.

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