Climbing with Women
I might regret saying this out loud, but when I really think about it, I feel safer when I’m on a climbing adventure with a man than I do when I’m climbing with a woman. It isn’t because I don’t trust women, and it isn’t because I don’t have confidence in women. I haven’t been a climber for a long time, and the majority of my partners have been men. And by majority, I mean all of them. The only women I have climbed with have been women included in the groups I go on adventures with. I don’t know if I would trust myself or feel secure enough to go on a climbing adventure alone with a female. I don’t know why I feel this way, and it’s hard to say it—it really doesn’t sit well with me, but in this moment, it is what I feel.
I found myself saying this in a conversation with a friend during a climbing session after she asked me if I would take her on a climbing trip just the two of us. I remember stumbling over my words, trying to find the exact phrasing that truly represented how I felt: utterly uncomfortable.
And since, these words have haunted me. Why did I feel safer climbing with men? It felt wrong to admit. Even worse, I didn’t have a satisfactory answer for myself. Was it because my only climbing trip experiences consisted of travelling with a male companion?
Even as I write this, I worry that readers will be put off by my thoughts. (But please, read on!)
I investigated my feelings by approaching other women about the topic, and I realized I wasn’t alone. However, the women who did not share these sentiments with me were women who had regularly climbed with other females. So I chalked up my comfort level to what my experiences have been and decided to make a conscious effort to immerse myself in more climbing with women.
As I engaged in more conversation about my comfort level, I discovered I had a distorted notion that on an adventure you are supposed to be strong, unwavering, and never question your skill set. Unfortunately for me, those characteristics had a masculine face. And indeed, the majority of my male partners are incredibly strong and do not voice their fears if they have them. Maybe the issue I unearthed was my personal discomfort with emotion (which includes getting scared on a climb or a hike to and from a crag). Emotion, to me, has a feminine face.
That being said, the energy with a female partner in comparison to a male partner is different. It was not until I started climbing more with females that I began to feel really inspired. (I want to make it clear, though, that I’ve had some incredibly powerful experiences with my male companions—in no way do I want to discount those moments.)
Watching women just like me approach climbs with no idea of whether they were going to be able to make it or not has encouraged me to bravely face grades above my comfort level. I feel an intense connection climbing with women that I haven’t found with male partners.
So maybe I haven’t excavated all of the answers yet, but what I have pinpointed is that, for me, climbing with a fellow female encompasses raw, honest relations. It made me realize that I shouldn’t mask my emotions. It doesn’t really matter if I cry at the crag. The experience will be all the richer for it.
Read more from Shay on her blog Skin Poetry.