Why Girls Go Extreme - well done piece on girls and climbing


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Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 14, 2009 - 02:05am PT

You're right about the prejudice being less almost anywhere but Yosemite.

And of course, women were climbing a long time ago, the question is were they climbing as a team and trading leads?

Meanwhile, this discussion just shows that we really need to get together a history of North American women's climbing to document how it started and how it changed.


Trad climber
Mill Valley, CA
Dec 14, 2009 - 02:15am PT
Wouldn't Melissa's thread be a good place to start for a women climbers history? That still gets to the front page occasionally.

Edit: oops, missed Ed's post: he already had the same (good) idea...
ß Î Ø T Ç H

. . . not !
Dec 14, 2009 - 03:00am PT
"well done peice on girls"
You've all been trolled - thanks for participating .

Social climber
Falls Church, VA
Dec 14, 2009 - 01:35pm PT
has the number of women climbing increased in the last 20 years? absolutely

would non-climbers be surprised to see a group of women leading big walls? absolutely

would non-climbers likely assume that men make better climbers or that climbing is not a chick-friendly sport or that only crazy chicks climb? probably (by the way, i've been teaching toprope climbing for over 10 years, and i agree that women are "naturally" better climbers because of their lower center of gravity, which gives them better balance, and because their upper body strength is not as great, which encourages them to use their legs more effectively)

the point of the story is not, "hey, chicks can climb, too!" the point is to make non-climbers (especially girls and women) more aware of the sport, and to encourage more girls and women to explore what is to most people an "extreme sport"...i think it accomplishes both goals...good for becky

and my point isn't that shakespeare is worthy of our admiration but that two of the best theaters IN THE WORLD, are located in washington, dc, of all places...not new york or chicago or la...and staunton, va (pop. 24,000) in the southern shenandoah valley...you'd have to be somewhat of a shakespeare nerd to know that (or even care)

Social climber
The Bronx
Dec 14, 2009 - 03:44pm PT
Bookworm – well said.


You wrote: “There is no "increasing" about it. That is simply GOOFY.”

Do you really believe that just because you and your girlfriends (and your “mum”) have been climbing together “TONS” for decades that one should conclude that there has been no increase in female climbers in recent years?

You don’t need to have much more than a “feather duster” for a brain to see that the first thing does not inexorably lead to the second.

Regarding the “chick history thread,” did you ever stop and (employing that laser-like intellect of yours which we know far exceeds that of Becky Diamond) ask yourself this question: “I wonder why I’ve never seen a thread entitled ‘Guys’ History’ or ‘Interesting Climbing Exploits of Men Throughout History?’”

Why do you think that is, Tami?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because it wouldn’t make sense to start a thread like that, because the overwhelming majority of climbers were guys, notwithstanding you and your tons of girlfriends. If you dispute that idea, look through any guidebook, anywhere, and tally up the number of first ascents by gender. Show me one in which women have developed the majority of routes (or half the routes, or a third of the routes). However, you will find many more routes developed by women in recent years than in past decades. Those two facts perfectly support Becky’s thesis and completely discredit yours.

Becky simply produced a short “lifestyle” piece about the growing popularity of climbing among women, intended for a general audience (not blasé experts like yourself for whom climbing is commonplace). To most people who aren’t named Tami, it’s not a controversial idea, and not inaccurate in any way. Becky is a longtime climber (like you) and reads this forum regularly. She really doesn’t deserve your obnoxious and unfounded insults.

-Denis O’Connor

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Dec 14, 2009 - 05:33pm PT
Whoa. I was hoping this was a GGW thread, it's been awhile since that dust up.

Trad climber
Berkeley, CA
Dec 14, 2009 - 07:47pm PT
I was having a conversation last night with my girlfriend regarding difficulty ratings for hikes. She categorically denies that any hike can be called "strenuous" (such as is often seen in hiking guides or trail ratings) because you can just stop and take a break and have a snack at any point. We were talking about Yosemite Falls Trail, and the hike up Half Dome, and she says "unless you're hiking up something like Everest, it's just not strenuous."

She gets my extreme vote.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 14, 2009 - 11:14pm PT
I thought about this on the walk home tonight...
... when some article is published on climbing, the climbers here are going to critique it, and some will like what they see, and others won't. I know that critiquing the critiquers is a sport, and it happens here too, but I'll focus on the piece.

First of all, what was the intention of the article, and what was the audience? The article title certainly is interesting, "why girls go extreme." And so you'd think that we'd find an answer. But aside from the fact that Vanek states that she doesn't consider what she does as extreme, and the examples of Lynne Hill and Steph Davis, we don't get any insight into "why they went extreme."

The focus of the article is more about the anecdotal evidence that there are more women climbers today than there used to be. There are no statistics to back this up. However, contrary to the argument upthread, it seems that women climbers do attract more women to the sport. Statistics for participation in the sport are notoriously unreliable and vary by orders of magnitude. At one gym there is a "218%" increase in lady's night attendance. Why? Of course there weren't gyms around 20 years ago, so it would be difficult to follow that trend. Is the increase in gyms responsible for the increase in women climbers?

If I'm a woman watching this, and I get inspired and want to go to a gym, there is little information associated with the article to help me know what I should expect. Nothing about who to find a gym.

There is a whole long discussion about the biomechanics of climbing which seemed simplistic. Are women better suited to climbing then men? Stronger, lighter, lower center of gravity... I don't think that those attributes are the ones supported by the very few papers on the subject... but there are so few that any conclusion could be possible.

Nutcracker is an interesting choice of climbs, it happens to be one done in the 60s in Yosemite Valley that had a woman on the First Ascent, as well as its futuristic use of passive protection. Not mentioned...

So the article which could have been a lot better really only conveys a sort of breathless excitement that women "are proud of doing something they didn't think they could do" and thus they "feel more confident."

And if it is true that "women have fewer opportunities in life to give themselves that challenge than men do because culturally they aren’t encouraged" it seems like such a loss, if more women climbed there'd be more partners to climb with!

In the end, the article had many opportunities to be much better than it turned out. Perhaps the disappointment with the writer is of what it could have been, the choices of topics, "women do have the physical attributes to climb," "women can overcome their fears and insecurities," "women can be mentally tough in dangerous situations," "women like to play with gear," "women can find other women to climb with;" I don't think any of us are surprised by this... or should be. Given that, room could have been made to delve deeper into the motivation of women climbers to understand their stories, and there motivations and where they drew there inspiration from, and what their aspirations are....

...I didn't get any of that.

Dec 15, 2009 - 12:30am PT
AMEM Denny O!

Dec 15, 2009 - 12:56am PT
Yeah, it's a nice piece presenting a perfectly true story about the fact that women climbers are increasing in numbers, in ratio, and in achievement. I think old-days women climbers overcame harder and harsher obstacles, and so I'm in much more awe of them (you, ladies). Respect to all.

Social climber
The Bronx
Dec 15, 2009 - 10:10am PT

You make some thoughtful and reasonable points, with which I generally agree, and Becky might also. I think if she had had more time to produce the story, it would have benefited.

For some background on how it was produced, it was certainly not ordered from the top by Rupert Murdoch. Becky was going on a short trip to Yosemite with friends, and decided to pitch a story to her boss about it. Her boss says OK. So she gets a few shots, interviews a few people, and throws it together. It all happens very quickly, and then she's on to the next story. That's why there are so many missing elements and points, and no deep research. She'd be out of a job if she took the necessary time to do all that. The end result is not what we all, as climbers, would like it to be, but I think it was as good as it could be under the circumstances.

Tami, I don't have any problem with your latest post. We can certainly disagree in a civil way about how many female climbers there were at one time or another and whether their numbers are increasing. I was pissed off earlier about all your insulting language toward Becky, hence my tone.

Just so you know, she's no feather duster. She has filmed, written, and produced stories by herself for CNN and Fox from Sudan, the Palestinian territories, Baghdad, the Persian Gulf (embedded with the Marines), and Afghanistan (embedded with the Army).

One last thing, all those "extreme" references were not Becky's idea. Either the editors insert them to make it seem more exciting, or they tell Becky that she has to make it sound more "extreme" to be aired. Just the way it is at Fox News. (If you want to criticize Fox, you'll have to get in line behind me.)

becky diamond

Trad climber
new york, NY
Dec 15, 2009 - 10:12am PT
I am the author and thought I would weigh in... This story was not meant for Climbing Magazine or the Sunday NY Times Magazine. I wrote a simple story with very limited time. The story was written for Fox News and an audience that has little to no exposure to climbing. It was meant to be a light story about a trend that I have observed over the last twenty years of climbing. Ten to fifteen years ago, it was not common to see women swapping leads at the cliff or climbing in pairs or groups without men. Today it is VERY common. It is something to celebrate and it was not meant to denigrate any of the male or female climbers who have been enjoying our beautiful sport for decades.

I did not say that women have never climbed or have never climbed together; however, I did assert based on interviews and the data that I could find that there has been a significant increase in the number of women who climb and climb together. Every woman and man that I interviewed for the story has observed this same general trend.

I did not have the time or space to delve into the long history of women who climb. The story was simply about why an increasing number of women and girls are attracted to the sport today and why women are natural climbers. I did not make up any facts of figures. I called Yosemite guides, climbers, and climbing gyms to piece this story together.

As for the title and going "extreme" - to fox viewers and the majority of people who don't climb -- ascending a 600 foot climb - whether it's 5.8 or 5.13 is extreme. If you make mistakes on a multipitch 5.8 climb - you can seriously injure yourself or die. If you make mistakes riding your bicycle you will likely get a few scratches. To a majority of people that would qualify as "extreme." I did include a response from Rosie Vanek about how she doesn't view what she and Annie are doing as extreme so that would be a fair representation of their views.

I had extremely limited time and space to produce this story and thought a little something on women and climbing was better than nothing at all. I am sorry to read so many angry and judgmental comments from my fellow climbers.

The easiest thing to be is critical. It takes no energy and no motivation. You can sit on your sofa and spew about things you don't like. If you are so outraged by this simple article on women and climbing - then I suggest you get off your coach and make some calls and take some time out of your own schedule (as I did - because I did this completely on the side after working 12 hour days covering others news/stories) and write or shoot something about our beautiful sport of rock climbing.

Becky Diamond

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 15, 2009 - 11:07am PT
look, Becky, if you are going to "throw" something out there into the public's eye on climbing and it has the misfortune of being noticed on this climber's forum, people will give their opinions, and they maybe critical.

It can't be true that you produce stories and never have any criticism of the them, or that you yourself don't feel that they could have been better.

Tami has certainly put a lot of her creative stuff out in the public eye. And I probably spend way too much time hammering together stuff for the community. But my skills are not as a reporter/writer, that is your craft. Perhaps it is also a sign of the times that the community is large enough to notice these pieces. The poor writer for the NYTimes got an earful from the community over his Obit of John Bachar. He used the same excuse as you did "too little time to do a good job." I don't think the community appreciates that. You're a climber (he wasn't) so the expectation is that you are the better person to write such a piece. And as you read the comments, there were many people who wrote that they liked it, and some that didn't.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 15, 2009 - 11:16am PT
becky diamond

Trad climber
new york, NY
Dec 15, 2009 - 11:24am PT
Honestly - I welcome discussing the article's weaknesses. There are many.

However, there were some personal attacks on me as well as some accusatory and judgmental responses which were - simply - gross.

Happy climbing to all and safe travels.


Trad climber
New York, NY
Dec 15, 2009 - 12:03pm PT
I haven't read the article, as it was taking long to load last night and I was tired from traveling all day.

But I will say that it rather sucks, how commercial entities push, push, push for product, regardless of the quality with the items they push.

When I worked as a handbag designer I resisted strongly that push to "feed the machine." WalMart was very happy with one of the companies I worked with, because we had so many designers on staff. One day the boss of the company came to us(just the handbag people, of which we were 3; not backpacks, hair accessories, eyewear, cold weather...) and told us that he had made a commitment to WMart to create AN ENTIRE NEW LINE of handbags for their private labels EVERY 10 weeks. That's FIVE lines of about 50 products per year AFTER the merchandise edit. When I groaned out loud(because I was already creating 4 lines per year with a 300 styles-plus line(after editing), he said "What's the big deal? Just take some of the other stuff you do and slap on a different piece of hardware..."

Utter disregard for the additional work burden, or that I wouldn't be able to just puke up product but would actually try to make stuff the customer would actually WANT. Just cared about getting product out the door and money rolling in.

It's the same with media these days, and now with the internet the level of content needed to feed the machine has increased incredibly.

One needs to earn an income, and so one tends to go along with this model. Hopefully our writer of this article received a fair compensation for her effort(and that is between her and the media channel, of course), but she also is acknowledging the reaction caused by her action....Don't forget to include that in the cost of doing your business, Becky!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 15, 2009 - 12:05pm PT
Becky - that's life in the STForum space... you are not known here, you posted twice ever (so far) and your introduction to the Forum was a link someone provided (with a complementary, if misspelled title). It caught the attention of people on the Forum that are interested in the topic area for many different reasons. STForum isn't particularly known for being uncritical, and wading in to it requires a modicum of skin thickness. But that, also, cannot be news to you. It must come with the territory.

It's only a Forum, after all, it is sort of amazing that it would be considered a worthy critic of the established news media.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Dec 15, 2009 - 12:11pm PT
Read the Chick history thread for background before the next attempt, Better luck next time! Welcome to our mosh pit.

Twenty years ago, female climbing teams on walls, and hard climbs, was pretty firmly entrenched.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 15, 2009 - 02:15pm PT
"Welcome to our mosh pit."

Feckin' jaybro...priceless!

Hey Becky, where'd that last post go? I wasn't done reading!

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 15, 2009 - 02:23pm PT
I finished the deleted post in the nick of time. I'm not really too much invested in the topic -- I've been hanging out with women who climb hard since 1973, back when I started climbing, hell my ex-wife was a solid 5.11 - 5.12 crack climber as far back as the mid-80's and nobody has even heard of her -- and all I gotta say is that becky needs to suck it up and lighten up. I mean, c'mon. You ain't gonna last five minutes around a JT campfire if you can't take some heat.
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