A few weeks ago Shauna asked me if I’d like to attend the Women’s Climbing Symposium in Sheffield. I must admit I was I was a little apprehensive at first. I am someone who has always climbed, and has felt very comfortable climbing, in the company of both sexes. I am also equally inspired by both male and female climbing achievements and successes. I wasn’t really sure how I’d feel being part of a day dedicated exclusively to women. However, the lure of an incredible line-up of speakers proved too tempting and I decided to go along.

Firstly I’d like to say what an enjoyable day the WCS was. It was incredibly well run from start to finish. From the pocket-sized timetables to remind participants where they should be at any given moment to the music which played at the end of each break to usher people to the next session, the whole day passed off very smoothly which can only have been the result of hours and hours of hard work behind the scenes.

Secondly, there was a fantastic line-up of speakers. There were simply too many talented individuals giving talks to mention them all in this short report so I’ll talk about just a few which were highlights for me personally. Hearing Catherine Destivelle open proceedings with a fascinating run down of her life as climber and mountaineer was amazing. A true legend of the sport, hearing her talk and getting her to sign my t shirt afterwards pretty much made my weekend.

A surprise highlight for me was Rachel Atherton. I know nothing about mountain biking so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this talk, but I found it interesting and engaging and, above all, inspiring. Molly Thompson-Smith’s talk was also great to hear. I’ve competed with Molly on a few occasions, and it was interesting to hear her take on the competition scene and how she deals with the highs and lows of competition life.

Aside from the talks, something which really struck me about the whole day was just how friendly everyone was. I lost count of the number of times a complete stranger started talking to me or an event organiser checked I was having a good time. I think this friendliness is something which is common throughout the climbing world. I’ve noticed it at the crag, at major competitions and at my local wall. It’s a very special aspect of our sport, and one of the reasons I love it so much. Whether it was even more prevalent at this event because it was for women only I am not sure, but what I would say is that if anyone is wondering about coming to the Women’s Climbing Symposium on their own next year, they will certainly find a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere when they arrive.

All in all, it was a very informative and interesting day and I really enjoyed it. Has it changed my opinion of women-only events? I think in an ideal world, all women would be lucky enough to have the same introduction to climbing as I had where gender wasn’t an issue. However, it seems that, for whatever reason, this isn’t the case. For many women there seems to be a real need for events such as this where they can learn from one another and be inspired in an inclusive and encouraging all-female environment, and Shauna and Emma do an amazing job at putting together an event which caters to this need.

#Climbing2me Fail, fail, fail, fail, McDonalds! Fail, fail…