Women’s Climbing Festival Comes To Squamish

Words:: Katie Hurley (Ramey)

Photos:: Andi McLeish

While scrolling through countless images on social media sparks both envy and desire.  Those that share their pursuits through beautiful posts about their adventures invoke dreams for those of us working our way to achieve this for ourselves. And for most of us sipping our morning coffee and daydreaming of our next adventure, it becomes a question of what we need to do to get us there.

Attendees of the Treeline Women's Climbing Festival
Attendees of the Treeline Women’s Climbing Festival

Squamish is a climbing mecca, and while most of us ladies know many other female climbers it seems to be a rare occasion for many to actually get out and climb together. This is where the inspiration for Treeline’s Women’s Climbing Festival came from. That and the very obvious push to encourage more participation by females in outdoor sports. There are lots of communities and female specific clinics popping up around Canada and the US which seek to bring rad women together and increase their confidence and skills in their outdoor pursuits.

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When this idea struck I was working for an outdoor apparel company in Vancouver. Attending tradeshows over 5 years I saw many US female focused groups growing rapidly. One of which was Flash Foxy, whose festivals fully sold out within minutes of going live. It was exciting to see this change within the industry. Even walking through the booths each year there was more women’s specific gear showing up. But then heading back to Canada this focus seemed to disappear, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I started really looking that I saw more women’s specific clinics available, though nothing within the climbing community or locally in Squamish.

Trek Dirt Series (Womens Mountain Bike Camps), Mountain Mentors focussed on backcountry pursuits and pairing women with like minded mentors, She Shreds (Womens Snowmobile camps) and Girls Do Ski (Women’s Ski Camps) are all available in British Columbia which I had missed. And so came my idea to start a community for women in the Sea to Sky Corridor and beyond which would bring these communities together. The concept was to bring all these resources together for women to find in one place and support other female driven businesses.   This is how Treeline Women’s Outdoor Community came to be, and from there the Treeline Women’s Climbing Festival. I partnered with Vikki Weldon, a local Squamish climber who was as stoked as I was about starting up the festival.

Yoga at Base Camp with One Tree Wellness
Yoga at base camp with One Tree Wellness

We are a grassroots festival and are proud of it. There is something special that comes with that status. While the main focus of the festival is about climbing and learning new skills in a safe and nonjudgmental atmosphere, it is also about connection. Connection with other women, connection with the community, local vendors and small businesses, connection with our playground, and with ourselves. I believe that this is lost as soon as something becomes about more than its sole intention and grows too large for these unique connections to occur. For that reason, we plan on keeping the festival intimate. We want to keep the heart of it simple and pure, helping to foster those connections in the process. This is also why we include camping in our festival. About 95% of the women choose to camp.

Gym to Crag Clinic with Guides Katie Oram & Leanne Belcourt
Gym to crag clinic with guides Katie Oram & Leanne Belcourt

Anyone can take a course and go home but we like to give the women an opportunity to stay together and connect all weekend. This also means that anyone that attends the festival solo is surrounded by other like minded women with whom they can spend time with and hopefully create new friends and climbing partnerships. It makes it accessible and hopefully provides the attendees with more fond memories to take home with them, not just new climbing skills to work on.

How to Fall Clinic
How to fall clinic, getting some air

Now in our second year, the festival has grown and we have been fortunate enough to work with amazing sponsors such as Flashed, La Sportiva, Arc’teryx, Woods, Nesters Market Squamish and many more. We are so fortunate to be able to run all of our clinics with an entire cast of ACMG certified female guides. We increased our clinics from 4 per day to 7 this year thanks to increased interest in the event, including specialty clinics such as introduction to aid climbing and big wall climbing. Women came from as far as Ontario and California, though most of the attendance is still locals from the Sea to Sky corridor. And while the event has grown we intend to keep it small and intimate, but continue to improve and increase the content of the event for the attendees.

Family-Style Dinner Free for All
Family-Style dinner free for all

 

How to Fall Clinic with Guide Jen Olson
Paired up with a guide each clinic gets hands-on instruction.

This year we added more vendors and sponsors to the base camp, and also included a Women In Climbing Round Table where we had representatives from the climbing community speak openly with the women about issues that we all face. We had amazing women such as Erynne Gilpin, Founder of Indigenous Womxn Climb, Emily Mannisto, Founder of Alpenglow Collective, Olympic hopeful and competitive climber Tiffany Melius, ACMG and one of our guides Jen Olson, La Sportiva athlete Paige Claassen, Thea Zerbe, Director of Programming Mountain Mentors and facilitator Eileen Bistrisky, Effective Consulting. We also make this a casual and cozy evening where the girls enjoy a family-style dinner, sit around in their camp chairs and we all eat together as a community. It is a really great vibe and something we strive to continue.

All the rad guides from the 2018 festival
All the rad guides from the 2018 festival

With our second year under our belt Vikki and I are excited to dive into next year’s Treeline Women’s Climbing Festival, and keep your eyes peeled for a second location popping up soon.

Author of article

Katie Hurley (Ramey) is the Director and Creator of Treeline WOC, connect with them here:

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