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BY Jayleen Troutwin&Sammy Podhurst
Picture a place that has nearly every type of climbing you could ever want; boulders as big as your house, large cliffs filled with a variety of cracks to place each piece of gear from your trad rack, and steep, overhung walls, to pump you out on your sport day; all nestled in lush, sublime, green forests. Now imagine you’re in this place and then surrounded and supported by only female climbers, of all levels. That’s what you can expect at the Flash Foxy’s Women’s Climbing Festival in Chattanooga, TN. Now in its 3rd year, this amazing festival has exploded in popularity and demand for women across the country, and after attending the festival we definitely understand why - it’s absolutely moving.
The days kick off with morning coffee, yoga, and breakfast - a perfect environment of inclusivity for an activity that, for many, is intimidating and not the most welcoming and often scares people away. The relationships that can be built over a cup of granola (really good granola, by the way) are pretty impressive. Shelma Jun, the Event Director and Founder of Flash Foxy, knows from personal experience that it’s best to not rush into climbing after eating breakfast, so with full bellies and loose hamstrings, everyone buzzes through the vendor village. There’s lots to be seen - local jewelry, hangboard competitions, WCF custom carabiners from DMM, and of course free demos from SCARPA! We had shoes for every ability and every type of climber - and what’s better than trying a shoe you’re interested in outside?
Once booted and geared up, everyone took off for clinics, workshops, or just cragging with new friends to explore the exquisite Southeastern bullet sandstone.
Sammy Podhurst, SCARPA athlete and mountain guide, was there to teach two clinics during the weekend festival. First a “Basic Rescue Skills for the Single Pitch Climber,” followed by an “Intro to Traditional Climbing” clinic. Both were a huge success, selling out upon minutes of being posted on the Festival’s website.
“I was really excited about them both, but in particular the ‘Rescue Skills’ clinic. I believe that such skills - even as basic as closing systems & the use of friction hitches - are often looked over in the recreationalist’s climbing repertoire.”
These women all confessed that they want to ‘push it more,’ but in a safe way. “Oftentimes we are climbing in remote areas, far from help. If you know at least how to escape a belay or ascend a rope and tandem lower with the injured climber, you can leave the system & go seek further help if necessary. Empowering these women to be confident in their skills, and thus themselves, is why I do what I do as a mountain guide.”
Other activities included dinner, slideshow panels from the awe inspiring Hazel Findlay and Nina Williams, short films from No Man’s Land Film Festival, dinners, happy hours, an absolutely insane raffle, a stewardship project, and of course some good whiskey.
A common theme drawn from this festival was that women want to push and better themselves, they just haven’t found the right setting and inspiration to do so. I think it’s safe to say that WCF is single handedly doing this for women all over the world- all ages, backgrounds, races, and levels.
Title Quote from Lynn Hill.