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Rock Climbing: What Every Sport Should Look Up To

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My name is Kyle Rath, I am 20 years old and really enjoy the sport of rock climbing. I first started to consistently rock climb around 3 years ago and have fallen in love with everything about it. The atmosphere at the local gym is very welcoming and there are levels there for beginners to experts. My level of climb is V7 boulders and 5.11d climb with the best at the local gym being V10 and 5.14a, respectively.

In case you do not know, bouldering is climbing without a harness on a shorter wall where it is safe to fall from onto a mat. Difficulty is usually measured with a V-scale with V0 being the easiest and the boulder getting harder as the number increases. Sport climbing is where you climb up a wall with the use of a rope and clips with a partner belaying you. The difficulty rating for this is the number 5, which indicates the scale of the wall (i.e. vertical/near-vertical) and is followed by a number indicating the difficulty. Starting at 5.10 they
start to use a letter a, b, c, or d, with a being easiest and d being hardest, to split up each difficulty even further.

Physically, men and women climbers are very close in ability. If you look at the top climbers in both climbing and bouldering, there is not a huge difference between the sexes. The top sport climb ever by a female in history is 5.15a, climbed by 19-year old Margo Hayes. The top sport climb by a male in history is a 5.15d by 24 year old Adam Ondra, the only person to ever climb this difficulty. The difference is only 3 grades. As for bouldering, a 14-year old girl from NY climbed the first V15 boulder and is the youngest (male or female) to do so. The top climbs ever have been V16 (only 6 confirmed climbs of this difficulty) and V17 (only one climb ever graded this, only one climber to climb it). The difference is only 2 grades. In both disciplines, women and men are very close to climbing the same difficulties. Even at a lower level of climbing where it is recreational, I see very good female climbers that climb better than a lot of men in the gym.

Now I am going to switch focuses from the physical aspect to talk about the social aspects of climbing.

It is very acceptable at the gym for a female to be better than a male climber. Quite often climbing at a gym is about helping each other accomplish the climb. Many times I have received advice from women who have already done the climb or are stuck at a part further in the climb as me. I didn’t feel embarrassed at all and that is something I find really awesome about the environment.

One of my favourite things to follow on social media are professional climbers and climbing pages. My main place I go for climbing media is Instagram. I follow many climbers on there because they post videos of them climbing and show interesting ways they train for the sport. I can look up to those climbers and take notes on techniques and training methods they use to improve myself as a climber. I follow a mixture of both men and women climbers because they both have lots of interesting content.

My favourite women to follow on Instagram are Shauna Coxsey and Sasha Digiulian. I have followed Shauna Coxsey since she won the 2017 competition in bouldering and since then, she has posted lots of videos on cool boulders she has done in training and most recently she has shared her rehab from a finger injury which is quite appealing to someone who has been injured climbing in the past. She is very good at bouldering and I like learning from the techniques she uses. I follow Sasha since she is an outdoor climber that is a very strong and is an activist for preservation of natural areas and human rights.

As for climbing pages, they highlight many different successes both in competitions and outdoor climbs. One thing I have noticed about climbing pages is how equal men and women are featured in the climbing posts. One of the climbing pages I follow is the IFSC Instagram account. The IFSC is the international competition for bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing. It governs all of the competitions and also live streams all of them. The livestreams show both the men and women competitions.

It is interesting to compare climbing to other sports. A very common reason people give to not watching female sports is that they are not as strong as men. As I watch climbing, it is still interesting to watch and see a good climb, regardless of gender. I don’t see why this is so different for other sports. In climbing it is the sport itself that is why I love it, not who is doing it.

-Kyle Rath

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