Speaking to my climbing girl friends this is not an uncommon occurrence, but come on girls, we need to be strong, confident and brave!
I started climbing at university when i was 18. I learnt with my university club and had a group of girls who I loved to climb with. We went on some great adventures and pushed each other, by the end of university I was confidently leading VS and trying the occasional HVS and E1. I was bold and confident. Then I met Andy. We started climbing together, I loved being outdoors and adventuring with my lovely boyfriend but was it really good for me?
Andy climbs a bit harder than me, he had no problem with me leading but I always felt it was boring for him to climb easy grades and I actually preferred pushing myself on harder routes with the safety of being on second. Slowly, I led less and less and slowly I lost my confidence. I went from being confident on VS to freaking out leading Severe. The more I climbed the worse I got at leading and the less I enjoyed it. We got to a stage where Andy would do all the leading but this wasn’t very easy in the Alps as it put a lot of pressure on Andy and made us slower.
Right, this is stupid! I’m strong. I can happily second E2. It’s all in my head. Lets sort this out. So we did. We went to Stanage for a weekend. We have climbed loads at Stanage before and i know a lot of the routes. So I started off at a grade I was happy at, Severe and I lead all day ticking off 3* Severe’s getting more and more confident as the day went on. The next time we went to the Peak, I did the same but this time with HS’s. I was a bit jittery at the start but I was determined to do this. That day, me and Andy swapped leads and ticked off 15 3* routes in a day. HS conquered! For the next few weeks I established myself on HS in the Wye Valley, Pembroke and the Peak District. I was now ready for VS. I knew I could do it because I’ve done them before but it felt scary. Come on head, you can do it!! And I did.
I’m now at a stage where I can happily lead HS and most VS (unless they are too brutish!). I have ambition to conquer E1 by the summer as we are going to Yosemite.
I realised Andy didn’t care about seconding easier routes, he actually quite likes the rest! And he has enjoyed seeing me regain my confidence and we have big dreams for multi-pitches in Yosemite and the Alps.
So a warning for girls. Its great to climb with your other half, but don’t get lazy! Confidence is easily lost and when it is lost, it sucks! I find it really beneficial to climb with other girls or people at the same grade. If you back off, who’s going to get your gear. You! Its fine to back off a route, but only if you are pushing to your max, not just because you don’t fancy that scary move and think that your big strong boyfriend will come and save you!
You are a brave, strong confident woman….go beast it!