Attendance of women at Ladies’ Climbing Hour at Westminster College’s Health, Wellness and Athletic Center (HWAC) has remained low, according to climbing wall staff.
Women’s Climbing Hour takes place 4-5pm on Thursdays at Bishop’s Wall. The weekly event is student organized, free to students and no climbing experience is necessary to participate.
The program was restarted last spring by students staff members of the climbing wall after an approximately 2-year hiatus, said Andy Tankersley, assistant outdoor program director.
Tankersley said the program is completely student-run and he simply oversees it. He said he views it as an opportunity for women to form a community at the wall.
“[The program is] just to bring folks together and have fun climbing together, to be supportive and create a space where folks can come to the wall and climb together,” Tankersley said.
According to the climbing wall staff, there is more of a feminist incentive behind the program.
“The initiative behind it was mainly to create a safe space for women to not feel intimidated while climbing,” said Ellen Young, a neuroscience major and staff member.
Staff member Kat Johnson said she and a friend started climbing at the wall during Ladies’ Climbing Hour and became passionate about continuing the program.
“We wanted to continue [Ladies’ Climbing Hour] because that was something we appreciated as new climbers,” Johnson said.
However, there is not a large number of women who attend Ladies’ Climbing Hour which both Johnson and Young said could be a marketing issue.
“It was never super popular, and it still isn’t super popular, but that has a lot to do with advertising,” Johnson said. “Women who are already climbing are the only ones hearing about it and they don’t feel like they need to be in that space to be climbing.”
Tankersley said that most climbers hear about the wall’s programming through word of mouth. He said that staff members seem to bring in the most activity to the wall when they bring their friends, and when those friends then tell others about it.
Yet, the small amount of women at the wall doesn’t seem to be the problem to the wall staff.
“It’s not necessarily about the numbers, it’s more about fostering a safe environment,” Johnson said. “I can see how [rock climbing] can be intimidating for women, especially women who have been subjected to specific oppressions, to feel comfortable climbing in a sport that seems to be dominated by primarily white men.”
*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Ladies’ Climbing Hours program has been an on-going program for the past three years.
*A previous version of this article referred to Ladies Climbing Hour as a club but the program is not an ASW sanctioned club.
*There is no connection between the Ladies’ Climbing Hour and the Outdoor Education Leadership’s Women’s Indoor Rock Climbing class.