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Women's Trad Festival

On the first weekend of August, nearly 200 climbers from all over the UK (as well as several lucky competition winners from Germany!) gathered in the Peak District for the third annual Women’s Trad Festival.

Set up to encourage climbers to take the next step in developing their trad climbing skills, Women’s Trad Festival aims to connect and support the fast-growing community of female trad climbers and is open to all abilities, ages and genders. With this in mind, it was no surprise that tickets for this year’s festival sold out in under three minutes.

Rosie Henstock, a Leader at this year’s festival, expands on what inspired her to sign up:

“I was privileged to be introduced to Trad climbing at school by a strong spirited art teacher, and I have only recently started to consider the impact that this positive female role model, at that early stage of my climbing career, has had on me over the last 15 years.

It defined my idea of ‘normal’ – ladies (and men of course) going out, challenging themselves, getting stuck in. This sounds very common to any seasoned climber, but outside the climbing community bubble, large areas of society do not expect that of women. It’s not that they think females can’t, it’s more… ‘why would you want to?’

So, with that in mind, I wanted to be able to give other people the same opportunity I had. The whole event was very inclusive and supportive and really set a good open vibe for learning and sharing skills. It was great to see my learner’s confidence building throughout the weekend, and since then, I have been following their mid-week climbing adventures on Instagram!”

The weekend kicked off on Friday evening, as dozens of excited climbers flocked to the festival just outside of Hathersage. As the sun set casting a golden light over Stanage Edge, attendees had the opportunity to meet other like-minded climbers, make something from recycled rope with Scavenger and enjoy a slice or two of pizza. Energy and enthusiasm were high, however, unlike most festivals, by 11pm climbers were tucked up in their tents ready for the weekend ahead.

Waking up to perfect bluebird skies on Saturday morning, the campsite was a hive of activity. After an initial briefing, attendees split into their respective groups of either a leader paired with one or two learners or as two climbers of a similar ability. From here there were plenty of choices as people made their way to Stanage, Burbage, Millstone, Bamford and beyond.

“A short drive on Saturday morning across to Stanage and I arrived at an excited campsite full of eager climbers. Teamed up with Lisa and our leader Georgia we headed out to High Neb for two days of pushing our trad climbing grade, anchor practice and gear placement. It was amazing to see the crag dotted with WTF tees chatting away, encouraging each other and talking about the event to regular Stanage climbers – topped off with fab weather!

WTF was an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded women and build my confidence again on gritstone. The atmosphere was brilliant all weekend, welcoming learning and challenges – such a supportive group of women climbers!”

Philippa Hill – Learner at WTF and Rab Materials Specialist

After a long day on the grit, climbers returned to Rab Basecamp eager for the evening’s BBQ and raffle. Addressing a captive and well-fed audience, Lynn Robinson, the new President of the BMC gave an inspiring speech before announcing the lucky winners of the raffle. With an impressive selection of prizes, tickets practically sold themselves and raised over £750 for charities Urban Uprising and Climbing for All. As darkness fell, the fire pits were lit leaving climbers, volunteers and organisers to relax around the fire and swap stories.

Keen to maximise every moment of the weekend, Sunday saw another early start with climbers excited to get going. Inspired by yesterday’s learnings and spurred on by other’s successes, psyche was at an all-time high as groups headed out to the crag.

Arriving at the Burbage, myself and my new-found climbing partner, Dee, decided we were going to push ourselves; we were inspired by the conversation had with fellow climbers the night before. Racks and ropes at the ready, upwards we climbed. Come 2pm, and with the sun bellowing down on us, we were exhausted and decided it was time to retreat, so ventured to the Outside Cafe. As we sat and talked it dawned on me just how much we’d both achieved and experienced in such a short space of time. I, myself, had my climbing psyche back and, Dee had crushed routes which she was previously unable to conquer. Along with these achievements, Dee and I had come away with an exciting new partnership built on trust, positivity and friendship.

WTF gave me the opportunity to meet people who shared the same passion for climbing. It allowed people from all different backgrounds to come together to one place to swap adventures, advice, pictures, psyche, memories and laughter. The confidence gained and the friendships made will forever be imprinted on my journey to becoming a better climber.”

Aaleah Cabannes – Climber at WTF and Rab Sales Office Technical Adviser

As the day drew to a close, attendees made their way back to festival base to say goodbyes and arrange future climbs before heading their separate ways.

Ellie Fuller, one of the Founders of the Women’s Trad Festival, reflects on the weekend’s events:

“Coming into its third year, Women’s Trad Festival felt as relevant and needed as ever. This year’s festival felt like a real community, and I have no doubt friendships made this weekend will extend beyond the festival. On a personal level, it was particularly special to see people who first came Women’s Trad Festival as a learner coming back, psyched and skilled wanting to give back as leaders and climbers – progression is really important to us. Looking ahead, we are already full of ideas and can’t wait for next year. Watch this space!”

If you’ve been inspired by this article and would like to keep up to date with next years event, or for any other information and goings on, then visit the Women’s Trad Festival website here or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

Women’s Trad Festival Organisers Ellie Fuller, Gilly McArthur, Charlie Low & Hetty Key

Special thanks to Charlie Low Photography.

If you've been inspired by this article and would like to keep up to date with next years event, or for any other information and goings on, then visit the Women's Trad Festival website or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.