Words By
Hetty Key

The Women’s Trad Festival is a weekend of trad climbing in the Peak District set up to help encourage climbers to learn new skills and develop their climbing. An inclusive event, the festival welcomes climbers of any age, ability and gender – that means men and children too, but the main focus is on encouraging participation in trad climbing among women.

This was my first year attending the festival and I was bowled over by everything that was on offer. Speaking to Charlie and Ellie, two of the festival organisers, I was keen to find out how the whole thing started;

Ellie and I went to the Women’s International Climbing Meet in Llanberis, organised by the Pinnacle Club. Her and Vicki Mayes had a day’s climbing at Gogarth, and they spent the whole day discussing how great it would be to get both of the women’s coaching groups they coached together to climb, even though Vicki was from Scotland and Ellie’s group was in Sheffield. That’s how the idea was born, and it spiralled from there” – Charlie Low

“I realised that a lot of confidence could be gained from being around strong, confident women climbing something just a bit harder than I was – the power of visible role models! More and more women are climbing at indoor walls, they are keen to get out trad climbing, but it’s not always easy to make that transition as they might not have the experience, skills, gear or confidence to take that leap”

“Through the festival, we wanted to encourage women, at all levels. Whether they’d never trad climbed before, or whether they were beginning their career as a climbing instructor, we wanted to help offer that support and guidance, to prompt the realisation… ‘maybe I can take that next step too” – Ellie Fuller

Now into its second year, this year’s festival proved to be as popular as ever with tickets selling out in a matter of weeks. On 18th August climbers gathered from far and wide (one even flying in from Zurich!) to hone their trad skills and meet other like-minded people.

With Rab as a key sponsor Rab Senior Designer Kate and I were lucky enough to attend the festival despite our lack of tickets – climbing with the other attendees and showcasing the latest additions to our Rock Range:

I loved being a part of the festival! From a design point of view, it was fantastic to get so many potential Rab customers in one place and pick their brains on current and future styles. It is not often you get so many female climbers together. Invaluable market research! As for the climbing – I was surprised to find myself teamed up, one on one with a leader each day, so basically a private trad climbing lesson! I hadn’t lead or done any trad climbing for a number of years, as I tend to boulder, but I was definitely inspired to do more after the event. By the end of the weekend I had the confidence to place gear and set up belays, thanks to the very skilled and patient instructors. – Kate Ennis

Despite a damp start on Saturday the psych was very high and undeterred by the intermittent rain that continued throughout the weekend, everyone was still eager to do as much as possible. By the end of the weekend many had climbed outside for the first time, made their first leads and gained plenty of confidence on the rock.

Catching up with festival goers Jen and Morag, I was keen to hear their thoughts on the weekend:

Before the festival I thought I knew trad wasn’t for me, it’s funny how wrong I was! It’s opened up so much adventure potential and I’m itching to get more leads under my belt, place as much gear as I can fit in the rock and get on some multi-pitch routes” – Jen

This was my second year attending the Women’s Trad Festival and if possible I think I had more fun even than last time. At last year’s festival I worked up the courage to lead for the first time ever – all the lovely support really boosted my confidence, and since then I’ve done quite a lot of trad climbing. I feel like I’ve come on loads and loved coming back this year to lead some of the routes I was top roping a year ago!” – Morag

At the end of the weekend it was clear it wasn’t just the participants that thought the event was a success:

“As a volunteer leader at WTF 2017, it was so rewarding to give my knowledge and encouragement to budding trad climbers and see them improve and gain confidence over just one weekend! I loved seeing the sheer excitement and sense of achievement when one of my climbers lead their first ever trad climb – and know that I helped make that possible. The chance to socialise with so many other female climbers in such beautiful and relaxed settings, at the base of grit crags and around evening bonfires, was truly unique. I can’t wait to be part of the experience next year too and to continue to inspire women in outdoor trad climbing!” – Jo

“I agree, the best thing about the WTF was seeing so many competent and capable women get together. I hope that this event makes them realise just how capable they really are, both on a personal level and as imparters of information. Many of the leaders are not (yet) qualified instructors, and yet I saw Gold-Standard role modelling everywhere I looked. I felt proud to represent the AMI and the Rab Test Team, but I was even more proud to represent female instructors and coaches. The future of mountaineering instruction is bright” – Rachael

“When we set it up last year, we didn’t know if it was really something that more than a few women would be interested in. The response has been overwhelming, and I think just shows that there is a genuine need and desire for events like this in climbing, that offer a space for women” – Ellie

Yes! Last year the festival was arranged in two months, and around 60 people came. We had a camping gazebo with two camping chairs and a little fold out table, so it looked pretty makeshift! This year there was a marquee with stalls from Rab and our other sponsors, gear and shoes to borrow if you didn’t have it, an awesome BBQ and a raffle which raised over £500. It was really incredible to see over 100 people laughing, making friends and enjoying themselves because of something that I had helped to organise, and definitely inspired me to make sure I keep trying to run it for many years to come!” – Charlie

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 Womens Trad Fest website here or follow them on Facebook.

Rab's in-house PR Coordinator