Support, empowerment, and climbing

UP women on the wall club create a welcoming environment for women in a male-dominated sport

By Isabel Cornejo | April 6, 2022 7:26pm
Climbers giving beta (climbing tips) for a bouldering route
Media Credit: Andrew Gotshall / The Beacon

Two rock climbing walls side by side with a giant foam mattress below. One rock wall is much taller and has to be climbed with ropes and a harness. The other is much shorter and climbers can safely fall back if needed.

In a largely male-dominated sport, UP’s women on the wall club helps women learn the basics of rock-climbing in a fun, welcoming atmosphere. This club collaborates with the Beauchamp Recreation Center and their Outdoor Pursuits program, helping them plan rock-climbing trips. 

With the club being only female-presenting students, senior climbing instructor Cami Boesch says it helps her feel more comfortable while climbing.

“It’s a very male-dominated sport,” Boesch said. “The whole point of Women on the Wall is to get women climbing and we’ve definitely succeeded in that purpose.”

The club starts by teaching the basics, such as learning technique-based skills and how to climb efficiently and correctly. There are two main types of climbing —bouldering and top-rope/belaying. Bouldering is when a person climbs without a rope, and top-rope/belaying is when a person is attached to ropes and harnesses. 

The climbers learn crucial techniques, like falling off the boulder wall correctly. This applies mostly to indoor climbers when they fall backwards onto the pad. 

Lead climbing is one of the skills taught in women on the wall club
by Andrew Gotshall / The Beacon

After teaching technical skills for the first couple of weeks, the instructors begin teaching top-roping and belaying skills.

Senior rock climbing instructor, Grace Kinney, says that they begin teaching top-rope and belaying skills so climbers are more prepared for an outdoor climbing trip.

“At the end of five or six sessions, we take a trip to Smith Rock State Park,” Kinney said.

The climbers’ mutual love for climbing makes the climbing trips a fun, exciting experience. 

“Everybody is pretty passionate about rock climbing, so I think that kind of passion brings anybody in that environment together,” Kinney said. “We’re all just really thrilled to be out.”

When Covid-19 hit, the club had to drastically reduce how many individuals could climb at a time. 

Senior rock climbing instructor Lauren Tate says that one of the benefits of having the smaller climbing sessions is that there is more opportunity to foster relationships. The atmosphere became much more intimate than before.

“Everyone has just kind of fostered these random friendships that maybe you wouldn’t think you would’ve before,” Tate said.

The women on the wall club stretches before climbing
by Andrew Gotshall / The Beacon

The atmosphere is described as being supportive and welcoming. Boesch says that climbers are always encouraged to do their best. 

“It’s just very supportive,” Boesch said. “Push yourself to do what you can, but don’t feel uncomfortable about it.”

The club also ensures that everyone feels comfortable climbing regardless of how much experience they have. Tate says that everyone, no matter how long they have been climbing, practices humility at the rock wall.

“It’s the most empowering thing to me because everyone is just so humble,” Tate said.

If you want to tackle your fear of heights or if you are just interested in learning how to rock climb, Boesch recommends that you join Women on the Wall. 

“All skill levels are welcome, and it’s a good community and a great, great way to meet people,” Boesch said.

Isabel Cornejo is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at