The mood was high-spirited and welcoming as several of Fort Lewis College’s women filed into the Student Life Center with their carabiners attached, chalk dusted on their hands and climbing shoes on to participate in FLC’s Womxn Take Over the Wall event.
The event, orchestrated through a collaboration between FLC's Outdoor Pursuits and fairly-new student organization, Keeping Women Wild, was the kickoff event for a month of events in celebration of Women's History Month, Ryanne Clough, FLC student and a student outdoor leader for Outdoor Pursuits, said.
Throughout the three-hour event, attendees were encouraged to mount the colorful climbing wall and try out new routes up and down with the guidance of fellow-attendees, whose experience ranged from first-time climbers to women who were seasoned in the sport, Clough said.
Womxn Take Over the Wall is an exciting symbol for women’s progress and the event aimed to both highlight the strong accomplishments of those who were already engaging in mountain sports and inspire other women to join, hoping to provide a networking opportunity to those not already in a climbing group, Clough said.
This was an important aspect of the event for Sav Opp, an FLC junior majoring in adventure education, she said. Opp, who said she’s already an experienced climber, still feels timid while climbing when she comes to the wall on normal days, which she described as usually being male-dominated, she said.
Confidence was a major barrier to Opp when she first started climbing and events like these offer a rare chance to experience the sport in a really open way, she said.
“Being able to come here and see a lot of different women participating in climbing and encouraging each other is really uplifting,” Opp said.
Additionally, women exclusively climbing together can help tackle a different barrier, which is that the sport is different, mechanically, for men and women.
Opp usually climbs with a group that is majority men, and it can be frustrating when her group is discussing routes up a rock that just don’t work for her because of several different factors, like her height, her build, and the way that her body moves, she said.
Womxn Take Over the Wall was an exciting opportunity to discuss new ideas and strategies for making it up the wall from other women, she said.
Carly Koppe, an FLC sophomore majoring in geology, was excited to meet new women at the event that shared her same passion for climbing, she said.
“It’s super cool to make these connections,” Koppe said. “When it gets warmer, we can hopefully go out on a bigger expedition together.”
Keeping Women Wild, the event’s co-host, hopes to encourage these connections between women year-round, Bel Young, student president of the organization, said. The fairly-new student organization is focused on empowering women outdoors by providing a space for individuals to share and learn outdoor skills by building a community, Young said.
During March, the organization brought several events to campus, including a Nordic skiing trip, full moon hiking, and a ski day at Purgatory Resort.