Climb Like a Girl: an Origin Story

By Jane Haselgrove

Climb Like a Girl – Toronto Founder

The blog may be new, but the Climb Like a Girl movement began years ago in Toronto. This week Jane shares with us what motivated her to connect with her fellow lady crushers, and create a growing community!

I started climbing in 2012. Like most people I went to go check it out, got the 2 week membership since it was such a good deal and from there I was hooked. It wasn’t until a year later that I founded Climb Like a Girl – Toronto. Our Climb Like a Girl facebook group is simply a safe space for female (identifying as female) climbers to ask questions, share stories and find climbing partners.
In the beginning of my climbing journey I was extremely self conscious and uncomfortable. I started climbing with Tyler (my sweetie) and he just seemed to be good at it right away and got better at it really quickly. I remember a V0 that took me maybe a month to send. At the time I had no friends at the gym, only Tyler and he was moving on to V1’s and V2’s where I couldn’t even do this damn V0. I felt like a huge loser.
To back up this loser image I had it in my head that I wasn’t athletic. I hadn’t participated in sports when I was younger and I felt very out of place in a gym. In fact I made my early gym experiences very hard for myself because I told myself that everyone else was sporty and athletic and that we wouldn’t have anything in common so I was very shy.
On top of my loser image and sedentary lifestyle I had this very convincing story that I told myself so much that I believed it to be the truth and it was very real to me. I believed that I “didn’t like girls” and that I just “got along better with guys”. I distanced myself from many women and didn’t make friends with them intentionally because of preconceived notions that we would not get along.
So there I was. Shy, out of shape and avoiding other girls at the gym.
That first year was mentally tough for me. I would often only climb in empty areas of the gym and if someone came in to my area to climb I would leave. I would only climb when the gym was quiet. I remember a few times just leaving because I was too self-conscious to climb in front of so many people. I believed I was ‘wasting their time’ if I was taking up space on the wall when they could be climbing. I saw myself as weak and I was very intimidated by everyone who was better than I was. I had a really self deprecating internal dialogue going on.
That year I was taking an evening leadership course. In my course we had a project to take on which was to identify a community we were a part of and to create something within it. I remember our forum speaker saying, “Choose something that scares you, something that when you think about taking it on makes you feel sick to your stomach. That is where you need to go!”
During all of my struggles at the gym; climbing, falling, jumping off the wall being too scared, feeling weak, worrying if my leggings were see through. I just wished that I had a friend who was like me, who climbed like me, who was at a similar level to me. Someone to cheer me on and have fun with. I wished I knew how to make friends at the gym. I wished it was easier to find someone.
I knew it right then. The thing that I had wished existed was going to be my community project.
I knew I had to make that space for women to find each other and climb together.
Soon the Climb Like A Girl group was born into the facebook world.
In the first year of Climb Like a Girl the best and worst part was telling people about it and asking them to join. It was hard to tell people. I was embarrassed! Who the hell am I to start a group? I wasn’t an experienced climber and I barely knew anyone. I was new to the community and I was scared to be called out as a fraud. I was also scared that maybe people didn’t need a group like that. Maybe everyone was fine and it was just me who thought there was a need for this.
However, I kept telling people, and asking people to join, and writing it down on little pieces of paper for people. Slowly, slowly it grew. As my group online grew my group at the gym grew too. I was climbing regularly 3 times a week and my group of friends was climbing the same days. I was making friends with GIRLS and we were CLIMBING TOGETHER!! It was just magical for me to have that experience. Since then my whole perspective of myself and who I know myself to be has changed. I became very outgoing and friendly at the gym, I was introducing myself, cheering people on, making friends, climbing hard and having a great time!

Climb Like a Girl – Grip and Sip April 2013

The first time I heard people I didn’t know talking about Climb Like a Girl at the gym was a very cool experience for me too. I heard one girl say to another, “Are you in the Climb Like a Girl group on facebook?” That’s when I realized it was working! People were using it and talking about it!
Since the group has started I have talked to many women who are very happy that the group exists. I know people have found their climbing partners on there, discussed injury issues, training routines, arranged nights out together at gyms and shared great information.
Some glowing posts that made me feel warm and fuzzy:

Seeing the group expand to a new region was VERY cool! Thank you so much Stephanie for growing a group that can cater to your region.  I am pretty excited to see the blog expand the reach even further into the online community!


The highlight of Climb Like A Girl so far was meeting my climbing partner, Lisa! She moved back to Alberta December 2015 so I am currently looking for a new climbing BFF. Before she moved away we climbed 2 or 3 times a week together for 3 years. We went to different gyms together, climbing in the Niagara Glen and Rattlesnake Point. We also did our lead course together. She became one of my best friends in climbing and in life.


Lisa moving away is actually something I am dealing with right now. When she left I just wanted to quit climbing entirely. I had lost my love for it. Without her what was the point. I felt like I was back at square one. I found myself at the gym struggling on V3’s while Tyler flashed V5’s. I didn’t have anyone I could relate to anymore.

Luckily for me there is this great community of friends I have built up over the years and after a month or so of being in a sad funk and barely climbing I am right back at it again 3 times a week, excited and taking on new challenges!


As Climb Like a Girl now passes it’s 3rd birthday (time flies!) My wish for the group is for it to continue to grow and expand into other areas. I want it to be there for new climbers who are intimidated to get on the wall. I want it to be there for injured climbers who need inspiration to stay positive. I want it to be there for climbers when their best friend and climbing partner moves away 😉

Thank you to everyone who has joined the group and told others about it. I would love to know more stories of how the group has affected your life and what you have gotten out of it.
If you ever see me at the gym say HI – I would love to meet you! Until then, Climb Like A Girl!!!


Jane has been climbing in Toronto for the past 4 years and loves to boulder. Jane loves to help the feral cats in the neighbourhood and is an avid gardener. When she isn’t climbing you can find her at one of the Fresh Collective locations as the Operations Manager and Buyer for the Canadian designer boutiques.









One thought on “Climb Like a Girl: an Origin Story

  1. This speaks to me on so many levels. I have always had this wierd love-hate relationship with climbing and a feeling of “being a loser” and being too unfit is definitely part of what makes it so. I have also never participated in sports when I was young – except for gym classes which we have many of in the Swiss education system. Sure, I’ve ridden horses but, let’s face it, it’s really not an athletic activity. I need a long time to get good at any given activity, and I’ve passed the point of being ‘good’ enough to consider myself athletic when it comes to skiing, running, and biking – endurance sports focused mainly on leg strength. However, this point has never come in climbing, and I guess it is what frustrates me the most, unfortunately! And brought me away from the sport last year.
    Reading this post is inspiring; I am not the only lady out there who thinks she doesn’t belong and thinks she is not good enough. I want to tackle climbing again this year, and hopefully I won’t get frustrated. I’ll make sure to focus on the fun aspect of it before worrying about performance in any way.
    Thanks for sharing your story, it motivates me to start trying again!


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