Plastic Weekly’s look into SheSets; a female route setting movement

Here at Climb Like a Girl we like to see (and hear about) women participating at all levels and roles in the rock climbing community.  That’s why when I listened to Plastic Weekly’s podcast focusing on women in a setting role, I immediately wanted to share it with all of you.


Even though at least half the climbing population is female, many roles are still predominantly filled by men.  Setting is certainly one of them.  In this episode host Tyler Norton interviews the inspiring, and knowledgeable female industry leaders that made SheSets (the first ever female route setting symposium) happen.  Have a LISTEN of their take on why there are so few female setters, brainstorm how to influence change, and discuss what it takes to become a great setter {Spoiler; you don’t have to be the strongest climber in your gym}.

via Ep. 12 – Making Better Setters: SheSets Symposium — Plastic Weekly


– Steph



March Break Adventures

Things are starting to warm up here in Ontario, but (for most) it is not quite comfortable enough to put bare fingers to cold rock just yet.  Like many others at this time of year, our Crew member Liz made a trip down South to ditch the plastic and get on the real thing for a little while.

Here’s her post from ‘Six Legs in a Subaru‘ sharing her March Break Adventures.

Six Legs in a Subaru

I’ve spent a couple weeks in the Chattanooga area every winter for the past 4 years, mostly at Little Rock City, as its myriad of tricky slab problems fit well with my strengths. Last year I sent my two hardest boulders to date at LRC, “Grimace”, an absolute 5 star line, and “I Think I Can”, the most contrived crimp ladder I’ve ever split a tip on. Facebook keeps suggesting I repost some of those memories, which is nice, but really it’s only reminding me that my 8a bouldering scorecard is about to tank. (#spoileralert)

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Making History: Margo Hayes climbs 5.15a/9a+

It seems like the entire climbing word is buzzing about Margo Hayes’ amazing 5.15a (9a+) send of La Rambla in Catalunya, Spain and for good reason.

My first reaction to this news was just awe.  As a recreational climber who dreams of redpointing a 12a someday, I cannot even begin to imagine what a 15a looks like.  But the raw emotion on Margo Hayes’ face in this photo is something most, if not all of us can relate to; pure joy and utter disbelief.

Pure joy is also how I feel about being a part of a sport that has women absolutely killing it at the highest levels.  Not just as female athletes, but as athletes… period.

Interestingly enough there is already a bit of controversy about the caption “first woman to send 5.15a/9a+”.  As there are accounts of both Ashima Shiraishi and Josune Bereziartu climbing this grade before Margo.  And though I haven’t seen it yet, I am just waiting for the whole ‘female first ascent’ debate to get charged up again.  But in this moment I’m not going to get lost in the drama that may demote or undermine this achievement, I am going ahead to call it exactly what it is: Historical.

Historical may seem like a strong word for some.  Becuase Margo may not have been the first woman to achieve the grade, nor the first person to send that particular route, many can and will dispute it’s importance.  But 5.15 is a threshold few have obtained and a send of that magnitude at this point in the history of rock climbing is certainly notable and newsworthy.  Until this becomes the norm for elite climbers (male or female), any woman to indisputably complete a climb of that difficulty is achieving something historical.  To put this in perspective maybe 30 people in the history of climbing as a sport have completed a 5.15.  It is an athletic feat significantly less common than someone running the 100 meter in below 10 seconds.  Now when I say someone, in this case, I am referring to a man (women haven’t even broken 11-second mark since 1988).

Other than climbing there are few examples of elite female athletes performing at or better than the level of their male counterparts.  This is often is at the heart of nearly every argument supporting the disparity of sports coverage, attendance, and funding between men’s and women’s sports.  So ya, Margo, Ashima, and Josune’s climbs are all a pretty big deal… and maybe should be for more than just climbers.

While the debate of who gets the title of ‘first’ may never be settled, the fact remains; there is not one, not two, but three women capable of climbing 5.15/9a+ … and many others putting their best efforts in to join them.  If 5.15 is sport climbing’s modern equivalent of the 10-second barrier, then ladies get ready; we are about to see more history be made.

Photo Credit Circuit Climbing

Note: I kept the number of climbers to complete 5.15s as a general, but conservative estimate.  Doing my best to stay out of debates of who sent what and whether it should be down or upgraded.

If you’d like more information on female first ascents, here is a good read:


For some it may seem too late in the summer to take the leap and transition their climbing habit to the outdoors.  But not only is it never too late to start gaining experience, late summer and fall are some of the best times to get out!  Less bugs and cooler temperatures make for a more comfortable experience (and more friction on the rock).  Whether you are interested in top roping, bouldering, or leading outdoors; our guest blogger Leslie Timms has some great tips to guide us through a smooth transition.

For the experienced climbers out there; let this be a little refresher.  It never hurts to know more.  In all honesty I picked up a thing or two out of this and am inspired to learn more and be better prepared (and safer) for my future trips!

Thanks Leslie


Theatre Meets Climbing

A Special Guest Blog from Laura Del Papa; Crux PerformerTheresa split logo


Four months ago, I was not a climber. Three months and a few days ago, I walked into Boulderz Climbing Centre on Dupont, determined to throw myself into something new. I wanted to find stability in my life as a performer and my solution had been to further shake things up; I was to be a complete beginner at something, in a place where I knew absolutely no one.

As fate would have it, I found myself back at Boulderz four days later, this time, auditioning for a Toronto Fringe show called Crux. The concept was innovative and catchy – Crux: a site-specific, immersive play that takes its audience into the gripping world of climbing. The show, written and directed by Greg Borris, was a fine balance of climbing, dancing and theatre. It would also allow audience members to freely follow any of the 8 characters throughout the gym. I walked out of my audition hoping the stars would align in my favour – I was already hooked on climbing and I desperately wanted to be a part of this unique experience.

Fast forward three months’ time and I’m still thanking my lucky stars: not only was I was able to pursue climbing, but I had the good fortune to be cast as Theresa in Crux! With less than two weeks to opening the show, I look back at the progress I’ve made. The walls have helped me develop my strength and confidence in ways I never thought possible.  They forced me to slow down and deal with problems, one move at a time. They taught me how to take risks and trust.

Set on the night of the Bigger Better Boulder competition, Crux gives you the option to choose who you follow throughout the show. My character, Theresa, works at the gym and has to manage the comp. Juggling the tensions of the evening, she slips in and out of multiple roles; Theresa must become a teacher, friend, mediator and fighter in order to maintain her own personal balance. As a dancer and an actor, I love how smoothly the scenes transition into dance and climbing sequences. As in real life, we carry our emotions onto the wall and they shape the way we move.

Crux has taught me that falling isn’t failing and that the only way is through. It has been a truly remarkable process that has changed me for the better and I believe it can change you too, if you give it a chance.

Come see who will crush and who will crack under the pressure of the Bigger Better Boulder comp. Come see what drives people up the walls.

Crux runs from June 29th to July 10th at Boulderz Climbing Centre.                                 

Showtimes: 9:30PM on weeknights, 7:30PM weekends. No show July 3rd .

For more information or to buy tickets, please visit
Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @crux_TO

Laura Del Papa is a Montreal born and raised performer, currently based in Toronto.  Interested in all aspects of theatre, she is unabashedly exploring opportunities all the while pursuing her training, her writing, and enjoying whatever comes her way in life.

The sharp end of rock climbing – A bird’s eye view and the pursuit of balance

Thanks JJ for sharing your incredible story… and for being the biggest badass I know! You never cease to be a source of inspiration and motivation.

Stay on Target

I made it on the cover! I made it on the cover!

Some of you know that I’ve been rock climbing for half of my lifetime, which is a really long time.

Pre-ride warmup! Pre-ride warmup!

Others have only seen me pedalling furiously at races vying for a spot on the podium.  As one cyclist stated after discovering that my biceps came from rock climbing, he responded, “hell honey, whatcha wanna do a crazy sport like that for?  You have a death wish?”  That coming from a road racer, to me, is somewhat ironic.  I’ve never felt more at risk than in road racing…but let’s get back to rock climbing.

Coming into the feed zone! Coming into the feed zone!

Since I’ve started this blog, I haven’t mentioned my previous life of scaling walls and such, primarily because wearing lycra and riding a bicycle through beautiful forests was a wonderful change and focus in my life.  I had a health and cancer mission…

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When We Fall

No matter how hard we try – in climbing and in life – sometimes the universe has other plans.  It is not the fall that defines you; you are still the same person when you get up… just maybe a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser, and a lot less alone than you thought.

This beautiful message is from a father to his daughter, reminds us of just that.

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A big thanks to Matt for allowing us to share this with the Climb Like a Girl community.

Indiana Crimpgirl – thank you for embodying what it means to Climb Like a Girl.  We just know you will be doing incredible things in the future, and can’t wait to see what you get up to!  You officially have some big fans here on the Climb Like a Girl crew.
For more on Indiana you can follow her athlete page on Facebook



Wisdoms of the Pebble Pull

I had the absolute joy of witnessing what could only be described as the World’s Most Adorable Climbing Competition – Pebble Pull – hosted by Climbers Rock.  I fully expected to see an abundance of cuteness, but was entirely taken aback by how much we as adults can learn from those little crushers!

the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
 So here are some of my favorite lessons learned through watching and talking to the tiny humans during the competition:
Climb like no one is watching – OR like everyone who is, is routing for you.
I know it is easier said than done. As adults it is easy to bring our hangups and insecurities to the gym with us right along with our climbing shoes.  But does anyone ever watch another climber and will them to fall?  I like to think that all of us are silently cheering each other, or at the very least trying to learn beta, which is a complement on its own.  So you just go do you.

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Destination San Juan

Climbing like a bunch of girls: Puerto Rico.

I live in Ontario.  I love climbing.  I hate being cold.

Solution: find an affordable tropical climbing destination.


If you are looking for somewhere warm, sunny, and full of limestone, Puerto Rico may be a good option.  This was actually my second climbing trip to San Juan.  It was so great the first time that I could not resist going back for more!

The Climbing

Probably one of the best things about Puerto Rican climbing is the variety.  At any given crag there are well rated climbs from 5.8 into the 12’s.   That said; for this trip we stuck to  the Nuevo Bayamón and Caliche Crags – it is worth noting that wherever you choose to climb you will need to rent a car.  With lots of options for route styles and lengths, you can really choose your own adventure.  Whether you are into pumpy shoulder pulls on 30 foot overhangs, crimpy balance moves on a face, or an all out endurance fest on 110 foot single pitch, there is something that will capture your imagination and inspire you to send.

Alison and Karen warming up on side by side routes.

Continue reading “Destination San Juan”

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

Continue reading “Climb Like a Girl: an Origin Story”