August seemed to be full of women taking the initiative to become independent climbers. The BMC promoted This Girl Can all over the UK and I spearheaded the South West campaign with venues at Symonds Yat and Avon Gorge. One of the things that struck me most about all the women I met was how fit, determined and single minded they were.
Each session was roughly 3 hours, and within that time the majority of women learnt how to belay competently, to climb with good technique and some actually learnt to tie in too.
The mood was positive and focused with everyone encouraging each another and a feeling of shared goals and expectations. Each session was fully booked and deemed a great success for all concerned.
Women were taking steps to become independent trad lead climbers too – from teenagers to middle aged. Friends Christine and Jill took a weekend course at Symonds Yat as did lone teen Emily.
Christine and Jill are part of a climbing club but have had to depend on other members of the group in order to climb but decided they wanted to have the skills to be self sufficient. Jill was the more experienced and confident but Christine was so determined and focused that by the end of the course she was able to lead, build belays and set up abseils.
Emily on the other hand is a quietly determined young lady who has only climbed outside once before but in 2 days she was leading HS completely independently on her own gear with no back up. Every step of the way I asked if she was OK with what we were doing and she just said yes and did it – extremely well with no sign of nerves.
And the only occasion when she said No and showed any hesitation was when I asked if she wanted to abseil independently. She did do it eventually but only when she was ready. A remarkable young woman.
There were Gorge Walks in August too – at Clydach, and more Site Specific Training at Clifton High School in Bristol and Willington Preparatory School in Wimbledon which were hilariously funny at times and great fun. Teachers love to be students for a change and are usually more mischievous than the children.
Mike Brookes and Matthew Russell shared a day at Symonds Yat to work on rope management, gear placement and removal, building and equalising belays as well as lead belaying and the use of the Guide Plate, which unfortunately meant lots and lots of climbing.Yeah! Mike led The Druid VS 4c in excellent style – one that had been on his tick list for some time.
I did have the opportunity for a bit of personal climbing in the Peak District and Devon but the highlight of the month by far was my son Ben’s wedding to his gorgeous bride Naomi.