Women’s climbing clinic reaches new heights | VailDaily.com

Women’s climbing clinic reaches new heights

Christine Ina Casillas

When all else fails, do it yourself.

That’s the idea behind Meet the Wilderness’s first women’s climbing clinic to top off the end of the fall season.

The clinic was intended to be a series of workshops throughout the summer, but because of a lack of participants, organizers pulled together a day-long clinic focusing on climbing independence, said Blair Young, a Meet the Wilderness instructor.

“So often I hear girlfriends who want to go skiing or climbing and it just doesn’t happen,” Young said. “Especially climbing. They always let their husbands or boyfriends take care things and lead the climb. It’s easier for the girls to let them take control of that.”

But not anymore.

On a bright, sunny fall morning, about seven women arrived at Camp Hale awake and ready for an all-day clinic on the rules and regulations of rock climbing.

“It was a great day out on the rock,” said Missy Johnson, special events manager for Meet the Wilderness. “When these women go out again, they don’t have to rely on anyone else to do their top roping for them.”

Outdoor independence

The first portion of the clinic was about knots and different climbing techniques.

“We went up on top of the rock with problems-solving techniques with anchors and trees, bolts and rocks,” Young said.

The women who attended the clinic said the great outdoors, the weather and the idea of independence drove them to learn how to climb.

“I really wanted to learn how to set up my own rope without having to depend on anyone else,” said Ruth Miller, a participant in the clinic. “I have a sophomore in high school and I wanted to learn how to do it before I took her out rock climbing.”

Meet the Wilderness focuses mainly on youth projects, Young said. But the group wanted to expand its program and include projects for women of all ages.

“The programs for women are to be more visible and show a group of really strong women role models for girls in the valley,” Young said.

The first clinic included women in their 20’s. Miller laughed and said she was probably the oldest one who attended the workshop.

“There were no other teens going on this trip,” Miller said. “It was too long and tedious for a teen-ager running at a rapid speed. Kids can’t stand around and listen to all the safety and precautions that went along with it.”

But Miller said she enjoyed the small group.

“It was a small turnout but it was a perfect size,” she said. “It was a great way to get a bunch of women together and learn to be independent.”

Young said it was a good turnout for the way it was designed.

“It was sort of a last-minute program for the end of the season,” she said. “The women were having fun and climbing, and I know some of them expressed interest in doing it again.”

Social climbers

Some of the participants have already gone rock climbing again and say they’ve gone because they want to meet new people.

Brandi Mackenzie recently moved to the Vail Valley from Omaha, Neb., and said she wanted to learn how to climb the minute she arrived.

“It was just something I wanted to do right away, and it was awesome,” Mackenzie said. “I felt completely comfortable with the group, and they were all strong confident women teaching us.”

Mackenzie didn’t have a lot of experience climbing before she joined the clinic and it wasn’t just the experience of climbing she took away with her, but a new group of friends.

“I have already seen a handful of the other women,” she said. “We tried to climb a couple of times already. And it’s nice being new in town and knowing a group of girls who share the same interests.”

Ellie Rolfes shared the same sentiments. Rolfes moved to the area two months ago from Memphis, Tenn., and wanted to meet people with similar interests.

“We learned the basics of climbing but it all benefited Meet the Wilderness,” Rolfes said. “It was definitely a multipurpose day for me.”

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