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The Climbing Girlfriend

Who do you climb for?

Many girls are born climbers. They climb out of their cots, climb stair gates, then climb fences, climb trees, climb walls, but often don’t get introduced to rock climbing until they have a male friend that climbs. Fortunately this is changing with each generation, but there are still too many women with potential following their boyfriends around as a second fiddle.

I am a stay-at-home mum, so I have no problem with playing the other fiddle, but I feel strongly that it needs to be a conscious decision. If, as a climber, your raison d’etre is to accompany your partner, share time with him and support his passion, that is wonderful, as long as you own your decision. If, however, climbing becomes your passion you need to own that too.

You need to divine your own goals, your own ambitions, be responsible for your own progression and learn to be a little selfish. Too many times I see women in the forest being taught to climb by someone who has less style or potential than themselves. Sometimes there is male ego involved, where the guy assumes a position of authority out of insecurity, but more often than not the man genuinely thinks he is helping. He may have completed a problem, and encourage the girlfriend to do it the same way: ‘just put your foot there’, ‘reach with your left hand’,’I just …(did this)’.

Men are different to women. It is a biological fact; not better or worse, just different. As a general rule we are not as strong physically, and we don’t have the same reach. Women get demoralised because they can’t ‘just’ do what the man does, and often they believe they are not as good as a result. This is not always the case. If left to their own devices a woman will often find a more delicate, more skillful and more beautiful way of completing a problem. We are generally lighter, have smaller fingers and feet, a better sense of balance, more flexibility and more delicate skills. Even with a whole lifetime of training, male and female ballet dancers dance different roles. The skills we have are often of great advantage in climbing.

In reality I feel that a man benefits much more in watching how a woman climbs than a woman learns from a man, so own your passion, find your own style, and CLIMB LIKE A GIRL :-) !!


Jessica Barilone, April 17, 2019

Helen Dudley, April 17, 2019

Ha! Absolutely Jessica :-) ! What’s worse is when they catch you warming up and feel they are entitled to correct you too 😳🤪??

Josie, April 19, 2019

I also get annoyed with this so often. I work in our local bouldering gym and even have tall guys that I gave “boulder basics” training tell me how to do a 5 that I need to do different because of height.

When I try to explain that I am only about 1,50 and they are 1,90 they say that they think that that’s not the problem. Someone even said ‘he wanted to teach me how to climb’.

In these moments I really need to calm down and be proud of the soloutions I find.

Luckely my boyfriend started climbing because of me. Allthough he climbs way less he most of the times climbs way harder things then me, but he always understands that I need to do it different and comforts me when it pisses me off sometimes :)

Helen Dudley

Mum of Sebastian, 11, and Theo 8. Living in Arbonne-la-Forêt.

After making transitions from trad, to sport, to motherhood, Helen now lives in the Fontainebleau area dedicating as much time as possible to bouldering and playing in the forest with her two boys.