How women’s climbing club expands climbing community

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Rebecca Weber, a participant in the Women’s Rockreation Club, scales a rock wall at The Quarry. The club was started to give female climbers a safe space to climb. (Jackie Durfey)

The Women’s Rockreation Club, hosted at The Quarry in Provo, provides a safe space for women and non-binary climbers to socialize and develop their skills.

Orem local Kim Sowards reached out to The Quarry about starting the club after the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to curb rates of loneliness. Sowards was inspired by a different climbing club that existed several years ago but petered out due to the pandemic. 

“I kept seeing all these things online about people having a hard time making friends … I eventually decided, why not be the change I wanted to see,” Sowards said.

Clara Esparza, team lead of the Women’s Rockreation Club, climbs a wall at The Quarry. The Quarry hosts weekly meetings for the club. (Jackie Durfey)

Sowards said The Quarry’s manager, Willis Knapp, was fully supportive of her idea. Eventually, Clara Esparza, a Quarry employee, was recruited to help club activities happen on a weekly basis.

“Having a safe space for women to climb is really important so they … (don’t) have to worry about feeling embarrassed or having to impress anyone. They’re just climbing for themselves,” Esparza said.

Rebecca Weber expressed she enjoyed the club because it’s given her an opportunity to find new climbing partners.

“Often (sports) are male-dominated, and so especially being not a male, it’s kind of hard to find climbing partners,” Weber said.

Rebecca Weber, a Women’s Rockreation Club participant, belays a fellow climber. The club was started to give female climbers a safe space to climb. (Jackie Durfey)

Sowards said club meetings consist of drills, technique instruction and lots of socializing. Once a month, the club participates in some sort of activity. In the past, they’ve held climbing clinics, hosted mock climbing competitions and even received coaching from an Olympian, according to Sowards.

There is a wide range of skill levels both at The Quarry in general and at the Women’s Rockreation Club, according to Sowards.

“The main focus of most of the meetings is social … to have someone to climb with and have someone you could ask questions to if you need it,” Sowards said.

“I think that’s one of the coolest things about climbing in a gym is that there’s routes for everyone and any skill level,” Sowards said.

Melinda Moss and Heather A. attended a club meeting together as a way to try climbing for the first time.

Heather A., a Women’s Rockreation Club participant, ties a figure eight knot on her rope. The club gives female climbers a chance to practice their skills with other women. (Jackie Durfey)

“I’ve been wanting to climb forever, but I don’t wanna come by myself. I saw that they had a women’s day so I was like, ‘That’s perfect,’” Heather said. 

Weber encouraged everyone to come try out The Quarry, even if they’ve never climbed before.

“Here, there’s no such thing as failing, there’s just learning,” Weber said.

The Quarry is located in Provo and welcomes all climbers regardless of skill level. A rock climbing course is also offered at BYU.

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