“My legs and arms were trembling as I stepped backwards off Nelson’s slab at Birchen Edge. My feet slowly shuffling back, the left and then the right and repeating until I felt the curve of the rock under me; beginning to go vertical.”
This year BAM jumped into the sixth Womens Trad Festival, for the first time. Directed by Hetty, Gilly, Charlie and Ellie, Women’s Trad Festival is a trad climbing festival in the Peak District. The festival is aimed to support women and other marginalised genders in outdoor leadership, and to help create an inclusive network of trad climbers – they also have a focus on sustainability. It seemed like a no-brainer for BAM to attend. Being that two of our core values are to celebrate others regardless of ability, ethnicity, age or gender and to do good for the planet.
Fully kitted out in their Bamboo Clothing (#MyBAMKit), the social team set off from Plymouth on Friday 6th August. Encountering severe traffic jams, it took Danni and Lucy nine hours to get to the festival ground just west of Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District.
A full weekend
Ok so, I’m not a morning person. Never mind the new experience of climbing fast approaching, the early start was a slight concern. However, for probably the first time this year, I was out of bed at six. No problems.
Next, I registered as a learner climber. I rented out climbing shoes from the Tenaya stand (La Sportiva were there too, but my size was all out), grabbed a helmet and harness from The DMM’s stand and I was ready to join the group I’d been assigned to (there were twenty groups). Support team made up of BAMBassador/climber Mimi and ‘Afraid of heights’ Lucy joined in convoy.
Time to climb
We went to Burbidge North. A crag favored for beginners. We started out learning some of the basics; Rock types, foot holds, dynamic movements, hand jams and learning to tie a figure eight bend and a stopper knot. Climbing basically has its own dictionary. Martina quizzed us on the terms she’d been using. Shamefully I’d forgotten within ten minutes.
My first climb was route three. Nikki on belay duty. One crack up I already felt stuck. My feet were happy, but my hands weren’t. I could hear Nikki asking if I had a ‘happy hold’ (climbing lingo). When I did find one, I felt awfully cool shouting down, “I’ve got a happy hold now!” Danni Claire, Social Media manager – now a climber, sending up the rock face.
My upper body strength is pretty good from previous years taking pole fitness classes. But I wasn’t expecting climbing to be so tough on the forearms. They burnt from the strain. I was also surprised at the amount of flexibility that was required from my hips to get a leg up on some of the very teeny footholds.
“Where should I go now?” I shouted down to Nikki and the others. She replied, “That’s it, you’re at the top!” You’d think I’d have known that, but the rush of adrenaline and my head a bit woozy from the 9 hour drive the evening before had me not all there. So, I let go of the rock and Nikki lowered me safely back to the floor.
I then went on to complete two more climbs at different routes along the crag. I might be changing my email signature now. Danni Claire, Social Media manager/Climber. Can I do that? I think I can!
Dare to Wear Longer
Back at camp and after recovering from the day’s challenging activities, came time for our Hay bale Session for the ongoing ‘Dare to Wear Longer’ campaign – wear your clothes for longer before washing to reduce your carbon footprint. Read more here. And catch up on social for the video.
After a long day it was time for bed with another early start the next morning.
Experiencing things for the first time
On Sunday, when setting up for the abseil, I tried to listen in to our leader, Nikki and mentor, Martina’s conversation about nuts and hexes, fascinated by their knowledge of the sport and the equipment needed. Our climbing ambassador Mimi nodding along giving input on her preferences too.
Meanwhile, yesterday I’d put on a pair of climbing shoes for the first time and had put my legs in the wrong sections of my rented harness. Once I had it on correctly though, Mimi was a great support, showing me that I needed to be able to put my hand in the waistband, clench a fist and not be able to get it out again. Harness benefits – the obvious one is that you can have a rope attached for safety. The second is the ‘smiley bum’ you get when hoisted up in midair.
Perhaps I’ll start wearing one more often.
This was my first-time abseiling. And the conditions were so sopping wet that I could almost hear the weather gods saying, “Good luck getting a solid foot hold” every time my boots slipped on the wet moss – we were abseiling instead of climbing because of the rain in the first place, so it wasn’t unexpected. Thankfully Nikki had decided to attach a second rope to the harness I was wearing. The rope going through my belay device was covered in wet grit and my forearms ached from the day before – so I was glad about the extra safety rope. I was also happy to know that there were five cams attached at the top.
My legs and arms were trembling as I stepped backwards off Nelson’s slab at Birchen Edge. My feet slowly shuffling back, the left and then the right and repeating until I felt the curve of the rock under me beginning to go vertical.
Our mentor Martina, who referred to me as ‘bamboo number one’ (Social Exec Lucy being ‘bamboo number two’) for the entire weekend gave encouragement from above. Once my bum lowered over the first edge and my legs were at a right angle to my body, feet planted slightly over hip width on the rock, I started the decent. I abseiled! Reaching the bottom was a good feeling. For one because I wasn’t hanging in midair anymore, but also because I had succeeded. The rush didn’t go away either, so I gave it another go, legs still trembling but not as scared as the first time.
A supportive environment
Women’s TRAD festival is not filled with fearless women. These women have fears, but they go out and tackle them anyway.
My learner climbing partner, Surayya had come on her own and had no climbing experience whatsoever. Our Social Media Executive Lucy has a fear of heights. And I (despite being the social media manager) have some social anxiety issues. But we all took part. We all felt supported. And, we all had an amazing experience.
A marquee of smiles and helping hands meant that our late arrival on the Friday wasn’t then followed by a stressful set up – thank you to all the volunteers who were there to help with the Dare to Wear Longer campaign display. Meeting BAMBassador Hetty for the first time in real life was pretty nuts too! After a year of talking over video and email. Carla AKA @Summitseekers even popped over to say hello – wearing the leggings she won in last year’s big legging competition.
Thank you to the leaders and mentors for teaching us, challenging us, and keeping us safe.
The feeling of connection over the weekend was incredibly empowering. The feeling that we were all there for the same reason and of being able to talk to new faces – I hadn’t realised how much I needed that (social anxiety or not).
And lastly a HUGE thank you goes out to the four heartening female directors. You really went for gold with this one. Our BAMBassador Hetty, thank you for inviting us.
See you next year Women’s Trad Festival.