A climber during the Chattanooga Women's Climbing Festival in 2018.
A climber during the Chattanooga Women's Climbing Festival in 2018. (Photo: Nikki Smith)

A Women’s Climbing Festival That’s Open to All Genders

After three years of sold-out events for women-identified and non-binary people, Flash Foxy introduces an extension where men are welcome, too

A climber during the Chattanooga Women's Climbing Festival in 2018.
Emma Walker

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Tickets to the 2017 Women’s Climbing Festival (WCF) in Bishop, California, sold out in a minute. Literally—one minute. Soon the waitlist to register for the weekend event, open to women-identified and non-binary people, had over 800 names. That’s how Shelma Jun knew she needed to add another event.

The following year, Jun, who founded the women’s climbing platform Flash Foxy (which runs the event) in 2014, organized a second weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That one sold out, too.

The 2019 Flash Foxy Summerfest, to be held at the New River Gorge and in nearby Fayetteville, West Virginia, won’t replace the now classic WCF, which will still take place in March in Bishop and Chattanooga; Jun describes it as a complementary event. Its panels and sessions will be led by women, but there’s one difference: its 300 to 350 spots will be open to people of all genders, which Jun hopes will expand the conversation around women in climbing to be more inclusive.

“We’re using the term all genders to take away that binary focus,” Jun explains. “Male, female, non-binary folks—everybody is welcome, across the entire spectrum of what gender can mean.” 

This is the first event Jun has organized where cisgender men (that is, men whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth) will be welcome alongside women, but Jun and the Flash Foxy team have been working to reflect intersectional feminism since the beginning.

“WCF welcomes all women (cis and trans) and enbies [short for non-binary] to join us at the Women’s Climbing Festival,” the WCF registration reads. “Our goal is to create and maintain a safe and diverse space where consent and respect are our first priorities.” Jun says that while the event has always been open to all people who identify as female, she’s updated that language on the registration page in the past year to be more inclusive. “That’s an expectation of our events.”

That’s not the only step WCF events have taken in the past few years to include more people in the climbing community. The organization works closely with land managers and local climbing groups in Bishop and Chattanooga to incorporate good stewardship practices. And last year at Bishop, Jun invited a local Paiute woman to kick off the event by providing some history of the area. (This practice, known as a land acknowledgement, recognizes the indigenous people who have looked after an area for generations.)

Summerfest, Jun says, is another push in a larger effort to “shift the climbing culture to be a better reflection of all of us.” Inviting male allies to be part of that conversation, she hopes, will broaden the movement toward intersectionality.

“We’ll be celebrating women in climbing,” she says. “But we’ll go a little deeper, too, and think about the challenges faced by women of color, queer women, adaptive women. We shouldn’t be talking about these things in silos.”

Registration for Flash Foxy Summerfest will open on March 1 at 12 P.M. EST.