Each For Equal

Words by: Shelma Jun

It was with great excitement that we launched the Flash Foxy Education and Leadership Development Fund last March. Our Education and Leadership Development Fund provides resources and opportunities for women to attend, participate and teach at the Women’s Climbing Festivals as well as our newly launched Flash Foxy Education Program.

Photo: Sasha Turrentine 

It’s always been important that our festivals and programs are accessible – with this word encompassing broadly across many groups. Accessible to us means to be financially accessible for womxn to attend as well as to come teach; for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), LGBTQ+ and nonbinary folks to feel safe and supported; for climbers with disabilities to be able to physically and mentally access our space and to support other affinity groups that we are continuing to learn about. As a small grassroots organization started in 2014, we acknowledge this is an ambitious goal and one that we are committed to continue to work on. We are learning and growing with the support of our amazing partners and our hope is that each learning experience bring us closer and closer to that vision.

All the panelists WCF Chatt – Laura Edmondson, Laur Sabourin, Irene Yee, Asheigh Thompson. Photo: Vikki Glinskii

Our Education and Leadership Development Fund enabled us to offer three different types of support in 2019 :

First, we were able to provide 22 participant scholarships to our festivals. Each scholarship recipient received a ticket to one of our sold-out festivals as well as a $250 travel stipend. Throughout the anonymous selection process, we sought to prioritize women and folks of underrepresented genders who are working to make climbing a more equitable, inclusive and diverse space.

Second, we were also able to provide 10 leadership development travel stipends to womxn who are underrepresented in many of leadership opportunities at the festival such as clinic leaders, guides, workshop instructors and presenters. Representation matters and it’s important to see people like yourself leading and teaching.

Finally, we were able to work with our partners Brown Girls Climb and American Mountain Guide Association to offer a scholarship to the second AMGA All Women’s Single Pitch Instructor Course in Denver, CO last August. The scholarship allowed a woman who might not have been able to access this course to be on her way to become a certified climbing instructor.

Photo: Vikki Glinskii

For each of these opportunities, we took financial need into consideration while also encouraging folks from underrepresented groups such as women of color, LGBTQ+ and Indigenous womxn to apply.

We’re excited to share some words from our scholarship recipients about their experiences at the Women’s Climbing Festival:

“Affinity spaces and community are so important to me in every aspect of my life. I am constantly seeking them out or seeking ways to create my own and hold space for the people who need it. Being in this space made me feel so recharged. Learning from women and nonbinary folks I admire, and respect made me feel empowered — as a climber, an activist, and a leader — in a way I’ve never experienced before. I went to Flash Foxy alone, which for an introvert like me is pretty daunting. But I found so many new friends from locations all across Turtle Island. And in these friends, I found people who truly make me feel seen and heard. I departed for home with a full heart and plans for a reunion with these people I grew to love from a weekend spent climbing and living together.”

-Kaitlin Grable, 2019 WCF Chattanooga Scholarship Recipient

Scholarship recipients for WCF Chatt Emile Eich, Danielle Johnson, Kaitlin Grable. Photo: Vikki Glinskii

“My first two quarters left me emotionally and spiritually-drained in unexpected ways. I’d had a few panic attacks and felt isolated as one of few women of color in my graduate program. I was looking forward to a few days of renewal and rest in the Eastern Sierra, but I hadn’t expected Women’s Climbing Festival to be such a healing experience… Yes, I was there to climb and catch up with friends, but the quiet moments I spent silently staring up at the snow-capped peaks of the Sierras was just what I needed to renew my spirit. The prayer song led by Erynne Gilpin, founder of Indigenous Womxn Climb, at the start of our stewardship project was one of the highlights of my time at the festival. Listening to her speak blessings upon our group and invoke the spiritual nature of the sacred lands that we were climbing in was an incredibly special, powerful, healing experience that I will always cherish. This festival fed my soul, and I feel ready to return to school to hopefully go on and do great things.”

– Kristan Culbert, 2019 WCF Bishop Scholarship Recipient

WCF Bishop Scholarship Recipients Mom and Daughter, Rena Weisberg and Camille Weisberg and Kristan Culbert. Photo: Janelle Paciencia

“With good fortune and tremendous gratitude, my fourteen-year-old daughter and I were able to attend the women’s climbing festival.   I am a single mom, supporting two kids on my own, and the scholarship made it possible… After we arrived and sat waiting for the opening panel discussion to begin, I looked around at all in attendance.  I felt such awe, as I don’t believe I had ever before sat in a room filled with so many unique and beautiful women. Everywhere I looked; strong, independent, bold, different and special women surrounded us.

I am 45 years old.  It’s only been like 6 or 7 years since I have found my own courage and independence:  to finally start doing the things girls/women/moms(!) are NOT really supposed to be doing.  And what a blessing, to have my 14-year-old daughter to sit there too among you, hear your stories, see your example, witness the power.  I was filled with happiness. She felt welcomed and safe to share and speak. She was listened to and offered her heartfelt advice. She was shown the way.  So was I. We are never too old to start learning.”

– Rena Weisberg, 2019 WCF Bishop Scholarship Recipient

In 2020, we are incredibly excited to not only continue to fund our existing scholarships and travel stipends but also add scholarships for our new Education Program – which will provide comprehensive courses, with national curriculum standards, for recreational climbers to learn safety standards and preferred practices (including technical systems and environmental/social responsibility) across a variety of climbing disciplines. 2020 courses will include Self Rescue, Multipitch Techniques and Efficiency, Leading Trad and Intro to Outdoors Sport Climbing.

Photo: Vikki Glinskii

We hope that these scholarships and programs funded through our Education and Leadership Development Fund will continue to provide women and non-binary climbers from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, the opportunities to learn from other women, develop their personal and professional climbing skills and connect with others in outdoor spaces.

An equal world is an enabled world. This International Women’s Day, we are donating 100% of proceeds from the day’s global sales on www.arcteryx.com to Flash Foxy to continue our support of the Flash Foxy Leadership & Education Development fund, created to provide resources and opportunities for women to attend Flash Foxy’s educational climbing events.