Is Rock Climbing for Women – An Older Woman Perspective

Chris Sarma in Yangshuo ChinaIs rock climbing for women? This was not the first question I asked myself when I started climbing. My first question was am I strong enough? However, both questions are related. I observed males climbed more frequently than females. There were not many women because it required upper body strength so I thought.

In this article, I will share the nitty-gritty details of the good and the bad of rock climbing from a 50-year-old lady (me) experience.

Is it a hype or fad? or Is it good for only the younger generations with much more strength, endurance, and energy. I wrote an article regarding “Rock Climbing Images – What are the Perceptions of Rock Climbing?” Click on the title to read more.

There are physical requirements of being a rock climber in addition to strength, endurance, and energy. Of course, every sport requires some kind of strength, endurance, and energy. Balance and flexibility are additional two important physical aspects of climbing. The ability to balance your toes on a small hold or rock while pivoting your body and re-positioning to stay on the wall takes practice. Being flexible is very helpful especially when there is a reach involved. Relying on strength alone is a missed conception of rock climbing.

What is the Advantage of a Woman Physique for Climbing?

I encountered many size and shape climbers along with different levels of climbers. It all depends on how serious you are as a climber. climbers

You may notice the most competitive climber physiques. They are slim and sinewy. You may not even see the rippling of their muscles until they climb. Being bulky with lots of muscle can sometimes be ineffective and cumbersome. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to have power and mass however you may want to be able to move effectively to the top before tiring yourself out. Every power move can take a lot of energy out of you.

In general, women inherit two physical aspects that are helpful for climbing. They are balanced and flexible. Women have lower hip than men hence the lower center of gravity which helps with balancing. You don’t have to do the full split like gymnasts but naturally, women are more flexible than men which makes it easier for us to reach out with our legs or even fold ourselves in a tight spot with less struggle and pain.

Also, with a less powerful upper body and shorter reach, women climbers have to use alternative ways to climb effectively and powerfully. We use feet and handhold techniques, body positioning, and weight shifting to climb. Therefore, we learn to compensate for the power with techniques.

What Prevent Women From Climbing?

Similar to many sports the mental aspect plays an important role in rock climbing as well. The fear of height or falling often comes into the picture. The mind is the power tool to work to your benefit but sometimes can be a hindrance. Your mind prevents you to do anything to hurt yourself such as jump off a cliff without any parachute or rope to support the landing. However, even when your mind knows that there is a rope to catch your fall, the thought of falling is scary and can prevent you from moving forward. I know the feeling. It is a challenge to overcome fear when it is present. Here are a few articles to help you overcome your fear:

How To Overcome Fear of Falling – Seven Tips for Beginning Climbers

Facing my Fear – The Fear of Falling

Yes, I do get fearful of height and falling. I respect those fears and thank them for the reminders to keep me alive and safe. However, I focus primarily on looking forward or up to my destination instead of looking down when I climb. It is fun to see my progress. I enjoy a technical challenge.

Culture and social conditions are other aspects that prevent women from trying rock climbing. In the past, women were limited to sports, education, and jobs in most cultures. Some may even feel embarrassed and perhaps not worthy. Now, the time has changed and more opportunities are opened. Women of all ages are participating in rock climbing including myself. I found that women and especially girls have great advantages when it comes to climbing. I often watch the Aiguille Team girls climb and they are strong, agile, and fearless.

The Good

Some of you who are reading this article may think you are too old to climb. Please reconsider. You are not too old. I found an inspiring article about a 91-year-old climberCLICK HERE to read more.

OK, it is not easy for me to pose in these poses and share them with the world. These photos were taken in January 2019. I have to get over my own embarrassment and judgment. It took me several weeks to finally have the courage to finish this article with the pictures below. These pictures are not only about me. It is about what is possible for you. Please keep in mind I do not lift weights, do not do push-ups, sit-ups, or pull-ups. The only exercise I do is climb 2 to 3 times a week and run 3 to 4 miles twice a week.

ha biceps

Yes, there are days when I do not feel like climbing. As I aged another year, my body is stiffer and crankier. However, I always felt so good after a few hours of good climbing no matter what state I was in when I started. Although sometimes there is a scratch, ding, bruise, or muscle pull here and there, overall my body feels lighter and much more relax and limber.

I love to build up a sweat. People may think I am strange but sweating helps my body feel great. Maybe it is in my head but I feel that I
achieved or accomplished a fun challenge when I sweat.

Ever since climbing, I feel that my body has been the strongest and most tone in my 50s than when I was in my 30s. I activate the small muscles all over my body and engage my core constantly. My abs look tone (almost like a six-pack, maybe?). There is less flabby under my arm (the triceps). What really gets me excited is that I feel energized and youthful.

ha muscles

The Bad

Climbing is not all pretty. Yes, you do build strength and tone your muscles. However, your feet and hands do suffer the consequences. My hands have big knuckles and they do sometimes hurt to bend or straighten after a strenuous climb.

left hand

My feet are not the prettiest. My husband calls them talons. They are not definitely pleasing to the eyes. The big toes are callused. Some toenails are black and dead because of the climbing shoes. I would not say this is a great sport if you want long and pretty nails.

knarly feet

Yes, you will rip some skin, bruise, or pull a muscle here and there when climbing. However, don’t we do that when we walk, run, or play tag? Besides all that, I think there are many physical and mental benefits definitely outweigh the callused hands and feet. Here are two articles that you may enjoy reading with climbing benefits:

Five Top Rock Climbing Benefits

Seven Reasons Why Rock Climbing is a Great Sport for Women


Overall, I can easily say that climbing is my favorite sport. It brings out my inner strength mentally and physically. Climbing is great for all gender and ages. This article is primarily focused on persuading, uhhh, I mean inspiring women to give climbing a try.

I am only kidding. Climbing is open to everyone but not everyone would find it fun. It is still considered to be an alternative sport with an inherent risk of being killed or seriously injured. You can also argue, “One can get pretty badly hurt doing gymnastics or play football, right?” Either way, it is up to each individual in finding his or her own fun like I find my fun in rock climbing.

Give it a try who knows you may like it. Find out for yourself “Is Rock Climbing for Women?” I love to hear your thoughts about rock climbing. Please leave them in the comments below.

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