A few weeks ago, Women’s Trad Festival made an announcement that after 8 years of incredible events, it would come to a conclusion. I wrote this just after I had my first WTF experience in 2018.

The festival gave me the confidence to lead climb more but it also made me realise how important it is to have a supportive environment and to be around women of a similar age to climb with.

Women’s Trad Festival 2018

What a fabulous, inspirational, and psyched weekend!

The Women’s Trad Festival is a climbing festival and this year, it was based near Hathersage, Peak District. The idea is that a group of women (but not exclusively) get together and climb; learner climbers are paired with leaders who then show them the ropes (literally).

I saw the WTF event on Facebook last year and thought at the time it sounded pretty cool as I’d just started trad climbing. When I saw it advertised for this year, I put it in my diary. 9 am came for the tickets to go online, I was poised with my mouse at my PC at work…..sold out!!! Tickets went in 3 minutes so I put my name on the waiting list, thinking nothing else of it. Then at the end of July, I got a message asking if I still wanted a leaner place. Yes, please!!  3rd August came, I finished work, did a final check of the weather (it was going to be a hot one) before packing my kit for the weekend.

(Photo Source: WTF 2018)

The event was held at Thorpe Farm Bunkhouse just outside Hathersage, Derbyshire. For anyone who doesn’t know the area, it’s beautiful and a perfect place for a mini-festival with camping supplies readily available in Hathesage as well as having one of the best stocked outdoor shops I know in the Peak District – Outside which has extremely knowledgeable staff and a great cafe.

On arriving at the campsite, I was met with a calm but excited atmosphere as tent were being put up and everyone was getting to know their new neighbours. as the goody bags full of merch, more people were modelling their new Rab t-shirts.  I still wear mine in 2023. It was even recognised by another lady at the top of Curved Ridge in Glen Coe!.

Things started to quieten down from about 10 am, especially when there was an optional 7 am run in the morning.

I met my leader Morag in the morning, a Scottish deaf lady (@Morag_Skelton). Although Morag had only been climbing for 2 years, she was qualified for her Single Pitch Award. And because she was a redhead, I knew she would be sensible in the sun …and it was going to be a hot day! She also asked if she could bring her 3-month-old Australian Shepherd Alia (@ailatheadventurepup) with us…..of course! I’d be without Lance Superdog all weekend, so having a canine companion around was great and Aila was super well-behaved for such a young pup.

“The whole day empowered me and I felt a lot more confident in my ability.”

Morag had been in the Peak District before but only to Stanage, Millstone and Lawrence Field. I suggested Burbage North. We did 9 climbs that day, not terribly long or difficult but it was great to get all the practise; tying in, belaying, placing gear. Morag didn’t push me, but she knew when I was procrastinating whether to make the next move or not; she reassured me. This gave me a boost and I didn’t get scared or lose my nerve. The whole day empowered me and I felt a lot more confident in my ability.

On Day 2 we went to Bamford where I led one route and down climbed another after deciding I didn’t want to go any further without protection. We climbed a cool and fun 1-star caving-style route (photo) and a 2-star Severe.

Signing back in by our curfew (5pm), I felt accomplished and empowered. Although I hadn’t jumped out of my comfort zone during the weekend, I’d certainly pushed around the edges.

Next time I’m out climbing, I’ll be taking the lead!

Thanks to @WomensTradFestival and all the people who helped create such a magical event.

(Photos below, source: WTF 2018)

Fast forward to 2023

I’ve stopped climbing for this year to focus on other sports closer to home. Living on Doncaster, getting to any trad venues is at least 45 mins drive and walk and you can’t guarantee who you’re going to be climbing with. It wasn’t working for me this year. No doubt I’ll pick it up again, but WTF gave me an amazing opportunity to show what I can do. And a massive thanks to Morag Skelton who was my climber ‘leader’ for the weekend.

Although I’ve put climbing on the back burner this year, you can follow my other adventures on social or on my Blog page.

Facebook @GemmaWildWays |  Instagram @wildways_adventures