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B.I.G. Initiative Expands with 15 Women Only Rock Climbing Programs in 2022

Bring in the Girls (B.I.G.) Initiative is offering rock climbing courses for woman across Canada in 2022

The Bring in the Girls (B.I.G.) initiative started in 2019 thanks to the hard work by founder Geneviève de la Plante. B.I.G. produced several films in 2021 and in 2022 released a film series called Not Just a Boys’ Club.

Over this past winter, B.I.G. ran workshops for women who wanted to learn how to set routes, and now they’re offering outdoor rock climbing courses across Canada. We touched base with Alexa Fay with B.I.G. about the rock climbing courses that you can sign-up to participate in this year. You can learn more and the B.I.G Initiative here.

When did B.I.G. start offering courses? B.I.G. started offering outdoor courses last Fall. We had a huge amount of interest, so we decided to offer the outdoor courses again this year. The purpose of the courses is to provide training and instruction to women in an all-inclusive all female (and female identifying/non-binary) space, while also valuing and supporting female guides by paying them for their expertise. The idea for the outdoor courses came from talking to women in the community, and realizing that so many of them experience climbing outdoors for the first time or learn the skills they need to be independent climbers through male friends or partners. And while this is not a problem in and of itself, we decided we wanted to provide a space for women to learn from other women in a supportive environment, so that they could either experience outdoor climbing or develop advanced skills they need to be autonomous in the outdoors from other women.

What was the response to the routesetting events? The routesetting events are a separate program from this one, but the response has been really positive! So far, since the end of 2021, we have run 4 Intro to Routesetting workshops (Quebec City, Winnipeg, Windsor and Vancouver) and 2 advanced Intro to Comp Setting workshop (Fredericton and Mississauga). We also had our American instructor, Flannery Shay-Nemirow train 6 Canadian female setters to be able to give the courses. Since this instructor training, we’ve had 3 new instructors teach the workshops: Kim Polisois, Sachi Adachi and Alison Stewart-Patterson. We also trained Corinne Baril, Natasha Reid and Liz Maffett, who will both be teaching some workshops in the near future. We are currently planning our next locations for the rest of 2022. We plan on doing five more workshops.

When and where is the first outdoor course? Our first outdoor course will take place on May 8 in Squamish, BC. Our guide will be Bronwyn Hodgins and the course is an intro to multi-pitch climbing. We have decided to offer 15 courses throughout Canada this year.

Who will be teaching? We are hoping to hire 7-8 different guides and offer a variety of courses, from a guided “transition to outdoor climbing” course to more advanced multi-pitch, leading trad or rock rescue courses. So far, we have the following guides who are confirmed: Bronwyn Hodgins, Teresa Yau, Andréanne Vallières and Emma Contaoe, but we are still finalizing the schedule with other guides.

Do climbers need much experience? Each course has different prerequisites depending on the experience needed and what will be taught. Some courses don’t need any experience, while other require being a competent leader with experience outdoors. All prerequisites are always mentioned in the course description.

How can climbers sign-up? We will be announcing each course through our Instagram page (below), and will be updating our website regularly. Climbers just need to fill out a form and we will contact them if they’ve been selected.

How can climbers sign-up? Last year, we functioned on a first-come first-serve basis and all the courses were free, but this year we decided to run things a little differently. Course selection is still done on a first-come, first-serve basis, but we are making sure to ensure diversity and representation by reserving certain sports to underrepresented communities and folks whose socio-economic situation has been a barrier to them participating in climbing outdoors. And instead of running the courses for free, we are taking payment on a “pay what you can” sliding scale, taken as donations to the organization. Courses are valued between $125 – $180 per participant depending on the course. The idea behind this is to be able to offset costs and be able to offer more courses year-round. We are concentrating on routesetting workshops and outdoor courses for 2022, but are planning some new programs for 2023.