• Sarah Schlaefke

Bitches and pitches and how there's nothing bitchy about it at all, actually

The MUFA Lady Crushers at the Red in Oct. 2016.

I will always feel at least just a little bit bad for men because they will never experience what it’s like to be empowered by fellow females. Yup, they get to bro around and do the dude-things they want to do, but the situation between girls is so much more different that it’s almost a shame that it doesn’t exist universally. You’ll see what I mean in a second.

I also want to flat out say right now, so that none of you overreact about it, but I like climbing with anyone, as long as you're not being dumb and mean about it. So if you're a guy, cool, let's climb, if you're a girl, cool, let's climb. Don't be butt-hurt about my praise for women in climbing for a sec, though.

Growing up, I remember telling people how much I hated girls, aside from my best friend Stefi. I hated the competition, I hated the rivalry, and I hated always feeling fake and treated fakely when I was around girls. So really early, I gave up on having girlfriends and just went the guy-friendly only route for a long time. That crashed and burned for certain reasons that I can talk about some other time, but it left me lonely and not sure where I was going to find friendship in a world where we were separated by gender.

Once I got into climbing, I realized that the greatest thing about the sport is that women freaking slay in it. There are girl crushers all over the place, all over the world, of all ages, absolutely killing it. From mad crushers like Margo Hayes and Ashima who aren’t even adults yet, to the OG queen Lynn Hill, their faces are everywhere and they are highly respected and motivating.

McKenzie and I on her first mulipitch and greatest climbing accomplishment to date!

So, what the heck am I talking about? Yesterday, I had the utmost honor and blast leading my friend up her first multipitch. And from the start, she mentioned how different it was climbing with me instead of always being out on the crag with her boyfriend, too. Now, I have nothing against climbing with your SO, because it is one of my all-time favorite things to do, but there is a huge empowerment difference sometimes when it comes to crushing with your boo and crushing with your girls.

I don’t feel like spending my time calling out the negative things that happen when guys and girls climbing together, because there are also a ton of positive things that go down, too. Instead, let’s talk lady-crushing, because that’s the thing that men are missing out on. Strong girls being strong girls.

I think I grew up before people cared about the whole “shrink it and pink it” thing, because I played with 100% girls toys when I was a kid, and I don’t remember ever being told that I could be a strong grimy girl, instead of a princess always in need of being saved. But in climbing, I can be as strong and dirty as I want, covered in mud and sweat from three days ago if I really want it that way. I can also look good and wear clothes I like in colors I like. Why? Because I can. Because as a girl, with other girls around me, we are building the ladies climbing culture from the ground up, and that’s pretty neat.

The best part about being a lady crusher, though, is the lady crushers I’m surrounded by. While I was climbing with my friend yesterday, it was all positive, it was all learning, and she figured out that you don’t need guys to climb. We got this just as much as anyone else.

MUFA Lady Crushers at Palisade Head, MN, Sept. 2016

Back home, in my heart-home of MUFA, my old climbing team at Marquette University, my few best friends and I were the Lady Crushers. And I knew that when I came here, I would truly be missing my strong friends who challenged me every day to be better, be stronger and be happier as a person and climber. I got some of the best friendships of my life out of climbing with them and hanging out with them, and I think it was because our relationships lacked competition and rivalry, and instead was built on trust, support and empowering each other, celebrating wins together and mourning losses until we could help each other get back on our feet.

Fallon and I taking a break from the learning in City of Rocks, ID, Sept. 2017.

Here in SLC, I’m part of this group called the Wasatch High Society, which is a bunch of women who get together and pull plastic every week and then hang out when we can on the other days. It’s empowering to be around other girls who want you to do your best and be your best. I don’t know if guys can say the same. I don’t know if guys even have crusher groups like that.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ask plenty of people to teach me some top-site rescue things. I picked my friend Fallon to teach me because she makes me feel like a strong, capable person. We traded notes on climbing and just being a person in the world we’re in and it was a glorious weekend, full of lady-empowerment.

My friend told me yesterday that she was inspired by me. I only lead a 5.6, 3-pitcher, but she still had a fire light up in her from climbing that behind me. What’s the difference? Why was she psyched about following me up, but not so much about following her boy up? I don’t know, but I feel it, too, when I go out and get on the rocks with my girl friends.

It’s a different, pure joy, full of aspiration and lots and lots of estrogen, which I have absolutely no problem with nowadays.

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