(a bit late but I was busy moving from Chamonix to Bulgaria…)
As January was coming to a close, I planned to visit Alice for some action on the Peak District grit. Our excitement was quickly curbed by a catastrophic weather forecast and I said, half jokingly, it was a pity that BIFF registration was closed.
I arrived the following day and Alice casually announced that she bumped into Shauna Coxsey and signed us up for the comp. Despite all the tickets being sold out, the imbalance between male and female competitors was so great (five men to one woman!) that two additional chicks were more than welcome.
Having recently won the overall Blocfest title, Alice knows a thing or two about competing, so she ordered a day of slouching on the couch, gentle stretches and eating good food while waiting for BIFF in the evening. I liked that.
I liked it slightly less when we arrived at The Works and saw the women’s starting list. Le Neve, Garnbret, Tracey, Thompson-Smith, Flaherty. Apart from Alice and me, every single competitor was a pro climber or at least a GB team member. As much as I was excited to see all those crushers crush, I suddenly felt very inadequate.
For a quick moment we pondered pulling out. Then we saw a guy getting ready to climb in a sumo costume, a big fridge hanging off the ceiling and Michaella Tracey’s fancy make up. We realised everybody was there to have a good time. Our relative climbing inability wasn’t gonna stop us from enjoying ourselves and enjoy we did!
We pulled hard, swung like mad, squeezed the fridge and failed a lot. We didn’t hurt ourselves. We laughed. We had pizza and beer. We ached for a week after. It was brilliant.
Yes, I came last and Alice was one but last yet I felt tremendously proud for trying bloody hard. I’m definitely signing up next year but, as much as I don’t mind coming last, I’d like to see more women at BIFF, trying their hardest even though they might not be world class climbers.
It led me to wonder if there was a kind of stigma about being a female, putting yourself out there and trying really, really hard. Unless women are simply less fond of dynamic movement, music and pizza, I can’t see a different reason for only twelve female climbers showing up at BIFF.
The level was high and even the easiest problems felt hard to me. Hopefully, as the event grows the organisers will be able to offer a day of qualifications and a day of finals in a manner similar to bigger comps. As long as it doesn’t come at the cost of losing the goofy atmosphere, I’m looking forward to seeing that.