Hayley is the Vice President of Programs at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. Outside of work, you can find her climbing, playing Ultimate Frisbee, running, or weight lifting. She’s been climbing for about 3 and a half years, and cannot get enough of it. She lives in South Philly, near Passyunk with her main climbing partner and boyfriend, Evan. Her two current goals: running her first ultramarathon in May and gaining more experience in trad climbing up in the Gunks this year, after learning how to lead on gear last April.

The Crux Chicks hit Utah

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Last September, I reached out to my 6 closest climbing girlfriends, who I had met in Philly but were now spread out all over the country, to see who was interested in a climbing trip. I missed them, I wanted to see them all, and figured there was no better way to get together than climbing, since that was what had originally brought us together. Initially, I proposed going to the Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop… but added, “hell, we could even plan our ladies weekend and just pick a place to go climbing together?!”

Everyone was psyched on the idea of starting our own ladies climbing weekend, and before I knew it, our numbers grew as we each added other women we had gotten to know in each of our respective cities. We decided on Moab, Utah as our climbing destination, and settled on April 4-8 for our long weekend. I booked space at the ACT Campground, in cabins that could sleep 5 to a room. We opted for cabins over tent camping in order to have a bit of luxury--some comfy beds and hot showers at the end of each desert climbing day. In the end, we ended up with 20 women from all over the country--Boston, Philly, New York, Seattle, LA, Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. We decided to name our group the Crux Chicks, and even ordered tank tops to commemorate the weekend.

Who has gear and who’s going to lead?

Prior to the trip, I spent time surveying the group--I asked what grade each woman felt comfortable climbing outdoors, whether she could lead trad or sport, whether she felt comfortable lead belaying, what gear she had--which helped me to figure out areas in Moab that might work for the group. I compiled a list of guidebooks that I recommended to the group, and let people know a handful of areas that I thought would work for the large group, but also encouraged people to do their own research and split off into smaller groups to climb other routes if they wanted. The planning paid off, as there were people who relied on the loose itinerary, but some of the ladies ended up doing their own thing, as well--it was nice that we had a variety of options and that people felt both included, but also encouraged to go off independently.

Where we climbed

Each morning, out in Moab, we split up into small parties or pairs and headed to different walls or towers around the area, but often converged as one big group at crags like Wall Street, where we wouldn’t be taking over, in the afternoons.

On Thursday morning, one group went to Owl Rock (a beautiful desert tower in Arches National Park) and I joined the other group that went to Looking Glass Rock (a three pitch, 5.3, dome structure with a little hole to rappel from at the top) for a fun, easy party climb. We paired up leaders and followers, and enjoyed the views at the top, followed by the super fun 150 foot free rappel and rope swing. Later in the day, everyone converged at Ice Cream Parlour wall for some sport climbing (and a bit of trad!). I was feeling confident, and led up ropes on a few of the harder sport routes on the left side of the wall, like 10TR (a 5.10a), Sticky Fingers (a 5.10), and Parlor Games (5.9).

On Friday, two parties headed to Owl Rock, while the rest of the group spent the day cragging on Wall Street. We got on some of the classics like Flakes of Wrath (trad, 5.9+), 30 Seconds over Potash (trad, 5.8+), Potstash (sport, 5.9), and Sheela-the-Peeler (sport, 5.9), the last two which I led. Wall Street had a great amount of variety for our group--everything from crack trad climbing, to long slabby routes, to an easier top rope section, to crimpy face sport climbs. The grades felt challenging--probably not quite as difficult as the Gunks, but definitely harder than Red Rock in Las Vegas. The camaraderie and enthusiasm was abundant, as we would take turns watching leaders, lending words of encouragement to them as they climbed past the cruxes and cheering them on as they reached the anchors.

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Conquering Owl Rock

On our last climbing day, I joined the last group that wanted to climb Owl Rock that weekend. I belayed as my friend Genevieve led, and then followed her up to the top of the desert tower. I had been previously unsure about leading the route (which is a 5.8, and I had only climbed up to 5.6 on gear previously), but felt confident as I followed up the tower. It was a solid crack with great hand jams and big holds--although it was a bit steep and exposed. After we finished and did our victory top out, we rappelled down to cheer on the second group. Despite climbing hard, about two-thirds of the way up, the second leader was exhausted and feeling a bit ill. She came down off the route after a valiant effort, but her follower still wanted to climb the tower… so I offered to lead. I was a bit nervous because of the grade (which, in the end, was a mental issue and not an ability issue), but I felt strong and confident. I felt like I was floating up the rock and the gear was good. It was great to build confidence following it first, but I experienced a much greater sense of accomplishment and stoke when I took the sharp end and led it myself!

It’s different with women

The trip was one of the best weekends of climbing I have ever had. Each and every woman on the trip pushed herself out of their comfort zone (while, of course, being safe) and tried routes that were at their limit. We supported,belayed,, and taught one another while crushing it! We all agreed that the vibe differed from when we’ve climbing with our male partners, in that, when things got hard or scary, instead of turning the sharp end over, we looked each other in the eyes and gave a hearty “You got this!” or “Hey, shake it out, then keep climbing!” or “It’s okay to be scared, and yes it’s hard, but you are strong enough to do this.” It was really inspiring to climb with so many strong women who love this sport as much as I do. I think we all realized what we are capable of in new ways, and bonded over our love of the vertical.

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The future is female - will you join us?

Although the details of my overall vision for the future of Crux Chicks is uncertain what I know for sure is this: I will be making this an annual trip, and I hope to grow it so that we can continue to mentor one another, hone our skills, and fortify our courage. I’m excited for what the future holds, and hope to welcome other strong women in the years to come!

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If you’re reading this, and would like to join us for future Crux Chicks weekends—please reach out to me! I want to build our community, and give women more opportunities to climb outdoors while passing along their skills to newer ladies or learning from more experienced women. You can email me or find me on Instagram at @hayley3390.