The girls’ route

How can girls climb up dizzying rock faces? Who helps them? An even harder question. Women’s climbing really is more mysterious than men’s. How can they conquer a vertical world with minimal footholds and even smaller handholds, when they do not have as much raw strength as a brave boy? When they match their strength in the gym the boy is stronger, but on the rock face this advantage fades or is even reversed. When climbing, girls overcome difficulties with a ‘different’ type of knowledge. One day they will explain to us precisely what this difference is, but until then let us take a risk and say what we have learned from them. First of all they do not need as much raw strength in their muscles. Why? Girls do not talk about this, but you can observe how much less strength they use, as though they did not need it. They have a greater harmony with the rock, and significantly better balance. Their movements are slower, but precise and coordinated. The point: they are not coordinated as a sum of movements of fingers, palm, hand, leg, head, shoulder, but as a whole, which is more than the sum of all these movements. Holism. Everywhere at once and nowhere singly.


When a man conquers the rock he is separate from it. He may outwit it, he may charm it and persuade it, something which the youth seeking the grail is able to do, but… someone has to give way and let the other pass. With women, though, it is as though this was not necessary. Right from the start, girls tackle the rock differently. There is no division of either/either. Either me or you. The girl senses naturally, intuitively. There are always several possible ways, the solution never lies in one alone. And furthermore they know how to wait.  Where the boy uses a lot of strength to stay on a foothold, the girl stands there easily, almost as though she were resting, and, apparently without a plan, plans her next moves. A gentle contact of the thumb with the middle finger. A different time? Just one answer: climbing is not a thing of the gymnasium. The language that man has established with nature, which hears it and chases it, is centuries old. The rubber on climbing shoes, pitons and nuts may change, but the love for the stone is the same.

By Igor Škamperle; From the book Flight of the swallow.