2019 WCF BISHOP SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS

Photo by Sarah Klintworth

It’s always been important for us here at Flash Foxy for our festivals to be accessible, and this word captured a wide net. We want it to be financially accessible for womxn to attend, financially accessible for womxn to come teach, for WOC, queer, trans and femme-identifying nonbinary folks to feel safe, for disabled climbers to be able to physically access our space and more! As a small grassroots WOC-owned company less than four years old, we will be the first to admit that this is an ambitious goal and one that we are continuing to work on. We are humbly learning from our mistakes, with the support of our wonderful partners and our goal is for each festival to bring us closer and closer to that vision. 

This is why we are so excited to have been able to offer 10 scholarships to all our of festivals in 2019, beginning with our longest-standing festival in Bishop, CA in March 2019 – something we’ve been wanting to add to our festival since the very beginning.  All scholarship recipients received a complimentary ticket to the Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop along with a $250 travel stipend. Throughout the selection process, we sought to prioritize women and folks of underrepresented genders who are working to make climbing a more equitable, inclusive and diverse space. We also took financial need into consideration while strongly encouraging women of color, LGBTQ+ and indigenous womxn to apply.

We would love to thank our wonderful volunteers made sure that each submission was read anonymously at least twice with the top 30 applications being read by at least 4 different readers. For more information about our selection process, please check out our scholarship page.

Without further ado, please check out the wonderful women we got to meet this year in Bishop! Click on their photo to read about their time at the festival!

ALICIA

ALICIA MENDEZ

CAMILLE WEISBERG

Keely

KEELY CAROLAN

KRISTAN

KRISTAN CULBERT

RENA

RENA WEISBERG

SHANEYKA YAZZIE

SOFIA

SOFIA PETROS

SHANNON

SHANNON MONTAÑO


ALICIA MENDEZ

Courage, growth, and intimacy—this is what I felt and am still feeling, reeling after this years women’s climbing festival on the Payahuunadü lands. Immediately upon arriving I found my crew, some of the leaders of Brown Girls Climb, whom I’d already met. I remembered the last time I’d attended the fest—2017 in Chattanooga. I was brand new to climbing, came with a couple girl friends from my local gym, but knowing groups like BGC existed, I scanned the crowds to find my people. Women of color were around, they were, but like me, they were with their friends who were predominantly White women. This year, this experience, was nothing like my previous.

The women’s climbing festival began with a land acknowledgement, and this is where my learning began. As a passing Mexican woman my experiences with privilege, racism, and classism are not that of my browner friends. I’ve known for a long time that this means it is imperative I challenge more and louder, and importantly I must listen and learn from others whose experiences are not my own. Immediately and rightfully my privilege was challenged as I realized how often I’ve not acknowledged the lands or its peoples that give me so much—water, shade, respite, and rejuvenation. This year, however, I hung on Jolie Valera’s every word as she taught me to think about every step I take, where I take that step, and the people who came long before me, her people, and the many other indigenous peoples whose land was violently stolen from them.

This year’s ‘Women in Climbing’ panelists spoke openly and honestly about the ways the climbing community can and should be better to all peoples and the lands. In this panel I immediately noticed the growth of the women’s climbing festival. The moderator created a safe space to talk about difficult topics, not only for the panelists, but for the audience members too. In 2017 I felt too nervous, too insecure, too out-of-place to ask questions that would challenge some of the panelists’ privilege. This year the panel challenged me, and challenged the audience to do and be better.

I was fortunate enough to be apart of the Brown Girls Climb ‘Self Advocacy as a Woman of Color in Rock Climbing’ session. This session, with the strong and bold women in attendance, is where I, yet again, did so much learning. However, this learning process was different—it was rooted in intimacy. I was surrounded by women who consistently prioritized my safety, and my voice. I found my sisters at this festival, I found a wholeness I’ve never experienced in climbing spaces prior.

It was a romantic experience, and for all rocks I touched, for the first time ever, I felt a little stronger knowing and acknowledging its history and how much it continues to give to me and others, even when we don’t ask “is this OK? Are you OK?”


CAMILLE WEISBERG

In this world, there aren’t very many places I can just be me.

If you’ve ever been in high school, you’ll know it’s a wild ride. 

If you’ve ever been through the educational system as a rock climber, you’ll know it’s certainly a time full of “Oh my god! Do you rock climb? Aren’t you scared you’re going to fall?” “Oh, rock climbing? Like that movie Free Solo? Do you do that?” 

If you’ve ever sat in a classroom as a tiny brown girl being compared to a bunch of white guys with at least a foot, a hundred pounds, and no less than seven 5.15 sends on you, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

These days, it’s my mom and me against the sports world. We’re not into the whole ‘conquer the rock, tame the beast’ mindset, so we usually slink away to the far corners of the outdoor sports world. We hike at thin hours of the morning, when the world has not yet pushed off her blanket of mist, when the plants are still unfurling and the sky is so, so big. The full expanses of Mother Nature are best when it’s just the two of us, when we are free to explore and fall and run and climb and jump and laugh and everything in between. And that is the best feeling in the world. 

I’ve never been shy of climbing with other people. Well… maybe a little bit. I’m no Margo Hayes or Nina Williams. In a large climbing environment, there’s a high chance that if there are climbers my age, they’ll be climbing 5.12. And if there are climbers that want to help me, there’s a good chance they’re guys standing at 6’0” climbing 5.15. But climbing with my mom in front of people is no problem. I’d like to think we have our own little bubble sometimes; two girls just climbing for the sake of clearing our heads and having fun cheering each other on. I’ve come to not expect much from climbing in a big group of people, as it’s merely an opportunity to climb some new routes, push myself just that little bit more, watch, and learn. 

Flash Foxy was different. 

From the way my mom grinned as she told me we would be going, I knew it was going to be a different experience. An all-women climbing festival determined to make sure everyone was included? One where we would all watch films at night about other awesome women in nature doing awesome things, like climbing in Iceland and barrel racing in rodeos and learning to love their bodies through ocean and lake swimming? One that actually paid attention to the people who originally inhabited the land (and still do), the true names for the land, and the respect due to it? It seemed impossible. I don’t wanna pull a stereotypical ‘little did I know,’ but… it’s a bit necessary here. I had no idea my experience would be what it was. 

The ride there was nothing short of magical. We packed our ‘puffies,’ (that one nylon Patagonia jacket every climber seems to have in at least three colors), all our gear, some snacks and a couple of good books, and headed off in a tiny rental Volkswagen Bug. A little grumbling about the size of our vehicle aside, all was well. We got to our hotel room late at night, heads filled with dreams of the day to come.

We arrived to the grounds of the festival in that hour of the morning where the fog around the mountains has not yet been chased away from the sun, but the earth is still warm. As we murmured to each other and smiled at the sight of the sign in the front, I found myself not comparing myself to a single person I saw. Instead of internal dialogue putting myself down for not being as tall, as strong, as skilled as the (usually white) men around me, I found myself noting how cool a passersby’s hair was, how delicious the food served looked, a beautiful tattoo. And most of all: I found myself noticing that everyone there looked like me. I could relate to every single person there in some way or another. I saw a piece of myself or something I wanted to be in every girl I passed, for the first time. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

The rest of my time at Flash Foxy was everything I could ever want and more. Beautiful scenery, wonderful considerate staff, a powerful clinic with Nina Williams on self-worth and inner strength, a film festival about women, for women, a Native American prayer in the morning and a group painting project by the mountains to top it all off came together to make a weekend forever lodged in my memory. I now think back to all the times my mother and I have stood together in the corner of a climbing gym, or on top of a mountain, and I realize that in no way is it just us against the world. There are thousands of others, just like us, navigating this male-dominated community and fighting for our own space. And when we all come together, magical things happen.

KEELY CAROLAN

The moment that I set foot in the Buttermilks I was in awe. The volume and size of the boulders were like nothing I had seen before, and the mountains that surround everything as you climb are nothing short of awe-inspiring. The only thing that topped the wonder, the veneration, that I felt standing there amidst such beautiful and historic lands was the extraordinary women I had the opportunity to interact with over the following few days. After watching the festival from afar (through social media) for many years, I never considered that I would be lucky enough so as to get the opportunity to attend. I will forever be grateful for the generosity of Flash Foxy (huge thanks to Shelma and Vicky) that allowed me to have the pleasure of many small moments which created such a very impactful weekend. 

I have always believed in the power of sisterhood, but to experience that atmosphere firsthand is something else entirely. As we all know, the energy of the weekend was incomparable and infectious. The support that you feel being surrounded by people who come from shared experiences, even if everyone came from different backgrounds, is one of the most empowering things I have every experienced. It inspired activism and reflection, leaving me with a feeling of reinvigoration. But more importantly, I felt hopeful for the future of where the climbing community is headed. 

In the grand scheme of things, I am pretty young. I am an 18 year old female climber who is still just trying to figure this life stuff out. Over the past year I feel as though I have become a lot more self aware, as though I am finally coming into my own consciousness about who I am, what my purpose is, what my desires and dreams are. To be able to listen to, and share stories with, so many strong, inspiring, and worldly women was an experience that I will not easily forget (nor would I want to!). My experiences at this festival are something that I know will have an impact on me for the rest of my life.

One of the more impactful things I experienced over the weekend was a workshop with Nina Williams about realizing your inner strength. Quite honestly, I was not prepared for the revelations I would experience during this workshop! Aside from my own journey of self-discovery, being able to hear the different stories and experiences from other people in the workshop was very empowering–through all the variations in timelines, levels of dedication to climbing, and experiences with the community, we were able to find similarities that we were all connected by. 

Hearing the perspectives of people that I do not ordinarily have contact with in my local climbing community was very eye-opening. From these interactions I drew a greater understanding of myself, yes, but also about the way that we as recreationists, interact with the lands that we utilize. I learned things that I have already begun to bring back to the groups of people I climb with regularly, ideas and practices that will make for a more aware and welcoming atmosphere where everyone is empowered. So thank you to the women who supported each other, listened to each other, and helped open each others eyes to things they may not have known before. 

KRISTAN CULBERT

The wind howled, and I shivered in the back seat of my car. The guys sharing the group campsite with my friends and I were hooting and hollering into the wee hours of the morning, and I’d opted to catch up on sleep in the cramped backseat of my car rather than attempt to unfurl my windblown tent in the middle of the night. I curled into the fetal position, poked my head out of the corner of my mummy bag, looked up at the dome light on my car, and smiled. It had been nearly a year since I’d last touched any real rock, and—sleep be damned—I was going to finally, finally scratch my climbing itch and take time from my busy grad school schedule to do something for myself. Shivering, I glanced out of my car’s rear window into the cold, clear night sky and silently thanked myself for throwing caution to the wind. I’d applied for a Flash Foxy scholarship mere weeks after I’d had an emergency gallbladder removal during my very first week of grad school, and I had no idea how I was going to make things work. 

After a few years of working in the environmental field, I’d built up my hopes for grad school. This was my chance to finally use my intellect to pursue exciting projects, answer deep questions I’d had about science and ethics, and take professional risks. I was running at full steam ahead, excited about the chance to move ahead in my field and make more of a difference. My first two quarters left me emotionally and spiritually-drained in unexpected ways. I’d had a few panic attacks and felt isolated as one of few women of color in my graduate program. I was looking forward to a few days’ of renewal and rest in the Eastern Sierra, but I hadn’t expected Women’s Climbing Festival to be such a healing experience.

Everything from the Intro to Trad Clinic (Lizzy is an incredible person!) that I’d switched into at the last minute to the food prepared by the Bishop Lions Club (wow, homemade lasagna!) was a labor of love. Jean Tucky’s yoga workshop helped me reconnect with my body, which I realized was still healing from the stress of school. Yes, I was there to climb and catch up with friends, but the quiet moments I spent silently staring up at the snow-capped peaks of the Sierras was just what I needed to renew my spirit. The prayer song led by Erynne Gilpin, founder of Indigenous Womxn Climb, at the start of our stewardship project was one of the highlights of my time at the festival. Listening to her speak blessings upon our group and invoke the spiritual nature of the sacred lands that we were climbing in was an incredibly special, powerful, healing experience that I will always cherish. This festival fed my soul, and I feel ready to return to school to hopefully go on and do great things.

RENA WEISBERG

With good fortune and tremendous gratitude, my fourteen year old daughter and I were able to attend the women’s climbing festival.   I am a single mom, supporting two kids on my own, and the scholarship made it possible.

After we arrived, and sat waiting for the opening panel discussion to begin, I looked around at all in attendance.  I felt such awe, as I don’t believe I had ever before sat in a room filled with so many unique and beautiful women. Everywhere I looked; strong, independent, bold, different and special women surrounded us.

Others guided by nature, others seeking wild experiences. Fear isn’t your sole decision maker, this is true for me too.

I don’t actually know any of you.  But I feel like I do.

So many around me were young.  This is so impressive to me. How are you so brave already?

I am 45 years old.  It’s only been like 6 or 7 years since I have found my own courage and independence:  to finally start doing the things girls/women/moms(!) are NOT really supposed to be doing. I had such feelings of satisfaction and peace, to have a whole weekend with other “rule breakers”.  As a mother, I ESPECIALLY feel like I’m not supposed to doing the things that I really love doing; like dreaming of mountain summits and hanging on ropes. It’s weird because when you become a mom, you look around at your peers and see lots of other women kinda just put themselves to sleep. They let all their dreams fade away and everything they do is now solely for their children.

But I can’t do that.  I’m torn. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m still awake to what thrills and scares me, to the growth that I still need to do.  I see that I’m half way thru this life and I started really experiencing life,…so late.

I did what I thought would bring happiness. .  Found a husband, acquired possessions. Tried to fill the holes and to my surprise was still so so miserable.

So looking around at all the young women, I was so proud.  So inspired. You’re listening to yourselves. You weren’t afraid to travel to the festival alone, you already knew that the crag would give you new friends once you were there.    You may only know men that climb, but you climb anyway, with their standards of strength and achievement. And I know lots of you have loved ones that don’t understand and may even give you a hard time about climbing rocks, never knowing what a joyful and pure experience it can be. And you push yourself to do it anyway.    I want to be- like you.

And what a blessing, to have my 14 year old daughter to sit there too among you, hear your stories, see your example, witness the power.  I was filled with happiness. She felt welcomed and safe to share and speak. She was listened to and offered her heartfelt advice. She was shown the way.  So was I. We are never too old to start learning.

It was an honor to meet you and be in your presence.

Keep shining brightly.

Thank you.

SHANEYKA YAZZIE

I recently attended FlashFoxy’s Women’s Climbing festival in Bishop, CA, making the 11 hour drive from the Navajo Nation (Shiprock, NM) with my 7 year old son Eyian. There were so many events happening, we enjoyed every second of it! 

We arrived at the coffee meet and greet, unsure of who we would meet, unfamiliar with the atmosphere and feeling the excitement in the space where I knew, we all shared the same passion and love for climbing. We sat at an empty table for a couple minutes looking around, unsure of where to begin when we were approached by, little did we know would be our forever friend(s) throughout the event. Soon, we had a group of women who shared the same affinity as a minority. Soon we were speaking of visiting the Shoshone/Paiute cultural center and meeting up to climb with one another. It felt like home, being able to connect with women of other tribes, across the country through our culture/language. 

In the evening of the first night, we were able to listen to the Land Acknowledgment which I enjoyed so much from Jolie Varela. I had chills sitting among the crowd, being so grateful and appreciative for the beautiful language/song and true history behind “Bishop”, which I will ever now refer to as Payahuunadü. I came to have so much respect for this woman, having love and land for her people on such a powerful vibe. I had come to learn that I have been following grassroots, Indigenous Women Hike, on Instagram for quite some time, thinking that I would not have the opportunity to interact with such an inspiring individual. 

Fast forward to Saturday, my son and I enjoyed the Open Air Market where a variety of companies/coalitions were set up from Black Diamond, Sportiva, Bishops Climbing Coalition, The Access Fund and so much more. As we were having breakfast, our friend sat by us to smudge, I was in awe surrounded by the open air market/strangers while we welcomed the day with a familiar scent and positive thoughts. We attended the panel where we listened to the four inspiring women on the panel. It was empowering to hear the work they do, challenges they face, and positive solutions.

That afternoon we attend our workshop, Self-Advocacy for WOC led by Jael Berger. To me, it felt like a scared place among other women of color who face such similar situation in our own communities. The circle started out with introductions and an ice breaker. There were moments were it became emotional and other moments where excitement was present. Overall it was a sense of being understood and welcomed. This was by far my favorite event of the whole festival. Discussions around where we partnered up started discussions on topics such as, where was a time we felt we had lost our voice. By the end of our workshop, we smudged and left to climb in good intentions at the Happys. It was amazing to see a group of women, women of color come together to support one another in climbing and real world experiences. 

I am forever grateful for this festival sponsored and attended by so many locals, grassroots, organizers, sisters of color and women, wanting to come together to connect and support one another. I have gained so much, through discussion, cultural relevance, and new friendships. It has inspired me to make change in my own community and continued to support upcoming non-profits. .

SHANNON MONTAÑO

La Frontera

Me llamo Shannon Montaño. Soy de Nuevo Mexico.  Soy Chicana: some mix of some Latin somewhere in my blood. My past ancestors in Nuevo Mexico are mixed from bloodlines of the Spaniards of the East, Aztecas of the South, and Natives from the Pueblos of the North and West. I do not know where I came from. Mi Papá tiene piel moreno, mi mamá tiene piel blanca. Mi piel es como canela. It is not like theirs entirely, just a mix. I speak English. I speak Spanish. But I have no preference. I live en La Frontera de los Idiomas.

I am a sister, I have 6 older brothers and 1 sister who is 13 years older than I. Our hearts are close though we never grew up together. Rather, it was my brothers who molded me into who I am now. I ran fast, I jumped high, but they were always faster and bigger, but I sure TRIED. I was a girl who was told to wash dishes and help en la cocina, but I wanted to be working outside with the boys. La Frontera de la Cultura. 

Now I am 30. I love and I am loved, but I am lonely. I live in Idaho away from mi familia, spicy food, colorful people, and street signs exclusively in Spanish. Yet, I am living a life well worth mentioning. I have made close connections with new friends and and my heart is entwined deep into the mountains of Idaho. 

I am a climber. I live, breathe, and love mountains. I work at a climbing gym. I am a setter, coach, and manager. I am the only woman setting and coaching. I am the only person with these black eyes and this brown skin. I am lonely surrounded by many. La Frontera del Trabajo. 

The Women’s Climbing Fest in Bishop this year was a most unique opportunity, one which I never knew I needed, but had felt the small empty place in my heart aching.

Bishop: sin Fronteras. I belonged. There were so many others like me, those who were in my shoes or had already walked 2 moons in them, and those soon to experience it. That weekend the women of Bishop dominated my heart and my thoughts. I was supported and I felt it seep into my bones. My first day of climbing brought my lovely bones to the Happy’s where I was surrounded by every climber of every background all with a smile on their face. I climbed with no one and everyone that day. My journey even appropriately led me to a boulder called Every Color You Are. Every Color, every woman. Every hour of every minute at WCF I felt I belonged.

I learned so much about myself and my sisters that weekend. I learned to have power and how to have humility. I learned to try hard and when to concede. I learned how to be a mentor when I have had none around me during my time growing in the Boise climbing community. I learned what’s in a name and the importance and power of a person’s, or place’s, name. I have a power in me, in my name, which the WCF helped me find and feel and free. Me llamo Shannon Montaño. Soy una montaña. Una montaña sin fronteras

SOFIA IDA PETROS

It was my first time in so-called Bishop, or Payahuunadü (Land of Flowing Water) as it has been known for time immemorial by the traditional owners of the land. and my first time ever attending a climbing festival, but it was one of the few spaces where I began to feel comfortable adding “climber” to the list of identities I hold. I’ve shied away from actively identifying myself as such, preoccupied by an at times a destabilizing sense of imposter syndrome – that I wasn’t mainstream enough, strong enough, invested enough, or quite simply “enough” to cherish and badge myself with the marker of the thing that grounds me, employs me, provides for me, and connects me to others.

In my scholarship application, I shared my goals for the festival should I be selected – “I hope that leaving “Bishop” this March, I will find myself with heightened confidence and expanded knowledge of both technical skills and my ability to share those with others. This is an idea that is especially exciting to me as a youth climbing coach …with the goal of helping my youth grow as climbers, but also to see strong female climbers in leadership roles.” While the festival itself largely served that function, the clinics that I attended helped me meet those goals perfectly, and then some. During the day on Saturday I attended a workshop led by Brown Girls Climb leaders Jael Berger, Laura Edmondson, and Bethany Lebewitz, focused on self-advocacy tools for women of color in rock climbing. Over the course of the day together, this group of women worked together to build trust, assemble a collective toolkit for effective self-advocacy, shared stories, and built a community beyond the circle in the grass. We climbed together that day in the Happy Boulders, grinning and cheering one another one in a way that I’ve never before experienced. 

On Sunday I took a clinic with Nina Williams, which also took place in the Happys. This was an amazing way to gain technical skills alongside some of the women I had connected with so deeply the day before, integrating these two themes of the weekend was so special. Nina has long been an inspiration of mine and getting to sit in a circle at the trailhead with her and scribble furious notes on everything from finger strength training regimens (update: a few weeks later I’m seeing improvement) to talking yourself through fear and stress while on the rock was beyond incredible. Getting to session with her, get beta – and words of encouragement – was particularly special, but perhaps even so more to learn about what she’s doing to give back to the local community and connecting local indigenous youth on the Bishop Paiute tribe to climbing. Seeing strong female leadership in so many facets of the sport was remarkable. 

There were so many amazing parts of the weekend – I felt and climbed strong. Harder. With large groups of womxn and BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) womxn folks cheering you on where that’s never happened before – you bust through grades and make progress on projects you never thought you’d start. The explicit space to connect and heal provided by @BrownGirlsClimb, @IndigenousWomxnClimb and @IndigenousWomenHike gave me so many new sisters – more than just acquaintances I met briefly – I feel deeply connected to each of these womxn and carry the gifts of vulnerability, truth, tools and laughter that we gave each other that reminds me of all I love in this wild world of climbing. Anchors in a space that can feel very isolating when you return to your home gym/crag. Where in many predominantly male spaces and/or white spaces, in my life and in climbing (let’s be real the line between the two is getting increasingly blurry), I find that I constantly have to explain myself. Announce the “whys” of my presence, opinions, identities, capabilities and qualifications. Among other BIPOC women climbers, I can simply express myself. A powerful reminder that I am more than a spokesperson for my identities and I will move (literal) mountains to continue to create a space in the outdoors for other people that look like me, as they always have done and will continue to do. 

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