Summerfest scholarships

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 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 – and continuing with Summerfest in Fayetteville, WV. All 5 scholarship recipients received a complimentary ticket to the Summerfest 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 folks we got to meet this year in Fayetteville! Click on their photo to read about their time at the festival!




Sam Pappas

Vanessa Tyler


It was an honor to be chosen as a scholarship recipient for Flash Foxy’s Summerfest. I was excited when I find out it was going to be in at the New River Gorge in West Virginia; a wild and wonderful state that I have been wanting to climb in. I was a bit hesitant at first, traveling to small rural towns in the south as a WOC creates some anxiety, but I knew this event would be worth it and I was not wrong. 

Walking up to the campsite, through the mud to register, I was a little intimidated. Nina Williams was giving a presentation and I tried not to fan girl, I saw faces I recognized from following them on Instagram and only 1 year into my climbing journey I sort of felt like I hadn’t earned my stripes yet in this space. Part of me wanted to head back to the hotel because honestly what did I have to offer, but I didn’t I put on my big girl pants and introduced myself to people and was quickly reminded why I love this crazy rock climbing community so much. 

West Virginia welcomed us with rain storms the whole weekend but that did not dampen anyone’s spirits or put out the stoke.  The AAC campground was buzzing with excitement. The anxiety I had the night before was washed away at breakfast Saturday morning. A kind stranger lent me a plate because I forgot to bring mine from the hotel. I sat with people I had never met before and we talked and laughed like we had known each other for years. 

We all gathered under the tent after an extensive round of musical tables to listen to a panel on Allyship in Climbing, when we received the weekend program, I knew I did not want to miss this discussion. The panel was incredible. There were hard conversations, thought provoking questions and stories that made you think, “shit I need to be doing more!” I had never thought about an ally being something different to each individual. When Kareemah was sharing about what an ally is to her as a person with disabilities, it was an eye opener; I realized that I consistently overlook my ableism as being a privilege and just by that, I am not being an ally to PWD. I looked back at my interactions with PWD and was able to see where I could do better, I never asked what was needed from me I just assumed I knew what was best. Having sympathy and compassion isn’t bad, assuming that it is what everyone with a disability needs is destructive.

I felt so inspired after that panel, I also felt a little defeated because I realized that there is so much more that the outdoor sector needs to be doing for marginalized groups to feel safe and included. I realized that even as a WOC I still have privilege over another marginalized group and I need to begin to use that privilege to help bring about the change I so badly want to see. I left trying to figure out exactly what I need from allies in my life and ready to establish boundaries, own my space and determined to do better. 

One of my favorite parts of the festival other than the amazing climbing and people, was our stewardship project on Sunday with Access Fund and NRAC. Andrea and Gene are two gems of human beings with infectious drives to keep climbing sustainable. I was so excited to help our community in developing a new climbing area at Needleseye, getting to wield a saw can be pretty exhilarating. I have always been curious as to what goes into keeping the crags I love to climb at, well climbable. I was lucky enough to experience the blood, sweat and a few tears (stinging nettles hurt) it requires to maintain our beautiful climbing areas.  I cut down a tree to clear a path to the wall, tore down kudzo, and uncovered a new found gratitude for this sport. We aren’t just rock climbers; we are environmentalists, advocates, activists, policy changers and fighters. I could see that this weekend, we weren’t here just to climb rocks, we came to learn, give back, work together and figure out how we can improve. 

Vicky and Shelma did an amazing job of creating a safe space that felt inclusive and welcoming. You felt comfortable despite the rain and wetness. There was so much experience, knowledge and passion packed into one weekend that I am still trying to process and absorb everything that happened. I made new friends, accomplished climbing goals, jumped off cliffs, cried, laughed, took some massive whips and had the most fun. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals that just want to make the outdoors wonderful for everyone was such an amazing feeling. Its going to take a lot of grit and hustle but I am confident after meeting, listening to and engaging with these wonderful advocates that were in attendance at the festival I have faith that we will get there. 

Thank you for this incredible opportunity and I look forward to more Flash Foxy festivals.


In my day to day life, I have the privilege of working with and learning from the most hilarious, warm, quirky kids.  They know me as Ms. W, the crazy lady who takes them on outdoor adventures. We camp on the islands in Boston harbor, we guzzle hot cocoa after cross-country skiing in the White Mountains, and we make friends with all the desk staff at our local climbing gym.  When they marvel at my biceps and ask me “How’d you get those guns?” I tell them I simply love to rock climb and then gush about my latest vertical conquest. They tell me I’m nuts but the look of wonder on their faces at the top of a summit gives away their true feelings.  

Before being the leader of the Adventure Club at my school, I rarely spent time in nature.  I was the kind of person who was always game to camp at the local state forest as long as someone brought ingredients for smores.  I was eager to spend more time outdoors but was too intimidated to do it by myself. None of my friends hiked, backpacked or climbed so neither did I.  But when an opportunity to co-chaperone a backpacking trip with students landed in my lap, I jumped on it. As I hiked alongside my students, watching them stumble then brush themselves off, something shifted inside me and I could not deny my yearning for more.  

Over the next three years, I sought out backpacking, skiing, mountaineering and rock climbing training courses.  I started leading my own Adventure Club trips with students, climbed in El Potrero Chico and backpacked 150 miles solo in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  However, despite all of this training and experience, it still remains difficult for me to identify myself to others as a “Climber” or a “Backpacker.” There is something about those terms that continues to feel unattainable and like they couldn’t possibly be used describe to me.  This persistent, nagging, internal struggle—the feeling that I’ll never be good enough to be a “Mountaineer” with a capital M—is what I am trying to protect my students from experiencing. I know our culture narrowly views them as dark-skinned, urban, at-risk youth with disabilities.  In other words, not good enough, not capable enough, not worthy enough to experience the magical outdoors. I try my best to shower them with praise and remind them they belong in the outdoors. These are your woods! You’re a natural born climber! You’re so brave for trying something new!  I broadcast these positive messages to my students while silently repeating them to myself because, truth is, I often need to hear them just as much as they do.

Attending Flash Foxy’s Summerfest was confirmation there are places where my students’ strengths will be celebrated.  It was a concrete example of a community where women, people of color, and athletes with disabilities, are as leaders and experts.  It reminded me I am a part of a larger movement working towards a common goal of equitable access to the outdoors. Being surrounded by people whose views, skin-color, and backgrounds mirrored my own was affirmation that I too belong. 


Summerfest both excited and terrified me. I couldn’t wait to climb rock in a new place. I couldn’t wait to meet people, and better yet, meet people who were also as stoked to climb as I was. Yet while the idea of being independent and meeting people thrilled me, I was worried– worried that I would be too shy, that because I was shy I would not get to climb, and that I would be wasting my scholarship in doing so. Maybe it is because I was alone, or maybe I just never truly embodied the “fake it ‘till you make it” spirit, but as I walked into the meet and greet at the gear shop in Fayetteville, the only option I had was to be vulnerable. Every conversation I had most likely began with “Hey, I’m here alone and don’t know anyone, let’s talk!” and that is okay. I believe that because I was vulnerable, I was able to connect with people. I was able to bond with other people who traveled alone, and blah blah with those who traveled in groups. Summerfest taught me to embrace my vulnerability because each and every person I met showed me acceptance and welcomed me with open arms. 

Summerfest gave me acceptance, and it also showed me the power of my own capabilities. Before attending Summerfest, I assumed that others would help me, and that because of my young age and lack of climbing experience, I would not be able to help them. However, I quickly realized this was wrong, and that contribution can come in many forms. There were people who helped me pitch my tent, lent me their rain jacket, and invited me to climb. Yet while I didn’t have a rain jacket to lend or rope to climb on, I tried to bring people together. I tried to create conversations, and “break the ice” if you will. I may not be the best climber, but I shared my experiences, my trials and successes. Summerfest showed me that I have something of value to give.

Summerfest embodied the beauty of community. Climbing is a sport that naturally brings people together as we rely on others for safety, for encouragement and support. Yet while climbing naturally fosters community, I had never witnessed a community spirit as special as Summerfest. I felt community when a group of me and maybe six other people who had just met decided to carpool to the crag and climb together. I felt community when I sat down for dinners and breakfasts and shared stories with new people. I felt community in every conversation, laugh, dance, yoga pose of the weekend, and that could not have been created without a group of people as willing and loving and open as those who attended Summerfest.

When I first began climbing, my school’s mountaineering club showed a series of short films– one of which was about Flash Foxy. I was in awe of these women, and instantly inspired by the loving community they created. Because of this scholarship, I was able to be a part of that community. I was able to laugh and yell and dance with people I had met not even 48 hours before. Because of Summerfest, I was able to so clearly see the power within myself and the power of other people in this special sport– something I am incredibly grateful for and aspire to do for others. 


I assumed this climbing festival would be about climbing, but Summerfest was so much more than that. Don’t get me wrong, the nuts and bolts of the event, from the raffle to the clinics, all revolved around climbing. Even though we had an especially rain-soaked weekend and I know I didn’t climb nearly as much as I anticipated, it didn’t matter. Because it’s really about community. 

Intentional community is something I have worked hard to foster in my life. As a nonbinary trans person, unknown group settings tend to ramp up my anxiety. It’s hard to know whether or not I truly belong. With more and more gender specific events being created, I have found it challenging to find my place. That is why I was so excited to see Summerfest pop up as an all gender event. I have seen the utter joy that Flash Foxy’s Women’s Climbing Festivals have created, and I wanted to understand that magic. 

And now I do. 

There was magic in the twinkle lights hanging above camp as rain fell around us and we listened to a land acknowledgement that had everyone take a moment to consider the gravity of our privilege. 

It was in the instant friendships forged by sharing snacks and guidebooks and pronouns, and the earnest discussions that followed as we tried to build bridges, not walls. 

It was in the fact that I only got on one route all weekend, and it was so damn fun I had to climb it three times. 

It was in the joyous dance party the final night of the event where our feet stuck and slid in the muddy earth, and we sang on regardless. 

It was in the kindness of the climbers who stopped to make sure I was alright as I filled my car’s oil on the side of the road. 

The magic was in the climbers. 

Because, yes, most everyone there was a climber. And that presented itself in so many different ways. There were professional climbers and first timers. Boulderers and trad climbers. Locals and newbies. And there was no judgment. It didn’t matter if you led 5.12 or top roped 5.5. The folks I talked to were there to have fun. They were there because climbing is such an integral part to their joy that they couldn’t imagine missing the opportunity to share that with others. Just as I can no longer imagine a climbing festival not centered around community. 

I am thankful for the unfailing kindness of my new friends, and the chance to find home in a new state. As soon as I arrived at the campground, my anxieties washed away and I felt seen in a way I haven’t in a long time. I have observed the importance of gender specific spaces from afar, and I have now experienced the beauty of an all gender space for myself. Thank you for 

creating a place for us all to be climbers, whoever we may be, and I hope this event is the first of many. 


The Flash Foxy Inaugural Summerfest at the New River Gorge in Fayetteville, WV was not only about climbing, but about learning, inspiring and making connections. I feel lucky to be given the opportunity to be part of a movement to celebrate, support and connect women and other underrepresented groups in climbing. As I reflect on the weekend of mud, smiles, climbing, downpours, music, speakers, new friends and one very delicious pig roast BBQ, I am reminded of several important takeaways. 

Learning in an all women environment is not something I have experienced before, in climbing or otherwise. This environment really changed how I participated, how much I learned and how confident I felt. Given that I am a software developer and all my work trainings are predominantly men, the contrast was stark. Although, not an altogether fair comparison, the experience gave me a new perspective on learning. I have been in many situations, in climbing or at work, where I did not feel comfortable asking a question, and as a result my knowledge suffered. In this unique Flash Foxy atmosphere, no one had the attitude that they were trying to prove how much they already knew, how hard they could climb, or otherwise impress group participants. It felt like we were learning together and helping each other along. I am not saying this couldn’t happen in a co-ed group, but this learning experience felt different to me.

Having two impressive women guides as instructors was inspiring. I love that Flash Foxy uses Summerfest as an opportunity to support local organizations, and create job opportunities for underrepresented groups as speakers and guides. It was wonderful to see those female, POC and adaptive persons in leadership positions. It’s practice what you preach, and that’s dope!  

Even watching the No Man’s Land Film festival felt different in a group of women than it did simply watching with my boyfriend. Perhaps, because I felt like all the people in the crowd were hoping for change, and were participating in making that change. I felt like everyone huddled around the tent in the rain with their wet feet squelching into mud, would be as moved by the films as I had been. 

The speakers made me think about the importance of my role as an ally to other underrepresented groups such as LGBTQ+, POC, and adaptive. I know and support members of other groups, but it really made me think critically about the role I play as an advocate. Together we can be stronger and provide more resources to one another than we can as individual groups. 

I am bringing these lessons back to Boston, where they can be instituted in our local climbing community and shared with other women’s climbing groups. As these ideas spread and the Flash Foxy community grows, the climbing community will become a more inclusive space.

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