The mansplaining rock climber

As a woman in a male dominated community you sometimes undergo this phenomenon called mansplaining. I’ve been in many male dominated communities in my home country and have often been “lucky” enough to have been treated as one-of-the-guys. But since the last few years traveling around Europe and climbing with guys (and gals) from all over the world, I’m starting to notice more and more often that I’m being mansplained.

In part this is because I now have so much more experience and knowledge about climbing, that it stands out to me more. But also it is a more often discussed topic nowadays, so I now really notice it when it happens to me.

So for any male reader who either doesn’t know what mansplaining is, or who thinks they don’t do it, please read this blog and think first before you explain something to a woman that you’re talking with. Ask yourself if you would explain this to any male. If not, just don’t say anything. It might just be that the person you’re explaining it to actually has more climbing experience than yourself. If you’re not sure if your (female) climbing partner does know certain things, ask first if they are aware of that fact and secondly ask if they are interested in learning more.

Oxford dictionary: The explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

An event that happened to me last year sparked the idea to write this post. It might be a bit of a long story, but it sets a perfect example. It has made me even more aware of strange behavior of men directed towards women. Keep in mind, this is not a stand alone incident. In the 10 months that I traveled around Europe in 2021 I was regularly mansplained, but this was certainly the most extreme one.

I was in a beautiful climbing area, where I met a German girl. For quite a few days we had been climbing together. She is younger than me but carries loads of knowledge and experience. We were about to do our third multi pitch climb together. We studied all the information about the route that we could find. We got ready and headed out. On the way out we tried to dodge a guy who works for the mountain rescue there, because the day before we received some unsolicited advice from him. When trying to gather information about the climb we asked him (and others) about the route. We wanted to know how the safety of the climb was, etc.

At that moment he decided to tell us that I wasn’t capable of doing that climb, even though he had never seen me climb. I knew that I should be able to follow the hardest length of the route. I was very pissed off at him for saying that. Especially because he had no explanation or reason for saying it. In general I’m the first person to acknowledge that I can’t do a certain climb.

Thinking that we managed to dodge him, we tried to find the start of the climb that was a bit hidden in the bush, when we heard him shouting instructions. We found the climb and I started the first pitch. My partner follows and proceeds to climb the second pitch. As I then approach the top of the second pitch I hear voices. Strange, because we should be the only two people on the rock.

Turns out that the man in question climbed up through the bush and was waiting for us in the field that we had to pass through to continue the rest of the climb. He has set up a line from where we are to the base of the next part of the route.

I think he then tried to convince us to head back down with him because of the rain that is coming. We say we want to continue and then he seems to be leaving us. As we are looking into starting the third pitch the sparse drips turn into a full rain. We decide that it’s not wise to continue now. With the knowledge that we have we start to make our way down through the field, into the direction of where our mansplainer went. We’re finding our way down safely, but again to our surprise he pops up out of nowhere and directs us the rest of the way down to the main trail.

What I found most frustrating about the whole situation was that he took away so many learning opportunities from us. Together we had enough knowledge to figure out how to get back down safely once it started raining.

What I want to take away from this blog is that I should speak up when I’m being mansplained. I often let things slide for the sake of no confrontation. I think that everyone who’s being mansplained should speak up more. With this I’m hoping that readers who might be mansplaining become a bit more aware of what they’re doing and what impact this has on others. I hope that it will happen to me less and less.

4 Replies to “The mansplaining rock climber”

  1. Maybe you are wrong thinking this guy wouldn’t comment your climbing if you were two male persons. I think in Germany is as in my country Slovenia where most climbers start their activity in clubs where exists some kind of authority based on different, sometimes questanable skills. This guy maybe just presented his usual authority in his domestic climbing area. I believe it was anoying bust as understand you didn’t climbed this route so you don’t know if he was right.
    When I started climbing long ago I started with alpine routes and my psyche was always stronger then my muscels. I was aways tourtured by older climbers by advices and threats what not to climb. I newer listened them. Later I led club for few years and as I was always liberal I never allowed anyone to limit anyone in climbing even though alpine climbing in our country is relativly dangerous. Unexpected result was – there was no accidents, but level of climbing declined.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, thank you for sharing your thoughts. We indeed will never know for certain. However, what hurt me the most was that he was explicitly saying that I wouldn’t be able to climb it, and my partner would be fine, while he never saw me climb. When I complained about his behaviour to his coworkers later they said that he is very old fashioned. Whatever his motivation was, it was very frustrating for us.


  2. One thing I’d like to point out relating to the previous comment is that although mansplaining is “typically” towards women (as per the Oxford dictionary definition), men can also get mansplained to. The fact that he might have done it to a couple of guys as well doesn’t make it any less condescending. He had just met you and could somehow assess your skills just by looking at you? And to keep pestering you during your climb? I would love to have told him to f*ck off, but I probably would have responded the same way, being averse to confrontation. Sorry you went through that. No excuse.

    Liked by 1 person

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