The Curse of the First Female Ascent

paige claassen first ascentThe First Female Ascent is a paradox—it’s at once pushing women forward and simultaneously holding them back.

This year there have been a number of interesting online discussions about issues specific to women climbers: from observations of underlying sexism, to deciphering whether a climber’s recognition is a product of her beauty or her achievement (or both; and if so, then which was more of a factor?), to a recent debate over the merit of the “first female ascent.”

First Female Ascents (FFAs) are a hot topic thanks to Paige Claassen, who insisted that her recent ascent of The Bleeding (5.14a), in Mill Creek, Utah, not be labeled as an FFA—even though it was.

“Personally, I think first female ascents are irrelevant,” she stated in an interview with Rock and Ice. “Some women find them really motivating … but there are some cases in which a woman hasn’t even tried the route before.”

One of those women who find FFAs motivating is Sasha DiGiulian. She has amassed many of them herself, and also leveraged some of those FFAs to earn sponsors and other professional opportunities. On social media, DiGiulian asserted: ”FFA are significant because they flag the progress of women’s achievements in climbing.”

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