Interview conducted and compiled by Stephanie Hall
Our first WCW is NorthShore VertiGals co-founder Molly Wick AKA @neutral.buoyancy (ask her what her handle means if you run into her at the gym sometime 😊 ). Molly is a water resource scientist who fills her free time adventuring outside climbing, trail running, hiking, paddling, and cross country skiing. When she’s not outside she is writing, dying yarn, knitting (Check out her side gig @Borealfibers), routesetting at VE-Duluth, and hanging out with her adorable pup, Arlo.
Climbing in El Potrero Chico, Mexicao. PC Molly Wick.
What made you become involved with VertiGals?
I’m one of the founders of the VertiGals. It was my friend Erin’s idea. When she brought up the question of why there was no women’s climbing group in the area, I couldn’t let it go. I was frustrated with how long it had taken me to get into climbing and the barriers to entry that had kept me out: It was crazy intimidating. Once I did get into it, I realized a lot of the reason it took so long was because climbers (like many other outdoor sports) can have a macho, elitist attitude that makes it difficult for new climbers to get into. This is especially true for women because the sport has historically been dominated by men, and if you don’t see people like yourself doing something, you assume there must be a reason.
My first few climbing partners were women. After I started climbing with more with men, I realized that climbing with women and climbing with men are totally different experiences. One is not better or worse, but they are definitely different. I found a lot of value climbing with women and seeing other women struggle, overcome their fears, succeed, and support each another. But after my first few partners stopped climbing for various reasons, it wasn’t easy to find other women climbers in the still male-dominated sport.
Being a climber fundamentally depends on having a strong community in order to find partners. Despite our ingrained gender bias (we all have it), our local community is generally welcoming and wonderful. Which is probably why we felt comfortable and empowered enough to try to make some changes. Thus the VertiGals were born, to make it easy to find female climbing partners and friends, and offer a safe place for women to push themselves at all levels of climbing from beginner to advanced.
What would you like to see change in the Duluth/North Shore climbing community?
I would really like to see a place to poop at Palisade Head! For the many folks that spend the entire day up there climbing, pooping is inevitable! The bedrock shrubland ecosystem has very shallow soils and is sensitive to disturbance from excess nutrients. Palisade Head isn’t that big, so the impacts are focused in a relatively small area along the top of the climbing routes. The high concentration of climbers in the summer takes its toll on the sensitive species that live in that ecosystem. A bathroom on site would help alleviate some of the pressure of both climbers and other visitors on this fragile, beautiful system that everyone loves.
***In the meantime, please note the nearest public bathroom is at Tettegouche State Park, 2 miles north of Palisade Head. We highly recommend all climbers learn about and practice Leave No Trace ethics. ***
PC Erin Hammes
How are you hoping to grow as a climber or what skills are you hoping to develop?
So many goals! I originally wanted to be a better, stronger, harder climber and climb higher grades. I still want to be a “good climber”, but I am realizing that climbing hard grades isn’t really my top priority because I just don’t have fun when I take it too seriously. I am more interested in fun than achieving perfection. So instead, I’m currently focusing on maintaining my (perfectly fine) current abilities, and advancing skills like anchor-building and managing fear. I want to become more confident in sport leading, but I am realizing this takes a long time! And, I want climbing to take me all around the world to new and beautiful places.
PC Katia Nartovich
What women or woman produced projects inspire you?
Kathy Karlo @inheadlights is an inspiration for so many reasons. This piece of hers really spoke to me when I read it: https://fortheloveofclimbing.com/2017/01/24/do-not-go-outside-to-cry/
I love Connie Sun’s comics which offer a commentary on climbing and on just how hard life can be. https://www.conniewonnie.com/
I’m into Georgie Abel’s writing and her all around bravery taking on challenging mountains and even more challenging topics. https://medium.com/@georgieabel
For straight up gorgeous climbing photos and inspiration, I go straight to meliseymo
Say Hi to Molly next time you see her!