The campaign for a women’s outdoor climbing festival in the Grampians is one we’re solidly behind, so when we got the chance to chat with Olivia Page, one of the instigators of this deliciously mutinous idea, we were there in a flash. 

Olivia Page is an international photojournalist, writer and climber. Her passion for travel, rock climbing, exploring and adventure has taken her from the sheer peaks of Yosemite to the tropical waters of the Java Sea, and everywhere in between. Her photography and words can be found in adventure magazines, geographical publications and journals in Australia and internationally.

We talked to Olivia about the female climbing scene and her project to put on a women’s outdoor climbing festival.    

Jo on One For The Road, Willyabrup, WA – Photo by Krish Seewraj

Tell us about your thoughts on the current climbing scene for females?

I began climbing a decade ago in a Melbourne climbing gym. At the time there were a small handful of gyms around, a large percentage of them filled with male climbers. Over the years the number of women climbers has steadily increased, and most recently new gyms have popped up like mushrooms overnight.

No longer is climbing viewed as some mysterious, exotic, adrenaline-fuelled insane idea of a hobby but rather a skilled athletic activity and official sport (climbing is officially approved for the 2020 Olympics). Today climbing attracts anyone, from suit-wearing lawyers to the modern dirtbag

How did you come up with the concept of a female-focused climbing festival

Women climb more now than ever before but, the numbers are still lower, especially in the outdoor scene. Through a brief discussion online (we hadn’t met in person yet) about “Women Uprising” – I met Jo.

Through Jo’s monthly women’s climbing meet-up at the gym she works at, Jo and I discovered that we shared a big passion for helping inspire, encourage and bring women climbers together. We realised that with our powers combined we might have a good crack at getting a women’s climbing festival started.

What are your backgrounds?

Jo started bouldering in a gym in Malaysia before moving onto top-rope climbing. She then found herself quitting her advertising job and embarking on a five year long rock-climbing trip all over the world. She spent that time sport climbing in NZ, Turkey, Spain, China, and Vietnam and eventually ended up in Australia where she learnt how to trad climb and trad multi-pitch.

I started as a gym-rat but quickly moved to real rock, as my love for being in nature took priority over most things in my life. I had a background in commercial photography but as my love of outdoor trad climbing began to rule my world I made the leap into combining all of my passions: photography, climbing and travel. I soon found myself climbing and shooting in New Zealand, Flinders Island – Tasmania, The Grampians and Arapiles, Canada and the US.

Olivia climbing up Mount Aspiring, NZ – Photo by Alex Goldsmith.

Men and women: what’s the difference?

I have found that women and men will often climb a route differently, mostly due to the difference in female and male biomechanics (how bodies are constructed) and kinematics (how bodies move). Climbing routes have historically been put up by males, and (as a generalisation) have been bolted for that type of body – often taller and broader. There is a particular wall in the Grampians were I cannot for the life of me reach any of the bolts without trying wild and sometimes dangerous moves (and even then I can’t reach them!) the first ascensionist was a very tall, broad male.

Because male and female bodies and minds attack climbing problems differently the methods and techniques used don’t always work for both sexes. So basically there is nothing worse than a male shouting advice that worked for him up to at female climber trying to work a move on a climb. The female, who would have worked out the problem for herself eventually, has her confidence crushed and is left wondering why she couldn’t do it – when in fact she could have done the climb with the right encouragement, advice and technique suited to her body.

What’s the female-focused climbing festival you want to produce?

This is about bringing women from all walks of life with an interest in climbing, wellbeing and the outdoors together. It’s about sharing stories, skills and knowledge. Our ideal festival would include workshops for climbing abilities from beginner to expert and we would hope to bring in a mixture of national and international professional climbers and speakers to share their experience and psych.

Topics covered would be everything from health and training to trad multi-pitching and big-walling. I have this vision in my mind of seeing a whole group of strong, awesome women sitting around a big campfire after an incredible day out on the wall, sharing stories under a big starlit night sky.

If readers are interested, how can they get involved?

Our festival has been shortlisted for a pickmyproject grant. So far the response has been overwhelming. Now we have until voting closes, on the 17th September 2018, to gain as many votes as we can. So if you live in Victoria and feel a connection with the Wimmera region or a passion for climbing, please vote for our project. It’s in your hands. 

To vote to support this awesome idea go to…


  1. Register to vote.


  1. Make sure your voting location is set to the Grampians (it’s the location symbol on the top bar)


  1. Shortlist the project as your fave, but remember that shortlisting alone won’t be enough; you must vote for 3 projects and complete the full process.


  1. Verify phone number and submit your vote. 


Voting closes on the 17th of September 2018.


Header photo of Jo climbing in Wanaka, NZ by Dom Channon

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