With the 2021 Olympics now less than a fortnight away, this month’s column seemed like a perfect opportunity to get up to speed on sport climbing – one of this year’s Olympic debutantes. And what better person to turn to for that education than Riley Edwards, founder of the Climbing QTs, an LGBTQI social climbing and advocacy group based in Naarm (Melbourne, Victoria).

Riley informs me that while sport climbing can take many forms, depending on the competition, in Tokyo all climbers will compete across the three dominant disciplines: speed climbing, lead climbing, and bouldering.

Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other in a race up a 15m wall, while lead climbing grants climbers six minutes to climb as high as they can. Bouldering, on the other hand, is more a-kin to a puzzle, with climbers needing to traverse as many of the designated routes on the wall as they can inside of four minutes.

Love Of Climbing & Outdoors

Keen to share their love of climbing and the outdoors, Riley founded the Climbing QTs in 2018. Since then, the organisation has grown into one of the largest climbing clubs in Australia, and an important advocate of trans and gender-diverse participation in climbing and outdoor recreation.

Boasting over 400 financial members, the Climbing QTs meet twice monthly in Naarm’s indoor climbing gyms.

In climbing season, “when the weather is nice”, they meet twice more in the great outdoors. And Sydney readers, listen up! Climbing QTs ‘Champions’ facilitate monthly indoor meet ups in Sydney too, and have a series of outdoor climbs in the Blue Mountains scheduled for the second-half of this year.

Riley is a self-proclaimed climbing obsessive, but stresses that Climbing QTs is for everyone. 

“The idea with the climbing events is not that everyone needs to climb. Most people just come out and find a way to connect with other LGBTQI folk in a space that is active, where they can get their bodies moving.” 

For those non-climbers there is even a badge-maker and glitter face paint!

A Safe Space For Trans and Gender Diverse Persons

While they personally won’t be code-swapping anytime soon, Riley freely admits, “a lot of our QTs will come to an event, feel like it’s a really good stepping-stone into being active and then find themselves in another sport. And if I can help facilitate that, then amazing.”

The Climbing QTs are not about “keeping all the active queers” for themselves.

With climbing bound for Tokyo in 2021, I asked Riley if they would like to see sport climbing on the program for Gay Games 11, to be held in Hong Kong in 2022. 

“We promote ourselves as an advocacy group and a social group, less on the skills. I’d rather see a very diverse range of bodies and identities in nature, and having fun and enjoying themselves, rather than pushing for people to go into competitive spaces.”

But for those who do want to get a hold in the competition space (pun intended), like Australian National Team member and Climbing QTs Ambassador, Campbell Harrison, the Climbing QTs offer workshops, and have been instrumental in the development of trans and gender-diverse inclusion policies for Australia’s peak sport climbing bodies.

With climbing on the up and up, what is Riley’s hope for the sport? “If people just want to give it a go, and give us a chance to show them, that no matter what they expect climbing to be – if they think they need to be able to do 10 pulls ups to participate in climbing – maybe challenge that expectation a bit by just coming along and seeing, because we have people of all body types, experiences, levels and abilities. Come along and just find your little patch of belonging. I think it just starts there.”

Whether you want to answer the Climbing QTs call and give climbing a go or just get your hands on that badge-maker, you can contact Riley and their fellow QTs at: www.climbingqts.com

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