All of the 2021 LGBTQIA2S+ Single Pitch Instructor Course participants in the distance
LGBTQIA2S+ Single Pitch Instructor Course
2021 alumni
Portrait of Crys Moore
Crys Moore (they/them)
The biggest challenge that I face in my professional development is time and money. I work full time and run my climbing community work as a side project. For me, it’s a form of service, so I’m not especially interested in getting paid, but I still have to pay student loans, which means I have a rigorous and demanding day job.
Crys works on ropes mid course
Until you look around and see the spaces you exist and operate in are full of different types of people who don’t look, think, or act like one another, affinity spaces will need to exist. Without them, homogeneous spaces will remain or revert to being homogeneous.
Crys particpating in the SPI course
Having an SPI certification will enable me to offer professional-level climbing services to members of my community on a sliding scale or for free. It will also mean that there is a visible queer person who is mixing up what it means to be and look like a guide, which will create more space and opportunity for inclusion down the road.
Portrait of Crys Moore
Until you look around and see the spaces you exist and operate in are full of different types of people who don’t look, think, or act like one another, affinity spaces will need to exist. Without them, homogeneous spaces will remain or revert to being homogeneous.
Crys particpating in the SPI course
Portrait of Zoey Grinstead
Zoey Grinstead (she/her)
Being around other LGBT+ people allows me to lower my guard and focus more on the task at hand. The fact that I was able to be surrounded by others like me took off a lot of stress of worrying about pronouns, acceptance, and just allowed for more freedom to relax, and learn.
Zoey laughing on belay, sitting in the lap of one of her fellow alumni
I immediately felt safe and could focus on the course and skills to learn and practice. And thus, I repeat: we need more affinity groups for all communities! I know I will be pushing for more back home, no matter the size.
Zoey on the climbing wall, smiling at the camera
The support we must call on in the industry to continue to develop these experiences for the LGBT+ climbing community is to call on brands and big names in the climbing world to advocate with us. Not only will the media outreach be like a signal to other LGBT+ folk and encourage them to apply to these courses, but it will spark up a conversation at other companies about scholarship opportunities. Maybe it’ll be in a board meeting or a conversation with a desk staff at the local gym... just getting these talks started and the seed planted is the best place to start.
Portrait of Zoey Grinstead
I immediately felt safe and could focus on the course and skills to learn and practice. And thus, I repeat: we need more affinity groups for all communities! I know I will be pushing for more back home, no matter the size.
Zoey on the climbing wall, smiling at the camera
Portrait of Lou Bank
Lou Bank (he/they)
Disposable income is a privilege and thus is the ability to climb.
Rock climbing is an expensive and time consuming sport, and it’s hard to prioritize climbing and unpaid, often costly, professional development courses when you work full time at an hourly job with minimal PTO. I love climbing and dedicate the majority of my free time to it, but unfortunately that’s not always a lot...

I’ve relied on generous friends for guest passes and gear loans. I’ve sought out volunteer opportunities, such as mentoring with Young Women Who Crush, that allow me to grow my passion for climbing and provide me with the opportunity to practice my coaching skills. I got a job instructing Crusher Clinics (affinity clinics for women, gender non-conforming, non-binary and trans climbers) so that I could get a free membership to my local gym. Beyond this, professional development has felt out of reach. I have dreamt of becoming a rock guide for a while, but the time and resources that it would require to make that a reality have overwhelmed me.
Lou leaning back in his harness, getting ready to repel on the rocks
I know queer climbers exist... How do we get more of them involved professionally so that climbing can become a more welcoming and inclusive community?
Zine created by Lou- cover reads Why Affinity Spaces Matter
Zine created by Lou- first page reads we all carry things when we go outside (race, size, religion, gender...) affinity groups help lighten the load.
Zine created by Lou- page reads: Affinity spaces make us feel invited. You're invited and: your needs will be prioritized, your identity will be respected, your safety is prioritized, your boundaries will be respected, we will hold space for you, we want you part of this community
Zine created by Lou- page reads: So we can focus on being present playing + learning
Zine created by Lou- page reads: affinity spaces build community
Getting an SPI certification will give me some of the tools I need to transition to a career outdoors and create more spaces for those of us with marginalized identities to feel invited outdoors. This LGBTQ Affinity SPI course and scholarship not only made it financially possible for me to take steps towards a career in guiding, but it also has made me feel invited into the guiding community in a way that I have not felt in other professional athletic communities.

If you don’t see someone who looks like you doing something it’s really hard to imagine it. I didn’t have many openly queer or trans role models growing up and that made coming out and finding community as a queer and trans adult a slow, sometimes painful, process. I didn’t know how to look for a community because I didn’t see it existing.

The lack of queer professionals in the climbing and guiding industry is wildly disappointing… Right now, Sean Taft-Morales is the only out, queer SPI provider. They are literally the only person who can currently teach an SPI affinity course for LGBTQ folks... This lack of diversity within the guiding and outdoor industries makes me even more determined to get involved.

We have to create affinity spaces so that people of underrepresented groups know that they are invited and that the community is holding space for them. We need to create a climbing culture with room for learning, empathy and growth. We need straight, cis, white folks to make space. We need them to be quiet, listen, and take a step back. The outdoors should be for everyone, and it is the responsibility of those currently in power to provide space and opportunity for marginalized communities to uplift themselves.
Portrait of Lou Bank
I know queer climbers exist... How do we get more of them involved professionally so that climbing can become a more welcoming and inclusive community?
Zine created by Lou- cover reads Why Affinity Spaces Matter
Zine created by Lou- first page reads we all carry things when we go outside (race, size, religion, gender...) affinity groups help lighten the load.
Zine created by Lou- page reads: Affinity spaces make us feel invited. You're invited and: your needs will be prioritized, your identity will be respected, your safety is prioritized, your boundaries will be respected, we will hold space for you, we want you part of this community
Zine created by Lou- page reads: So we can focus on being present playing + learning
Zine created by Lou- page reads: affinity spaces build community
Portrait of Russ Timothy
Russ Timothy (he/him)
With the recent rise in popularity of the sport, an obvious demand for such spaces is inevitable.
As demand and diversity continues to become more apparent within the sport, it is going to become more and more important for there to be guides that know how to navigate neighboring crags. And in the South in particular, this will be even more important considering an alarming percentage of climbing exists on private land.

An SPI Certification could very well be the initial stepping stone for someone like me to begin to have the credentials to create these events in the future and help those interested to transition from plastic to real rock.
Russ participating in the SPI course
Rock climbing is, by nature, one of the most inclusive sports I can think of due to the fact that one person’s success is not correlated with someone else’s failure.
Russ on belay during the course
It is my hope that rock climbing in general becomes a key way to break down negative stigmas and stereotypes among people from all walks of life as they participate together in a sport that causes so many to work together to problem solve, regardless of who they are and what walks of life they come from.
Portrait of Russ Timothy
Rock climbing is, by nature, one of the most inclusive sports I can think of due to the fact that one person’s success is not correlated with someone else’s failure.
Russ on belay during the course
Portrait of Thomas Bukowski
Thomas Bukowski (he/him)
As someone who didn’t grow up in the U.S., and who isn’t straight, white, or coded masculine, it’s difficult and sometimes incredibly awkward to form anything but superficial relationships with fellow climbers—relationships that often pay dividends later in terms of expedition partners, sponsorship or career opportunities, or simply the feeling that you belong in climbing.
Having a professional certification lends an indisputable legitimacy to being part of the climbing and climbing guiding communities, which helps combat both explicit rejections, and the more devious, implicit “you’re not like us” attitudes to being a bit different than the standard climber. It allows me to bring other queer and underrepresented folks outdoors and start them on their own climbing journey, without needing to struggle with the same barriers that I have... After all my years of complaining there are no queer climbers, I suddenly realized I could be part of the solution to that lack of community.
Thomas participating in the SPI course
We all belong in the outdoors—the rocks and the trees don’t care about your race, gender or sexuality. The barriers to accessing this belongingness are human and social.
Thomas on the climbing wall, waving to the camera
While most of the time no one is excluding folks on purpose, the monocultural status quo is a barrier of its own. The effort put into affinity spaces shows those of us who don’t fit in that there can be space for us—and the experience of belonging within these affinity spaces shows that one can belong in the outdoors without belonging to the status quo around it.

The most important support for the queer community in climbing is visibility: the lack of belonging is fundamentally an experience of loneliness, and knowing there are others like you out there can be a tremendous salve… Any increase in diversity in the guiding world is a hopeful sign for all groups.
Portrait of Thomas Bukowski
We all belong in the outdoors—the rocks and the trees don’t care about your race, gender or sexuality. The barriers to accessing this belongingness are human and social.
Thomas on the climbing wall, waving to the camera
Portrait of Alicia Racine
Alicia Racine (she/her)
With the large number of recently introduced State bills that attack LGBTQIA2S+ rights, so much more needs to be done to reduce the stigma and give these groups an inclusive space to accomplish their dreams free of discrimination.
Alicia participating in the SPI course
Portrait of Alicia Racine
We all belong in the outdoors—the rocks and the trees don’t care about your race, gender or sexuality. The barriers to accessing this belongingness are human and social.
Alicia Participating in the course