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November 16, 2021

Collin Carroll: Female excellence in rock climbing likely has an evolutionary origin

As hypothesized, relative female rock-climbing ability was shown to be extraordinary. A female climber has climbed a 5.15b-rated route, one of only 27 people to have successfully ascended a route rated 5.15b or higher. Additionally, this exceptional performance is not limited to one female outlier. Two other women have climbed 5.15a-rated routes, placing 3 females in the top 90 climbers of all time. This level of female achievement is far beyond that seen in other sports. The 100-m dash, with a relatively narrow PG itself, does not have a single female runner in the top 2,000 competitors, and the fastest female time ever recorded is slower by 0.19 s than the 2000th-fastest-ever male time. This trend holds true for the marathon, too. The top female does not enter into the top 2,000 marathon runners, and she is more than 2 min slower than the 2,000th-fastest male (“World Athletics” 2020). This means that there are likely many thousands more male runners who surpass the world-record-holding females in each track & field event. Rock climbing as a sport shows a much narrower PG at its upper echelon than either short-distance or long-distance running.

The world is finally noticing that female rock climbers are getting really, really good. And when you look at the top female climbers, they aren't exactly tall either. A lot of the weekly youth classes at our gyms are mostly populated by girls as well. If you're a lady and rock climbing interests you - I say go for it.

I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if at some point in the near future, the hardest route in the world was first sent by a female.