Women and Climbing: Black Diamond, would you fix this?


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

EDIT: Original title was "Women and Climbing: Black Diamond, you need to fix this"

An open letter to Black Diamond:

The Black Diamond Big Gun harness is the go to harness for many people, myself included. From your website:

"The ultimate big wall, aid climbing harness, the Big Gun is loaded with features to make your long days aiding in the vertical more comfortable and efficient."

From the reviews:

"I use this harness for SAR work..."

"I am an assistant ropes director...."

"I borrowed this harness to climb El Cap.."

"Great for rescue rope teams..."

"Picked up this bad boy for developing routes..."

"I'm guiding in this harness all day, every day.."

"Really works well when setting routes..."

Most of these comments are from serious users, many of them are professionals.

The Big Gun is a great product, and an important tool for all of the purposes listed above. It is the first choice for many climbers for not just big walls and aid, but career paths in climbing, and equally important paid/unpaid work such as SAR, route development and route setting in gyms.

And it is not sized small enough for a great many women.

I am a route setter and indoor and outdoor climber. My personal harness is a Big Gun, and that is also what we are supplied with at the gym where I set. 

We now have at least three ladies setting in this gym, and, frankly, I am the only one carrying enough extra weight to wear the size small. The others are stuck in their personal climbing harnesses (not purchased with hanging in mind). Worse yet, is using the provided harness when it is too big. It is extremely uncomfortable, constricts your rib cage, and can even interfere with breathing, yet all of us have suffered through this at times.

For myself, I am perilously close to not fitting in my size small Big Gun. That will mean hunting for some other harness that works, or, ....eat lots of cookies.

Your product is great, that's why I'm picking on you! Please remedy this and make a smaller size. Do not send the subtle message to the ladies out there that they are not welcome as route setters, big wall climbers, SAR members, route developers, or other important roles as climbers.

Respectfully, Old Lady H, a sixty year old climber and route setter.

jmmlol · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

This is a general problem with harnesses. Companies seem to think no one has a smaller than 30 waist and that climbers do squats. 

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
jmmlol wrote:

This is a general problem with harnesses. Companies seem to think no one has a smaller than 30 waist and that climbers do squats. 

Yup. Guys need the smaller sizes too, of course. Ditto for gloves and other stuff. Women just fit the small waist category more often than even small men.

Lol, I've started squats just recently. I do need the strength!

Sam Stephens · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 740

Call Misty Mountain. They'll be happy to custom build whatever you need and you won't look back.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

All, I also sent an email with the short version to Black Diamond. 

I received a reply today. Basically "we don't sell enough of these to care", put nicely of course. I do understand.

Nonetheless, I've asked for a public reply, and urged them to consider being a leader in this. 

We'll see, eh?

Best all, Helen

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Sam Stephens wrote:

Call Misty Mountain. They'll be happy to custom build whatever you need and you won't look back.

Thanks! If/when I can't use my current harness, I'll be on here looking for solutions. 

I don't expect BD to come through on this, but maybe in my lifetime....?

Best, Helen

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 615

Another great clickbait title by Helen! Nice!

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 234

Helen, please clarify something for me.

Are you saying 

"I work at a small gym in Idaho, so I know that there is a national market for smaller sized big wall harnesses that BD can profitably enter."

Or 

"I'm a woman, so BD has a moral obligation to make a harness that fits me, regardless of the market."

Momoface · · Arvada, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 0

"I'm a woman, so BD has a moral obligation to make a harness that fits me, regardless of the market."

I have major issues with this line of thinking, not just when it comes to climbing gear, and not just when it comes to women's gear. It's that mentality of 'the world must cater 110% to me, all of the time.' Ugh.

Great Mark, now I'm all riled up!!

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 234
Momoface wrote:

Great Mark, now I'm all riled up!!

Channel that anger! We could use a couple more feisty/entertaining threads on MP.

Otherwise I'll have to go suffer on the treadwall. 

Did you send your knee pad project?

Momoface · · Arvada, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 0
Mark E Dixon wrote:

Channel that anger! We could use a couple more feisty/entertaining threads on MP.

Otherwise I'll have to go suffer on the treadwall. 

Did you send your knee pad project?

No, and now I'm angry about that too! ;)

Season is over at Dog House I think, now I'm working on my first 12 and it's way more hopeful feeling than Hot Dog, go figure!

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 234
Momoface wrote:

No, and now I'm angry about that too! ;)

Frickin' Black Diamond's fault!

Cloudy days can be alright. You may get a couple more chances.

What's your new 12? Future Passed? That's pretty sunny too.

Better hope there's not a rope hanging down it full-time. :-)

NegativeK · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

I was just talking to a friend about why there seem to be fewer women setters.

Now I can send them the responses in this thread. Yay?

Momoface · · Arvada, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 0

Yup that's the one. I think it'll be my after work destination so it should cool down. I think the romance with Hot Dog may be over but I'll probably give it one more day - then again, it's pretty much Rifle and Voo season, soooo...priorities are shifting!

K. Le Douche · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 65

Yeah, your title is a little misleading, and your claim that not making extra-small big wall harnesses is somehow Black Diamond's way of subtly telling women they are not welcome in route setting, big wall climbing, SAR, etc. is actually pretty rude.    I don't think they make many big wall harnesses in XXXL either, but I don't think this is there way of telling morbidly obese people they are not welcome to climb.  Black Diamond is a great company.  I think most climbers would agree with that.  If they realize that they are not going to sell many xs or xxxL big wall harnesses why would they?  I don't use BD harnesses because they don't fit me well (Tall, thin waist, relatively thick thighs), so I use the Metolius Safe-tech because it seems to be the most adjustable.  Shop around, try different brands, or get a custom Misty Mountain harness, but stop blaming DB because their product isn't available in your size.  

You also claimed that you and the others you set with have used harnesses that don't fit properly in the past because that's what was provided.  Don't do that.  It's not safe.  Better to use your personal harness.  I was a setter for about six years, and used a regular old sport climbing harness for most of that time. It wasn't comfortable, but it's also not the end of the world.

Good luck in finding a harness that fits you better. 

Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

I'm questioning why Black Diamond is being specifically called out here. It seems like you're missing the mark on who to be targeting. BD isn't under any obligation to provide any product to any market group.

From your post, it seems like the real target should be a gym you work for. Why aren't they providing appropriate safety equipment for their employee's? Certainly harnesses exist that will work for this situation. The Big Gun isn't the only harness on the market in this category. Maybe talk with them about sourcing some more appropriate equipment. Heck, if it comes to it you could probably file a complaint with OSHA.

jgfox · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

Old Lady H, there are other companies like Metolius, Misty Mountain, and Yates that would probably custom make you a big comfy harness that you need (arguably, but I'm not going to challenge that right now).  

Black Diamond is appealing to a mass market, not the niche market of 60 year old women that just entered climbing and somehow got a route setting job.  Besides, from what I heard about that harness on supertopo, it sucks anyways, so BD is doing you a favor by not making a size that fits you. 

If you really want to go mass market for a harness, look up the Petzl Calidris.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,500

1) leave it to climbers to complain that a recreational climbing company doesn't make a harness that fits them for a professional job. You shouldn't be setting in a rec harness anyway, industrial rigging harnesses are a much better choice and they size plenty small for our 4'11" 90lb setters. 

2) that said, I do agree with you on bds female sizing for their all around harnesses, but the great thing about capitalism is, there are other options out there for you. Spend your money elsewhere, and perhaps bd will notice the lost revenue and address it in their product line. 

wendy weiss · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 0

Shop around, try different brands, or get a custom Misty Mountain harness, but stop blaming DB because their product isn't available in your size.  

Skinny as I am, fit has always been a major factor in choosing harnesses. I've climbed with a Black Diamond harness for years -- both at gyms and outdoors -- and find it very comfortable. Maybe it wouldn't be the best for big wall climbing, but that's not an issue for me. I can't say what the model is; it's probably years out of date.      

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 200
Momoface wrote:

Season is over at Dog House I think, 

Don't lose hope yet! Tomorrow it's supposed to be in the 50s, so I'm hoping to go up to the Doghouse one more time before it gets too hot. I can give you a catch if you want!

David Deville · · Flagstaff, Arizona · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 10

I think the obvious solution here is to buy a different brand harness; +1 for Misty Mountain. Also, you can't really blame BD for not fitting female route setters in your gym. The onus is on the gym to supply a correct fitting harness (for which there are several viable choices) if they choose to do so.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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