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Queer Ascent: Arc’teryx Offers LGBTQ Climbing Weekend

The weekend of events even includes a Saturday night performance from drag queen Pattie Gonia. (And yes, it's sold out already.)

arc'teryx climbing academy 2In 2023, Arc'teryx offered a clinic for queer climbers during its Squamish climbing academy. This year, it's offering a whole weekend; (photo/Arc'teryx)
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Registration opens on Thursday for Arc’teryx’s climbing academy in Squamish, British Columbia. The annual event offers clinics from icons like Will Gadd and modern crushers like Alannah Yip, helping climbers achieve their next goals.

But Arc’teryx also has a separate event in Truckee, Calif., this month. It aims to teach many of the same skills — but exclusively for LGBTQ climbers.

Called Queer Ascent, it’s the brainchild of Arc’teryx athlete Jordan Cannon, who convinced the brand to offer a weekend of clinics for any climber who self-identifies as queer. From May 31 to June 1, Cannon and other pro athletes will lead workshops like Multi-pitch Efficiency, Rock Rescue Skills, and The Art of Climbing Photography.

Each of the clinics has 10 spots. There are also 200 tickets for a Saturday evening get-together that will include live music, climbing films, and a performance from drag queen Pattie Gonia. If that sounds like your kind of party, you’ll have to wait until next year: It’s all sold out already. That bodes well for Cannon, who wants to make Queer Ascent a legacy event.

“We’re still at the very beginning of all this,” Cannon told GearJunkie this week. “I suspect climbing is going to look a lot different in 10 years.”

arc'teryx climbing academy

The Power of Safe Spaces

For Cannon, the last few years have been a time of self-growth and exploration — especially of his queer identity. In 2019, he became a professional climber with Arc’teryx. Two years later, he officially came out.

“I largely attribute my ability to come out to my growth as a climber and the support from my climbing community,” Cannon said. “It’s an all-around welcoming and inclusive community.”

But that inclusiveness still hasn’t resulted in more openly gay professional climbers, he said. Cannon hoped the sport would have more of those by now. Also, it was relatively easy for him to pass as straight, and he only came out after becoming a sponsored athlete.

“I’ve been recognizing that privilege. I want other queer people to also feel seen and supported,” Cannon said. “Just because it was easy for me doesn’t mean it was easy for everybody.” 

Attending Aspen Gay Ski Week a few years ago opened Cannon’s eyes to the power of safe spaces.

“It wasn’t an event I ever thought I would go to, and I was surprised by how awesome the weekend was and how much I learned from being around more queer people,” he said. “I thought, ‘There needs to be something like this in climbing.'”

arc'teryx climbing academy 3

A Successful Queer Ascent Test Run

So, in the summer of 2023, Cannon offered an “affinity space” during Arc’teryx’s summer climbing academy in Squamish. Basically, Cannon wanted to create an explicit opportunity for queer climbers to come together.

And it sold out within minutes.

“That time it didn’t have a teaching focus. It was just a space for other climbers to meet and go out together,” he said. “We all just hung out and had a good day of climbing together.” 

With Queer Ascent taking off this year, Cannon hopes to continue making a positive difference in his community.

“As I made more gay friends, I learned a lot more about the power of my position and what I could do more to help other people,” he said. “That means creating more spaces like this.”

While Queer Ascent may be all booked, the Arc’teryx 2024 Climb Academy still has plenty of open slots for the weekend of August 23-25. Peruse the website to find clinics with some of the best climbers in the world, including Ashima Shiraishi, Jonathan Siegrist, and Sam Hennessey.

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