Climbing at the level Monique Forestier does takes a lot of courage.
She routinely faces physical and mental challenges that surpass most people’s wildest imaginations, climbing the highest graded routes in Australia and around the world.
But one of the most nerve-wracking challenges of her career to date wasn’t a cliff face or a mountain summit – it was asking a friend to babysit so that she could go climbing when her daughter, Coco, was a baby.
“I think for a lot of women, doing something for themselves for a change is a bit of a guilty indulgence that they may not venture or feel strong enough, to ask for a favour,” she said.
“After I had my daughter, that was one of the hardest things that I personally had to deal with. But when I owned that and when I started saying to my friends, ‘I’d really like to go for a climb, do you mind minding my daughter?’ they'd be like, ‘yeah, sure!’
“And I do the same thing for them, if they want to go for a bushwalk - or even just read a book for the afternoon.”
Forestier started climbing when she was about 25, and only started completing her most challenging climbs after she became a mother.
Her story has been told in a short film, Tiger Cat, which is part of the Women’s Adventure film tour. She’s hoping her experience will inspire other women, and especially other mothers, to get involved in the outdoors and physical activity.
Although she’s quick to note that doing so doesn’t have to entail dangling off a 35-metre cliff like she does in Tiger Cat.
“You don’t have to be doing crazy things to enjoy climbing,” she said.
“I would like to encourage women to just get out there and - not even to try something new, maybe there’s something that you used to love and could pick up again, and rekindle that spirit of activity,” she said.
“And if they're not currently active - well, I went to a climbing gym for the first time and it changed my life.”
Tiger Cat is one of 12 short films included in the Women’s Adventure film tour. It will sit alongside portrayals of women journeying across Mongolia, cycling through Greenland, and skiing down volcanoes in New Zealand.
There’s plenty of options out there for adventure-minded women, but for Forestier, climbing is the crown jewel of them all. She said it’s the perfect combination of physicality, and the mental problem-solving required to work out a route.
“I feel freedom,” she said. “I feel liberated. I feel like I have a clarity of mind that I don’t usually have.
“I actually feel relaxed when I climb. If I fall off, I just really like trying to find the way forward.
“That’s the fascinating part for me, trying something really hard, at my limit, and pushing my body into extreme positions to find a solution.”
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