“You know how to climb before you know how to walk.” Those were the words of encouragement from rock climber, Abby Dione, to people, particularly black women, who would want to make rock climbing a favourite workout or sport.
For over 12 years that she has been climbing, Dione has used her journey to “dismantle stereotypes about African-Americans and women in the sport.”
Today, she is the first Black woman in the U.S. to own and operate an indoor rock climbing gym.
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This was after she had purchased Coral Cliffs Climbing Gym in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2011. The gym was created as an avenue to expose more people of colour to the activity, Melanin Base Camp reports.
Since the opening of Coral Cliffs, Dione has been using her space and experience to nurture climbers and help enhance diversity in the field.
Climbing is currently growing in popularity across the United States, however, black women form only a small percentage of U.S. climbing members and Dione wants to change that.
She has, therefore, launched numerous initiatives including the creation of a local youth rock climbing team and bouldering classes.
Dione essentially wants to create “opportunities for people to meet and experience how powerful climbing could be. And doing it in a safe and fun environment.”
Thus, in October 2017, she coached an introductory bouldering class at the first-ever diversity in climbing festival, Colour the Crag. The rock climber described the experience as “a cool opportunity to instruct and mentor.”
“I know a lot about climbing. I’m still learning but I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity and gift to teach and share it with people.”
“I’ve been climbing long enough to remember when people would ask me if I was lost,” she said.
Originally from Canada, Dione moved to South Florida to study oceanography, and that was where some friends visiting from Europe introduced her to rock climbing. She soon got hooked to the activity, she told a climbing clinic recently.
“I’ve been at it for a while, not just consuming climbing, but selling it, too,” Dione said, stressing, however, that climbing consumption is not easy due to her location.
“Having lived in South Florida for such a long time, I need to travel to climb,” she was quoted by The Catalyst.
And Coral Cliffs became the gym where she actually learned to climb, likening the situation to “buying the car your parents taught you how to drive in.”
For over seven years, Dione has instructed so many young climbers, including those who have the skills they need to safely enjoy the sport both indoors and outdoors.
“Dione trains everything from finger strength to core strength to maximum pull and
Most of the climbers who have been under her watch have gone on to achieve incredible climbing feats. However, Dione is highly concerned about “risk mitigation and crag consideration” which she believes has decreased among climbers.
“Lots of people are not educated; how to protect nature, how to exercise Leave No Trace principles, how to treat other climbers,” Dione said.
She, therefore, ensures that her climbers “build their confidence, understand the mechanics going on, and mitigate risk” when they reach the crag, reports The Catalyst.
After climbing for over 12 years, Dione’s focus is no more on climbing projects while her approach to the sport has changed.
She is now interested in “increasing overall strength and power, finger strength, and flexibility. Climbing is either pushing, pulling or hanging, and I’m more interested in doing incremental growth in each one of these areas,” said the Melanin Base Camp.
Dione is also more focused on teaching than her physical climbing strength.
“It’s not all about me anymore,” she said, as she can now “get anybody up something.”