I am the product of parents whose nuptial celebration involved guiding wedding guests down the rapids of the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Montana. Growing up, weekends were spent throwing our packs in the back of our Volvo C40 and heading west into the Rockies or north to the Tetons.
On one of these trips, my brother and I were sprinting ahead of our parents and back to the trailhead in Cascade Canyon. This was a move that had become tradition for us — him in front, me nipping at his heels — when a Boy Scout troop leader singled me out.
“Wait with us,” he said, referring to his troop. “You shouldn’t be out here without your parents.”
Even then, at the age of eight, I knew something was amiss. Why hadn’t he stopped my brother? I shuffled my feet and stared shyly at the fallen pine needles.
Since those early Montana days, I’ve lived in Colorado, Oregon, and now Washington. With each move, my first priority is to find women to hike, bike, camp, and ski with. At 26, I don’t know how to put eyeliner or lipstick on and my hair is lucky to be professionally cut and styled once every two years. What I do know is how to pick a line, pitch a tent, and make tacos in the backcountry. Wherever I am, I want to find a community of women who also put a high priority on outdoor skills.
And when I do, I usually find great friends in the process. For example, consider the coworker I asked to climb Mount Shasta with me. Somewhere between the six-hour drive from Portland and us questioning our sanity as the wind threatened to sweep us off the mountainside, we went from coworkers to lifelong friends.
Outdoor Women’s Alliance
I also find that female friends know when to encourage each other to push on and when to take it easy. Just last month, my fellow Outdoor Women’s Alliance volunteers and I took a trip to Ouray. I found myself trembling at the top of a beginner’s ice climbing route. Standing at the top of a climb, preparing to be lowered for the first time, I was terrified of leaning back and letting go. Anna, a newfound friend from Georgia, encouraged me: “I got you. You just have to trust me.” I did. With my feet safely back on the ground, my eyes welled in tears of self-pride as I repeatedly thanked her for believing in me.
I was first introduced to Outdoor Women’s Alliance while living in Bend, Oregon. I was working remotely, and without the benefit of having coworkers I could maybe someday convince to climb a mountain with me, I started attending OWA’s weekly runs to meet other women. Before taking off on three or six miles, we’d stand in a circle to introduce ourselves. It was a welcoming atmosphere: free of ego, expectation, and judgment. We ran and we chatted and friendships were formed.
When I moved to Sequim, the first thing I did was pester OWA to put a team in Washington State. They answered my plea, and I now serve as a team leader for the region.
We kicked off our presence with an adventure writer’s workshop. It filled to capacity. But even more impactful than the number of women there was what they said about their time together with us. We heard comments and received emails from participants saying they felt educated, inspired, and challenged. They requested future courses to continue their learning.
In addition to building professional skills in the outdoor industry, we’re working on adventure-skill building events like women’s-specific climbing nights, avalanche courses, and bike maintenance classes.
PC: Trisha Cloutier
I’d like to go back to that eight-year-old girl. I’d tell her to keep going, to keep running. One day, she’ll run her way into an organization like Outdoor Women’s Alliance where she will meet friends who put their trust in her as they tie-in to a rope together for the first time at 10,000 feet.
You can be the solution.
If you’ve discovered empowerment through the outdoors as a woman, or have seen its benefits first hand and believe more women should have access, Outdoor Women’s Alliance has a way to help you be part of this movement.
To answer this need, we’re creating an online program that women can use to connect, grow skills, and build in-person communities right where they are with all the same benefits of our regional teams….only now it’s going worldwide.
Will you help us say yes to more pleas for expanding adventure communities to women around the world? Find out more about Outdoor Women’s Alliance, its community-building program and to join the effort with a $9 donation. Thanks in advance!