A photo essay: Why we need women only trips

(When I say “women,” I mean this as fully inclusive of trans women.)

After four years of working on my technical skills, exercising and improving my leadership skills, I feel like this is the season where I finally started getting not so bad at mountaineering.

As reflected on how I got here, I noticed a pattern. Let’s see if you can see what I noticed.

Mt. Shuksan (2013)

My first mountaineering trip was a two-week mountaineering course with NOLS. Here is our group on top of Mt. Shuksan, my first big summit.

Triple Peak (2015)

My fabulous, fearless and punny friend Arthur and I head up Triple Peak. It’s my first mountaineering trip without an instructor.

Alva Bate Sanctuary (2016)

The following year, I completely destroyed my back and can barely walk. But I can climb.

Three patient and generous friends take me on their explorations climbing around basecamp.

Later that week, Dennis and I do a first ascent of an alpine climbing route … a first for both of us.

Elkhorn (2017)

Bernard and I set off to try a big mountain by ourselves. We bump into two friends along the way, which is great fun.

Rugged (2017)

I jokingly call this photo “Jes and her backup dancers” … but they weren’t even going to take a group photo! I just grabbed a selfie while I could. This ACC club trip was one of the most pleasant climbs I’ve ever had.

A pattern emerges:

For most of my mountain climbing expeditions, I have been the only woman.

This is just my story, so your personal experiences may vary. But can you imagine any man saying that it took him four years before he climbed a mountain with another man? I cannot.

And of course, this lack of diversity is not just about women. There are fewer people of colour climbing mountains. And fewer queer people…..

I spend a lot of time thinking about why things are this way, but I think it’s a very complicated problem.

One thing I want to make clear is that for me, it is almost never about a problem with a particular person.

I find that almost everyone I have ever encountered in the mountains treats me as an equal and with respect. The guys I climb with are awesome.

This issue is so much bigger than how one individual person thinks about or treats another particular person.

One thing I do know

The social scientist in me loves love looking at the big picture stuff.

The climber in me sometimes just wants to go climb with other women. This post is about that part of me. And the one thing I do know is that if you label a trip for women only, we show up.

Warden (2017)

Eight mountain babes on the summit of Warden, definitely my most epic trip.

Mt. Baker (2017)

People asked me where Bernard was. I told them he was not invited! Women-only trip!

Arrowsmith (2017)

Our ACC women-only trip did not make it up the Main Gully due to horrible weather. We decided to try again the following month, but not as an official trip. So we let Bernard tag along on this one. 😉

Resources for folks who live on Vancouver Island

If you are like me, you know know how good the mountains is for your soul and how it helps you grow as a person. I think these experiences should be accessible to everyone. And right now, they are not.

Women: Keep your eyes peeled on the ACCVI schedule for more Wild Women trips. (These trips are open to anyone who identifies as a woman, which absolutely includes trans women.)

LGBTQ+ folks: If you’d like to hike or climb with other queer folks, check out my new Facebook group. I’m working on planning a few hikes and climbs between now (October 2017) and April 2018. I will share the details there. Please also use the group to find activity buddies on your own. This little group is not intended to replace other clubs, guides or gyms. It is to help improve access to these spaces for more people. And to build community. And have fun!

If you are know of any other groups working to reduce barriers to getting outside and build community in under represented groups, leave a link in the comments!

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