July 2019 marked the second year of the SheJumps Wild Skills Mountain Camp, which takes place at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State–a mecca for mountaineering in the lower 48. Under the guidance from an all-female crew of mentors, guides and counselors ten young girls aged from 9 to 11 took on the challenges to learn outdoors skills necessary for the navigation of the ice fields at the foot of the glacier. The overnight camp took place over five days.
Allie Leveille, one of the Wild Skills Intern at the camp, is passionate about teaching young girls the skills to not only take on the snowfields of Mt. Rainer but also to move any mountain that stands in their way. Her master thesis focuses on the societal impact of women’s visibility in mountaineering.
“Women entering male formed-and-dominated spaces inspires other women. They can be empowered by women leading on mountains to pursue skills and leadership positions in their own communities,” she said. “It takes time to build confidence and strength–so why not start building those things from the youngest age possible.”
For multiple nights, towering pine trees became home for the campers with the trusty Big Agnes camping gear. Each received crampons, a climbing helmet, harness, glacier glasses, gaiters and an ice axe from Whittaker Mountaineering as well.
The all-women crew of guides at RMI Expeditions taught the girls how to travel on ice fields which included how to use said crampons, walk-on rope lines, and self-arrest with an ice axe. Many onlookers were surprised and in awe to find that such a young group of girls were learning these mountaineering skills. One ranger even exclaimed, ‘I never put on crampons until I was an adult!’
Beside glacier travel skills, the campers learned basic first aid and how to build emergency shelters in a wilderness pinch. Hikes to Panorama Point and Comet Falls proved to be the perfect outdoor classroom to learn topographic map reading skills. During astronomy, the stars above the shadow of Mt. Rainer lit up against the night sky.
After five days of leaning, it was on the banks of the Nisqually River the girls said goodbye to each other. It was clear many had created life-long friendships. Although fun, not every moment was comfortable. Mountaineering is type-two fun that’s all about discomfort. Together, young girls were able to physically and mentally push themselves beyond what they believed possible. The sky truly became the limit.
“What these campers accomplished is incredible and, quite frankly, groundbreaking,” said Allie. “It being only the second year this camp has run, this year’s group is at the forefront of what young girls can accomplish in the outdoors.”
SheJumps gives a huge thank you to program partners RMI Expeditions, Bight Gear, Whittaker Mountaineering and Mount Rainier National Park for making this happen. Additionally, SheJumps thanks our generous support from Adventure Medical Kits, Big Agnes, Clif, and Gogo Squeez.