When Arc’teryx asked for the women of the outdoor community to share what being an active outdoor woman means to them by sharing photos, stories, and by telling them about a woman who most inspires each of us as individuals…we answered! The #defineFEMININE campaign brought in more than 1200 nominations of inspiring women to take part in a week long trip in British Columbia. And four of these incredible women were invited to Arc’teryx’s backyard to experience Quadra Island.
We’d like to introduce you to the four women who took part in the 2015 #DefineFEMININE trip, through the nominations submitted on their behalf.
I cannot think of a more inspiring, passionate, adventurous and courageous woman than Megan. In the four and a half years I have had the pleasure of getting to know her, she has never stopped surprising me with her ability to draw the very best out of people and situations. Her younger years were spent in her home town of Cranbrook, BC, where she gained a great enthusiasm for the outdoors, respect for the environment around her and a keen interest in making a difference. Her friends and family who knew her as a young girl describe her having a reckless curiosity and disregard for the ‘dolls and dresses’ stereotype. Growing up in a small town enabled her to define herself from the countless adventures available and the environment she grew so fond of. Looking to venture into the unknown, Megan enrolled at the University of British Columbia as a Biomedical Mechanical Engineer and quickly found that Vancouver was the perfect place to call home for someone as adventurous as she is. Unlike many in the program, she didn’t let her academic life get in the way of the mountains, often finding herself on the top of one of the many surrounding peaks, excited to climb, ski, hike or slide down. Near the end of her degree, she co-founded a rehabilitation science start-up company developing bracing technology to aid in recovery from traumatic, lower body injury. With the large majority of her classmates being men, Megan raised the bar both academically and recreationally while reaffirming what it means to be a woman engineer. I met Megan at UBC and haven’t had a chance to look back yet. Her enthusiasm for life took us both to Europe for 8 months to complete internships in Germany and Switzerland. It would have been easy to immerse ourselves in our work but Megan wouldn’t accept that. Each weekend brought a new adventure and the biggest smiles you can imagine. In what seemed to be a short trip, we climbed five of Switzerland’s 4000m peaks, rock climbed in four different countries, skied in four, mountain biked in two, and hiked in three. Even a full ACL rupture on a 5 day ski traverse (that ended in a shiny red helicopter) couldn’t keep her from her passion of exploring. In her mind, it just marked the transition from ski season to climbing season. I can honestly say that trip was the best experience of my life, one that would not have happened without Meg leading the charge; a sentiment I know that others share with me. Megan is now a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working to develop decentralized agricultural waste to biofuel conversion units. For us laypersons, she is using her engineering genius to make the world a better place for years to come while facilitating basic needs for people in developing areas. Even though she has found East coast life to differ geologically, she has still managed to find the very best of climbing, biking, skiing, paddling, surfing, sailing and beach volleyball. By taking advantage of the prestigious reputation of MIT, she has found herself evaluating the newest wetsuit technology surfing the waves of Taiwan, touring the Specialized bike factory in San Francisco and learning Hindu culture from the Indian farmers whom hope to benefit from her thesis project. There are few people who have had such a significant influence on my life. Her motivating, energizing attitude is infectious and has led her, and many other unsuspecting people, into many life changing experiences and places. Her enthusiasm for life and adventure is contagious and I have seen firsthand the positive influence she has on so many around her. She makes tomorrow not just another day, but another adventure that you cannot wait to take part in. So what is my definition of feminine? Inspiring, genuine, accepting, passionate, audacious, brilliant, full of life, beautiful. In a word, Megan.
It was about 10 years that I introduced Tina Albershardt to hiking and alpine climbing. Back then, I was the one that inspired her to go outdoors and push her boundaries. Now it is quite the opposite. She is has left her role as apprentice and come in to her own. She is the one that inspires me and many others to be unafraid in nature and boldly push to new heights. Tina has this incredible dichotomy of outdoor enthusiasm and urban chic that makes her my feminine warrior. Tina began her mountaineering training in New England with winter ascents of Mount Adams and Mount Washington. But it wasn’t until 5 years ago when she moved to Washington that she discovered her newest addiction, glaciers and vertical climbing. In just one year, she trained for alpine mountaineering and made ascents of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Baker and Mount St. Helens. She is always the first to clip into the rope team. Tina was the one that convinced me to join the Mountaineers to get more alpine climbers for more ascents. It wasn’t long before they gave her the nickname of ‘The Beast’ despite her small size of 5’3”, 120 pounds. Mountaineering wasn’t enough for Tina; she felt the need to give back and help others. This drove her to join the King County Search and Rescue team to help lost and injured hikers. She has been instrumental in saving lives here in Washington. Back in 2013, she helped rescue an injured skier on Mount Rainier, saving the young man’s life. This brings us to the other half of the dichotomy: urban chic. Tina has a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology and works as a scientist at a company that is seeking to cure cancer. Her job requires her to look professional at all times. She somehow finds a way to take her Arc’teryx soft shell jacket and seamlessly blend it with her dress shirts and stylish shoes. That soft shell jacket gets worn every single day she goes to work. To me, Tina embodies the very essence of Arc’teryx. She is ‘The Beast’ of the mountain that seeks to explore to new heights and bring others with her. She is an inspiration to me and to others whether that be in the outdoors through her leadership and dedication to rescuing injuring hikers or in her job where she mentors the next generation of scientists. Everyone carries that one thing in their jacket to give them that extra motivation when they have hit the wall, and, for me, that is Tina Albershardt.
The relentless buzz of digital commentary shape a paradigm of what ‘feminine’ means. While the world obsesses over semantics, ultimately sending the message that women must be like men to be somehow equal…. …there are women that just live, they show others that femininity is not relative to masculinity. They demonstrate that femininity empowers unlimited potential. It is feminine to push physical limits, wrestle unfathomable tasks, prevail against uncountable odds, be responsible for the human stewardship of Earth. Such an example is courageous, it is an existence proof of true female identity. Alexis defines feminine. She contributes to the massive definition by her passion for climbing, for mountain trail running, open water swimming, and cycling. She competes against her weaker-self, which is an endless task, and requires a lifelong commitment. Because she is feminine, she out-performs herself, and in doing so wins (yes, overall) a 50k mountain trail run, onsights 5.12 fingercrack, and podiums in triathlons. But it’s not intimidating. She inspires women to climb, to run, to cycle, to swim. I know because they join us, and then again, and again, and their influence then spreads. What is the ultimate feminine display? Alexis would say, ‘to be a mother.’ She maximized the value of her pregnancy and birthing experience, because that is feminine. She is now a perfectly committed mother to our daughter. But motherhood is not different than the outdoor lifestyle, it is only a new part of it. Alexis’ influence on women is further evident by the special article, focused on her, by a female climbing site, CruxCrush.com (4/13/15 post). The article highlights her experience as a mother to take her ability to train hard for running, and apply it to climbing, and with a child to boot. There are more anticipated children in her life, and more adventure. She wants to raise our children as stewards of the lands that offer us so much challenge and adventure, and stewards of the access we have. As a family we contribute to The Access Fund and to the places we love, with our labor and our income. Alexis was the shipping power behind our ability to deliver on the #DawnWallCup Kickstarter campaign, where we produced sustainably-chosen cups, marked with the Topo of the Dawn Wall and worked with Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson to sign hundreds and donate proceeds to the Yosemite conservancy. Her work was volunteer. It is feminine to do hard things. That means something different to each girl and women. I deeply appreciate women who #DefineFeminine, as Alexis does.
ALEXANDRA LE TRIONNAIRE
Alexandra is the most inspiring woman in the outdoors I know. A year ago, she quitted a high-profile position as consultant with McKinsey & Company to work at her dream to become a mountain guide and a doctor for mountain rescue in Chamonix. Striving for excellence in mountaineering, she pushes herself hard in all she does: rock-climbing for technique, dry-tooling for strength, yoga for flexibility, trail-running for cardio. In a year, she made not only astounding progress, but also brought her rope partners in her wake. Gifted with the charisma of people who trust in themselves as much as in others, she never misses a chance to ask a girl with ice axes or at a cliff for her phone number. Thus, she has brought together half-dozen female mountaineers into a tight-knitted high-performing community, and shares her passion for snow, ice and rock with many others, family and friends, in easier ascents. Concerned about the impact of climate change on the mountains and the dangerously high level of pollution in Chamonix valley, she recently joined the NGO Protect Our Winter. In her day-to-day life, aware that her practice of mountaineering requires to sometimes travel long distance, she minimizes her carbon footprint by not driving a car, but instead hitch-hiking to Chamonix, cycling 50 km to the rock climbing gym, or taking the train whenever possible. For all the ways her love for mountains and nature manifests itself, in steep ascents, in collective adventures and in environmental care, Alexandra is a source of inspiration.