The weekend of February 11th and 12th, Highway 2 to Stevens Pass opened just in time for participants in the Mountain Madness SheJumps AIARE 1 class to head to the mountains. This year there were two sections of the Mountain Madness SheJumps class, one that did their field days at Mt. Rainier National Park and the other at Stevens Pass. We all did our lecture days together on January 25th and 26th at the Evo headquarters in Seattle.
The group of ladies participating in the Stevens Pass portion of the course was fairly diverse in backcountry experience. We even had three splitboarding rockstar ladies! Some folks had never put their skins on or toured, while others had bagged summits of Mt. Adams or done many weekend tours at the passes. One might expect that with such a variety of experience it might cause frustration or confusion, but what was special about this group of women was the encouragement and excitement about just being outside. Many women shared stories or tips from previous tours, and everyone brought a positive and non-judgmental attitude to learning.
The first day began with a meeting in the Stevens lodge where we all introduced ourselves, our experience, and our reasons for taking the course. I found it really interesting to hear everyone’s story and realize how many potential partners were sitting in the room. I enjoyed hearing that most of our reasons for getting out in the backcountry were for ourselves- of course for recreation and adventure- but even more than that, it was a place to create community and fulfill a connection to the outdoors we might not get in other parts of our lives.
The positivity of the course and tone of the weekend was most certainly set by the two wonderful field instructors we had, Lyra Pierotti and Solveig Waterfall. These two women led our group with enthusiasm and kindness, showing us that backcountry travel was for anyone. They answered any and all questions related to the backcountry, including what to pack or how to plan. They showed a sense of openness when talking about their experiences, even while telling us of their accomplishments in skiing and mountaineering. Lyra and Solveig emphasized that ski touring was about having fun, walking in the mountains, staying safe, and sometimes skiing. It was about eating lots of chocolate and learning about your surroundings and more of the story of the snowpack each time you went out. By the end of the course, I think all participants could tell how much Lyra and Solveig loved the snow, certainly for skiing, but also just as part of our natural world.
After introductions inside we headed out and skinned up to Grace Lakes to talk about companion rescue. We practiced digging many times and by the end of the day the area we were in looked completely destroyed!
At the end of the first day we returned to the lodge to check in about our tour for the next day. We also discussed resources and tools to use while planning our own backcountry tours after class, including GAIA GPS, Avenza PDF maps, Hillmap and CalTopo. Everyone left enthusiastic about traveling a bit further the next day.
Our tour for Day 2 was towards Skyline Ridge, a popular tour, especially on a Sunny Sunday. Somehow traveling with a group of 12 rainbow colored women made me feel like a superhero! Once we got up to Skyline Lake we learned how to dig pits and some basics of snow profiles. We ended the day by skiing back down the way we came and straight into the lodge to debrief over french fries and beer!
Photo Credit for the wonderful photos: Adrienne Salzwedel.
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