Trekking through a magical rainforest for miles on end with a group of women, while being guided by all women, is something special. We spent five days outside with nearly perfect weather conditions, and the route to the summit of Sunh-a-do (Mount Olympus) almost to ourselves was incredible.
All photos by Yessenia Cantu
I was invited to participate in a SheJumps guided climb in Olympic National Park as the photographer and couldn’t have been more excited. Sunh-a-do is the highest point in the Olympic Range and comes with varied terrain–backpacking, mountaineering, and alpine climbing. Years prior, I participated in an AIARE I course with SheJumps, so I knew this climb would be another opportunity to share an outdoor adventure with other women.
There was a lot of excitement on the first day as we were preparing for gear check. After a few conversations about sharing tents with strangers, who of course would later become friends, we were off to the trailhead. Before beginning our trek, we were asked to share our goals for the trip. Most of us shared sentiments about having fun, excitement for being in the company of an all-women team, and eagerness to experience and enjoy our surroundings.
Before we knew it, we were making our way ten miles to our first campsite. We arrived at our campground early enough to spend a few hours soaking in the Hoh River and enjoying the sun before dinner. It was luxurious. After dinner, we had an ample stretching session sprinkled with yoga. In the meantime, we chatted about our lives, hopes for the trip, and how our journeys led us to that moment.
On day two, we hiked 9 miles to camp and prepared for our summit attempt the following day. It was a long, hot day and we were a tired bunch afterwards. Yet, with our first obstacle accomplished, there was excitement in the air for the day ahead–summit day. The next morning we began with an alpine start and reached the top of the meadow at dawn. This was no ordinary meadow, the view of the sun rays hitting the blue glacier was so beautiful it made us all pause to watch. We then made our way on the glacier and over the pass in what soon felt like a very hot morning.
When alpine climbing, a summit is not always the primary goal. With the right conditions and weather, it’s always a possibility, but never compromised for safety. So it felt like quite the accomplishment that our entire team did make it to the summit. It was glorious to share the excitement with everyone. Laughs, cries, congratulations, high fives, and summit cheers were shared all around. It was a 14-hour day from camp to camp and we all succeeded.
Often, I heard our group collectively praise one another for the accomplishments of the day and support each other in moments of self-doubt. We had vulnerable conversations and provided space to share pieces of our stories, mixed with light-hearted jokes about lighthouses, penguins, and hard-boiled eggs.
On the way back to the trailhead we cheered one another on and were matched by applause from strangers, which was a fun way to conclude the trip. I’ve never been applauded after a climb, but I do internally applaud the work that we all individually did to get up and down that mountain. I applaud our guides for keeping us safe and allowing us to learn and grow. I applaud what each of us brought and left behind on that mountain. I applaud the work we are all doing to diversify the outdoors and create a space where we welcome and support women to accomplish things they didn’t think they could.
We came together as strangers but ended up supporting one another, sharing skills, building community, healing, learning, growing, and climbing a beautiful mountain.
The 2022 Olympus Fundraising Climb raised a total of $27,216 for SheJumps.
Alpine Ascents gifted us with a great group of women guides who consistently shared their humor, skills, compassion, guidance, patience, and encouragement with us. For many of us, including myself, it was the first time on a guided trip where I had been led by women. I can’t say enough what a difference and how invaluable it is to have been led by women in the company of other women. The opportunity for connection, comradery, growth, and safety on this climb were consistently present, and I only hope that women can have unlimited opportunities to experience this. Thank you Alpine Ascents and SheJumps for fostering this space for us.
SheJumps is an inclusive organization. We welcome all women and girls—transgender and cisgender, as well as non-binary people.
SheJumps strives to fight against racism and acknowledges that our events and programs take place on traditional, unceded Indigenous lands.”