What happens when you combine five moms from Michigan all in their 40s with a Fundraising Climb on Mt. Baker? A trip of a lifetime.
In the heart of Northern Michigan is the small resort Boyne Mountain with an elevation of 1,120 feet. While small in size the area is big in community, which is how five local friends, all moms in their 40s, signed up for the 2022 Fundraising Climb on Mount Baker (Koma Kulshan).
One of those friends was Kari Roder, Director of Marketing at Boyne Mountain. "When Sarah Ford posted that she was doing the Mount Baker Fundraising Climb on Facebook and seeking other participants, I felt an immediate connection and donated to her!" She stated. "I didn’t consider going on the climb until a few days later, after more of our friends started toying with the idea."
For Sheryl Meulman, signing up was no small decision. "I thought to myself, I can't do that. I have a family now, I shouldn't travel, when would I train, it's too expensive, I don't want to fundraise. I don't have the time."
After just a day of going back and forth, Meulman decided, why not? There may be a million reasons to say no, but there are a million and one reasons to jump in. "After I signed up for the climb, I started researching more about SheJumps. I felt driven by their mission to simply get girls outside, build self-confidence, and establish a sense of belonging and connection with the outdoors," said Meulman.
An all-women crew from Alpine Ascents International guided the 2022 Mt. Baker Fundraising Climb. With over 7,000 feet in elevation gain over 7 miles one-way, the trek is not for the faint of heart. It’s split into three days of travel through old-growth forests, snow-covered ridge lines, and a crevassed glacier. The Michigan crew quickly began a training routine to climb the 10,781-foot volcano.
"As a group, we would meet one to two times a week. One day we hiked for distance and the other was a short and steep day. In between was conditioning and an additional hike on our own," explained Meulman. The group even began to call themselves ‘Baker Babes’ in anticipation of the climb. "It was a time that we could share our gear purchases, our concerns, our wins, and just talk about the trip! SheJumps supports the concept of belonging and community, which is exactly what was created here."
The three-day trek began with a hike into basecamp perched high on the south side of Mt. Baker in Washington. On day two, the guides taught the basics of glacier mountaineering, which included proper ice axe use, rope systems, and crampon techniques. This all leads up to day 3 - a summit bid that begins before dawn.
"Turns out, the physical part of the climb was only half the battle because the mental journey was equally strenuous," explained Roder. "Fear, self-doubt, anxiety, adrenaline rush, thrill, pure joy, exhaustion, and relief are adjectives that come to mind. There were moments when I thought, ‘What am I doing up here?!’"
Roder felt similar sentiments. "I lost my footing on the way to basecamp and started to slide down a steep snowfield with a 40-pound pack on my back. I was exhausted and it was only day one," she stated. "The guides were quick to not let me wallow in my mistake. While I was flooded with self-doubt, I had to keep on putting one foot in front of the other…and that’s exactly what I did until we reached 10,700 feet."
Despite any doubts, all the Baker Babes made it to the summit.
"I can tell you that standing on the summit of a volcanic glacier wearing crampons while holding an ice axe gave me a sense of female badassery that I had never experienced in my life!" Roder exclaimed. "Let’s be real though, the real hard-core, rad women were the guides from Alpine Ascents."
"Our guides did a fantastic job of talking us through each part of the climb, from what layers to shed or add to breathing techniques while anxiety-ridden at the higher elevations," added Roder. "They believed in me when I didn’t and without their support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have found the top."
"Honestly, the trip was life-changing," stated Meulman. "SheJumps supports the concept of belonging and community, which is exactly what was created here."
While fundraising for the Climb, Roder learned of an instructor at Boyne Mountain that volunteers for SheJumps, Hilary Way. She also feels passionate about the mission of SheJumps. "It can be hard to find ladies who enjoy the outdoors as much as I do," Way explained. "SheJumps changed that. I can learn skills, do things I love, and meet cool people while doing it."
Kari Roder with Boyne Mountain Resort Flag
Kari Roder's tattoo of Mt. Baker after the climb
Together, Roder and Way plan to host female-focused ski and snowboard clinics to teach all levels of ability to rip groomers or the terrain park. Added Roder, "After participating with SheJumps on this level, I feel forever connected to the mission and hope to continue raising awareness for women outdoors."