Back in 2016, SheJumps introduced the first-ever fundraising climb on Mt. Rainier. “We needed funding for the youth programs I was developing,” said Christy Pelland, Program Director of Wild Skills. “I live near Mt. Rainier and knew many have a desire to climb it and would likely be willing to raise funds for outdoor education for youth.” Five years later, Mt. Rainier has become a staple in the series, bringing together a group of women to climb the 14,411 foot volcano.
With excellent weather and prime conditions on the Disappointment Cleaver Route, the group successfully navigated to the summit with four woman guides from RMI Expeditions. “The team was so strong and climbed hard,” said guide Jess Weder. “We had 100% on the summit, and that’s a testament to how much work they put in before they arrived.” With swift skills, the group summited early enough to watch the sunrise illuminate around the other Cascade Volcanoes - Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.
Training for the expedition was no easy task, but the payoff was worth the work. “I did a lot of hiking for my mental and physical wellness - really a lot of hiking by myself,” said Linsday Hegarty, one of the SheJumps participants. “I wanted to hold myself accountable, I wanted to be in the best shape I could be for myself and also for my teammates.”
Both teamwork and camaraderie were essential for a successful summit as well. “We worked as such an incredible team on the mountain, and I was so proud of how we got every single one of us to the top,” added Kathryn Sooter, another participant. “Combined with our shared experiences in life, it felt like we had all been best friends for years.”
While the group was heading up the steepest, rockiest section of the route at 3 AM, another group they passed was not so pleased. One of the men turned and asked, ‘What are you all doing here?” While the SheJumps team laughed off the negative commentary, Lindsay mentioned, “It was just a reminder that there’s still so much work that needs to be done for us, and the future generation.”
For Jess, it was not the first time there was an inquiry to her experience in the alpine. “The moment stood out because, as women in the outdoors, we were not surprised that people were questioning why we were there,” explained Jess, who had recently got back from guiding an expedition on Mt. Everest. “I often have this experience when I am on my own, but to have eight other women next to me who also belonged on that mountain right next to all the other teams felt unifying and powerful.”
That other group was not seen again, but it hardly took away from the experience.
"Thanks to the support and sisterhood of the amazing women I was surrounded with, I was able to find the strength to push through the fear," said Kathryn. "I learned that wherever you think your limit is, you can always push a bit further. The confidence I gained from jumping that hurdle is something I know I will continue to carry with me throughout life."
The Mt. Rainier Climb is the second of four SheJumps fundraising events through a mountaineering skills clinic. Mt. Shuksan took place from July 22nd-25th with Alpine Ascents International and the Grand Teton in Wyoming will be from August 24th-27th with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.
Want to sign up for a SheJumps fundraising climb? Sign up for SheJumps email newsletters and check your email in the fall to sign up for the upcoming year's climbs.
(Photos provided by Kathryn Sooter)
SheJumps is an inclusive organization. We welcome all women and girls (transgender and cisgender) as well as non-binary people who identify with the women’s community. SheJumps strives to be an ally in the fight against racism and acknowledges that our events and programs take place on traditional, unceded Indigenous lands.