Representation Matters. Or why I so excited to meet Caroline Gleich.

x-posted to Instagram

In 1998 I watched the Imax movie Everest, which detailed the ’96 climbing disaster. Despite the tragedy, twelve year old me was in awe. I told my Mom that someday I wanted to climb mountains.

Things stalled for a while. I didn’t grow up camping, climbing, or skiing, but as soon as I hit college I seized the privilege to get outside. Over the years I learned to climb (outdoors first), backpack, ski, paddle, cycle, and more. When I moved to Oregon in 2009, the first thing I did was look up how to climb Mount Hood. I didn’t have the technical skills yet, or the money to get them, so I settled on climbing Mount Saint Helens my first spring there. But Mount Hood loomed in the distance, and I wanted to climb.

Eventually I did learn (friends taught me, and then I took courses). That led me to backcountry skiing & more tehcnical mountaineering. Avy 1 classes. More summits. Frost nip. Snow camping. Views of the milky way like I’d never seen before.

I fell in love with the mountains, but so many of the faces I saw there were rich white men. Even more so, the stories and movies I read highlighted those folks. But as a 5’2″ woman who worked at a nonprofit and bought her gear used, I didn’t always feel like I quite fit in. It was hard or impossible to find boots and other technical gear in my size. To get skills you needed a mentor (a network I didn’t have) or money (which I also didn’t have). And to be “feminine” (or excited, or scared, or curious) seemed to equal weak or not capable. Over the years, I’ve been thankful to know many folks that broke those stereotypes, and who welcomed me into the sport and saw me as an equal. The men who have welcomed me I’ve bene particularly grateful for. Your allyship is more important than you likely realize.

But on the international stage I’ve been SO grateful to see @carolinegleich represent and speak out. She’s not only an accomplished ski mountaineer (badass), but someone who isn’t afraid to show the bad/hard/challenging parts of what she does (even more badass). A reminder that you can be both excited and competent, scared and strong, curious and knowledgeable. In addition to advocating for gender equity, she also fights to protect the earth — not just so we can keep playing outside, but because we are in a damn climate emergency and lives are at stake.

Tonight I got to see her speak, and it was awesome. I’m grateful to her, and others like her for paving the way. Representation matters (gender, race, sexually, socioeconomic status, etc). We still have work to do, but seeing companies and people step up has been amazing. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this community, and I’m grateful for the immense privilege I have to be here. I hope I can help to pay it back.

Author: cartwheelsandcake

Cyclist, climber, hiker, trail runner, back country skier, dabbling mountaineer Lover of cake, chocolate, brownies, and sweets. Excellent napper.

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