I’ll be straight up: I don’t typically label myself as a feminist. I sometimes cringe at the words “women’s empowerment” when overused. So when I say that photographing and tagging along on a Women’s Wilderness climbing course was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a woman, it’s a pretty big deal in my book.
I volunteered for Women’s Wilderness a year ago as they were going through a pretty radical revolution at the organization. I helped them liquidate their enormous gear collection and close up their office as they shut down for a few months to reevaluate what the future of Women’s Wilderness would look like. Honestly, I thought it was the end for this organization–which was a shame. Founded in 1998, Women’s Wilderness is all about offering an “unforgettable experience that will increase your wilderness skills, refresh your spirit, and bring you the joy of a wilderness adventure in the company of women.”
When the next executive director, Emily Isaacs, was announced earlier this year, I squealed with excitement. She’s a real firecracker, unwavering in her dedication to the cause, and I knew that Women’s Wilderness was about to see a rebirth. So I quickly raised my hand and volunteered to join a group of ladies on a climbing course in Boulder Canyon to see if it would live up to my expectations.
Spoiler alert: It did.
I drove out to Boulder Canyon on an unexpectedly blustery morning, totally underdressed but totally stoked. Our group met in a gravel parking lot, exchanging introductions and sorting through gear before hiking across a creek and up into the crag. Our ragtag collection of women was small, with two instructors, three climbers, and myself–and we quickly became friends and made connections through our shared climbing histories.
Our instructors, Tess and Becca, were phenomenal. They kept things casual, made the group feel comfortable, and were proficient in their work to educate us about the gear and techniques we were to spend the day practicing. Although I was strictly on photographer duty, the energy in the air was infectious and got me so stoked for the women who were roping up. To watch the ladies pull on the routes, charge through sections they weren’t sure about, fight through tricky moves, and lowering down after moments of victory was, well, empowering. We shared the highs and lows that day, cheering each other on and comforting one another when things got tough.
I was so impressed by the experience, and can’t sing the praises of the Women’s Wilderness programming enough. If you’re in Colorado, I encourage you to check out their course offering, and sign up for a class or community event. Emily has already brought about so much positive direction to the organization since coming on as executive director, and I know her head is teeming with plans and ideas for the future.