My goal here is to untangle competition and insecurity to foster better female partnerships. I’m taking this on because it’s something that I need to work at. It sounds like I might not be the only one.
Female competition isn’t something that can be summed up in a singular blog post written by a single woman. Instead of beginning by wringing out all of my ideas, past experiences, bias and insecurities, I posed the idea and questions to the internet via Instagram, Facebook and Reddit.
There were 5 questions, with the final question asking for permission to share the answers anonymously. Of 61 respondents, 60 granted me permission to share (I read and then deleted one of those responses.) Here’s what they had to say:
I feel competition FROM other women when…
“In almost all aspects of my life. I’m known as one of the best female climbers in my gym, so when I see someone better than me, I panic a little even though I know I shouldn’t.”
“I compare my body to theirs.”
“Almost never. Only when it is explicitly stated or when we are actively competing in a sport/game/etc.”
“In social situations where I’m a newcomer.”
“My female climbing partner is very competitive and will often climb a route I’ve struggled on just to prove she can do it. For the most part I’m not bothered by that type of competition because it doesn’t have any impact on my climbing or how I approach a climb.”
“They are of similar level to me in the activity. When there are men in the group, or someone whose opinion they perceive matters.”
“They aren’t supportive. When I am not invited to join.”
“They take actions to demean or diminish my voice in shared spaces when this action was not needed.”
“Doing physical activities. But I’m competitive by nature so this applies to men as well.”
“Everything! I know it’s stupid to do, but every time I’m in a room with multiple women, I think “am I the fattest one?” “Am I the only one not married?” It is fully internal. I admit, the lower I am feeling, the more I compare myself to others (which is a terrible self-sustaining cycle!).”
“There’s a lot going on and it feels like visibility needs to be fought for.”
“I honestly can’t think of a time when I felt a lot of competition from other women. I do sometimes feel just excluded or left out from other women but I also spend most of my time outside with guys and this is probably partially my fault for not putting in more effort to create a better community of women to recreate with.”
“They talk down to me.”
“Pretty much ALL THE TIME. Maybe it’s just the area I live in but I feel surrounded by it.”
“I don’t really experience this.”
“They have achieved something that I have achieved in the past, by no longer strive to achieve.”
“Constantly, especially regarding things I find pride in, but I try not to compare myself to others! We live in a pretty competitive society where you have to be one of the best to get ahead.”
“I don’t know the female well and it seems like she’s trying too hard to be one of the guys.”
“We are both in a male dominated workplace.”
“Kid accomplishments, vacations, lifestyle.”
“I used to feel it constantly in the work place. I’m 59 years old, and spent 26 years in the insurance industry, which traditionally was very male-dominant. I felt like other women didn’t believe that there was room for all of us to grow.”
“They seem to have it all together somehow. There are only so many hours in the day, and it is just impossible to be skinny/fit/strong/pretty/perfect/all the things.”
“Honestly, when the woman’s more attractive than me.”
“First meeting them. It’s like an immediate competition before we really know each other and know they are ‘cool.’ In corporate settings. competition to rise above, faster. Generally, with women we don’t know. So in passing, strangers on the street, driving, while traveling, etc.”
“They post about their accomplishments on social media, cut me down or ignore me in front of men, use language that is demeaning (whether this be consciously or subconsciously.)”
“Women minimize, criticize or dismiss my career and interests.”
“Usually never because a lot of women don’t do anything fun anymore they just pump out babies and then their lives are over and then I find myself skiing with a pack of men, sausage fest skiing. Then I wish they were there when I need a tampon but they are not. ( exhibit: Swift Creek three-ish weeks ago). I do have one lady friend who will mountain bike with me. We are calling it a clam bake instead of sausage fest. I do not feel competitive with her. It’s more of an INspiration and sort of relief to ride with her. I tend to ride better than I usually do when I’m with her, Which is pretty cool. I tend to try harder while riding with her than with the sausages, but it’s not a competitive thing. It’s more like she is athletically on my level and if she can do it so can I.”
“They are threatened by me.”
“When their insecurities show through in the way they act towards others.”
“Discussion about how to manage jobs and family at the same time … I feel like I have to be superwoman.”
“There are too many of us and no dudes to balance it out. Ever tried to get a group of 8 extroverted women together? I end up leaving usually very drained of energy instead of energized.”
“I don’t feel the woman is approachable; if she is friendly and warm I feel a kinship.”
Perhaps the most poignant answer, which I will note was the only answer this respondent provided:
“The main thing fueling insecurity and anxiety of any kind that has now infiltrated the the outdoor industry, are people spraying their personal accomplishments across social media for everyone to see and needing constant validation. What is worse, are people doing this under the guise of feminism and empowering others. Bragging about accomplishments in the mountains and the need to spray everything you do on the internet fuels insecurity and competition. That is literally what social media is, comparing your life to other people. Blog posts, trip reports after the simplest of ski tour and what someone literally ate for breakfast that morning doesn’t matter. Using social media to promote oneself is at the center for self comparison and literally is a competition. If people want less female competition they can stop using the internet as a self promoting tool to get ahead. The only pure thing left in the world, where self comparison was meant to go to die, has turned into a bigger competition cause of bullshit like personal blogs and updates on what a hard climb someone climbed.”
Half out of spite and half to address somewhat legitimate concerns, I will address this comment in my next blog post. But for now, let’s move onto the next question:
I feel competitive WITH other women when…
“Honestly, I try to fight this whenever I see it in myself. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting it. It was hardest with my mom, but she has passed away now.”
“They try to step on my toes on a topic I know more about, or when they pretend they know more than me when that isn’t the case. I also feel super competitive when other women steal my ideas/words and start using them as their own. It can be very frustrating when we are all just trying to get ahead in the world.”
“With men involved, with sports, and when first meeting them.”
“They spend a lot of time putting together their “look” and I don’t.”
“I see them supporting others in ways that I’m not supported.”
“I’m in a competition. I try not squish any competitive feelings when I and the other women haven’t specifically chosen to compete against each other. I’d rather choose to be in a competition and feel those feelings than be going around feeling randomly competitive all the time.”
“When I’m in public and see a woman who I think is skinnier or prettier than I am.”
“I lose sight of my own path and compare myself to them in my head.”
“Again – I am so glad my 20s and early 30s are behind me as I rarely feel this any more! But I will still occasionally feel it when I see other competitive women posting their achievements on social media… I don’t ever seem to feel that way with non competitive women.”
“I feel as if I do not have a competitive drive and am not helping you with my survey. I feel more competitive with my self internally than other women. Again, I am so relieved and excited when another female wants to go do something cool, that it really inspires me to lead by example (in the mountains and outside.)”
“I feel I am not being respected or heard.”
“I see someone better than me.”
“It seems like a woman is getting more attention because of her looks than her ideas. Maybe it’s not true, but looking “good” certainly helps get you noticed.”
“They are at my level or a higher level at something I want to be better at.”
“When I feel like I don’t get a chance to speak to convey how I feel about decisions. I don’t think it should be “who can talk to most/loudest” gets the say.”
“I feel competitive with other women if she is close to a man that I am attracted to/interested in.”
“All the time. When other women get more attention, when I feel they are more attractive or more talented or more intelligent. I don’t even like being the center of attention, but I always feel insecure and competitive towards other women who are getting more attention or are “better” in some way.”
“Truthfully, I rarely feel competitive with other women. Most women I work with and socialize with go out of their way to lift one another up.”
“…I compare my beauty, skills, or expertise with theirs. Or if we’re vying for the same social spot or same job.”
“I’m not by nature a compete against others person. I prefer to test myself against the elements. The only times I’ve felt/noticed competition is when I’m in a place where I feel insecure about my performance or some external part of my life is causing me to question my self worth. If I’m in a good head space, which is most of the time, then I’m cheering others on.”
“They are about the same skill level as me or a little bit better. Especially with rock climbing. When another woman is new to the sport, but climbs about the same level as me after a short amount of time, where as I’ve been climbing for 5 years.”
“It involves something I’m really good at, otherwise, I would rather not.”
“Women who have been climbing for less time than me start climbing harder grade routes than I can.”
“This is harder for me to answer because I’m not quite sure when this happens. I think it happens when the other women succeed in something I know I can’t. It’s like it’s tied up in jealousy for me. Like I feel competitive when they excel in something I can’t do well (like running really fast or sewing a great costume or outfit). I feel this is kinda good because it motivates me to try new things.”
“I can’t really think of a time when I’ve felt this. The women at the gym are so much better than me they are more inspiration than anything. Fitness, positivity, and climbing wise.”
“I see something come so naturally to a woman who has just started with it, when I have been working my butt off to do something for years.”
“They are faster/younger/more attractive/more badass than I perceive myself to be.”
“Never, really just when playing silly games then i let it out, jokingly.”
Most days, I feel very secure (5) or insecure (1) or somewhere in the middle.
1 – 2% of respondents feel insecure.
2 – 15% of respondents feel somewhere in the middle.
3 – 17% of respondents feel indifferent.
4 – 46% of respondents feel somewhere in the middle.
5 – 20% of respondents feel very secure.
I feel competitive with other women because…
“It’s not women, per se. it’s just knowing you’re better at something than someone even if its just checkers. But I don’t take it seriously and I’m not competitive at work or at the gym or for anywhere else.”
“I forget that it’s not them or me.”
“I believe I was raised by a mother who harbored internal misogyny and as a result taught me that women were competition and potential enemies instead of potential friends.”
“I sometimes have trouble seeing the bigger picture.”
“They are my only real competition!”
“It’s fun, challenging and gives me something to strive for in certain situations.”
“They are always looking to undermine other women.”
“I feel like I’m not good enough and can’t achieve what they achieve, particularly with regard to dating and social status.”
“We’re all trying to prove ourselves to the men, and sometimes don’t want to be seen as ‘girly’ or ‘women like’ in front of them. And sometimes being associated or around other women, makes me feel more that way, thus feeling more ‘girly’ in front of men. Which in turn sometimes makes you feel less powerful, or less highly regarded.”
“I’m always trying to prove myself.”
“I feel that if our kids aren’t as seemingly successful in sports, grades, elite colleges that we are a failure and other parents are judging us as such. This is the most intense area of competition between women I know. The second biggest area is weight and looks meaning other women seem to like if you are heavier, more out of shape so much like girls even at an older age, women don’t like to feel that they are the bottom.”
“I want to be seen as capable, or like one of the guys. Which in turns makes me feel I need to be better than other women.”
“Wanting the same promotions.”
“Sometimes I sign up for contests or races and I’m naturally competitive. Otherwise, I don’t feel this way.”
“I still feel my self-worth is measured best by what others think of me.”
“I’m usually feeling attacked by them. Again I think it’s just the area I live in. People are not nice here.”
“It’s a way to gauge your strengths and progress within your peer group.”
“Usually, I want to be like them.”
“I think that it can feel like there is competitions because I am used to being the only woman so often within the things I do in the outdoors. I am actively involved in working on this both personally and through work attempting to bring more women into the outdoors, and especially create more community. It can be easy to compare myself to people, or think that other women have it all together, especially when there is a lack of a real relationship (such as social media), and you only see the highlights or what is put out there publicly. I think creating more community between women in the outdoors (which is definitely happening!) is a big key to this. I wish I didn’t feel the competitive aspect, but unfortunately it’s kind of there often.”
“Because I am totally unfulfilled in my life? Not a psychologist, just guessing. But I just feel like a total failure at most times compared to the ‘average’ woman around me.”
“Unfortunately, some women seem to behave as if the spaces available to women are limited. I sometimes respond poorly, and I’m not proud of it, when other women are not supportive.”
“I don’t. Why would I?”
“I want to keep up.”
“I have the tendency to compare myself, it never presents as outwardly competitive, but it certainly affects my head space in whatever it is that I’m doing.”
“I think others judge me.”
Sift through it. I’m going to sit on this and think about it. I’m still welcoming your responses at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3Z7LBWV
I also welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
Good people of the internet: I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT. I’m here, right now, to tell you that boot fitting is modern day alchemy.
If you thought that buying a pair of multi-hundred dollar ski boots would translate to a good fit, bless your heart, that’s only the start. You could say that a stock boot, straight off the shelf, is essentially lead. Boot fitters turn that shit into gold.
Perhaps you’ve been on a similar journey. Does the following sound familiar?
Being a savvy skier, you decide, “I should probably invest in some footbeds.” And oh my god, game changer, your boots suddenly feel amazing. (Thank god for the good people at Superfeet. Especially Jeff Gray – you’re my hero. I can’t preach the precision and power of the Custom Cork any louder. BRING THEM BACK!!) As you continue to ski with feet happily nestled into footbeds, you notice improvement… But there’s still something missing…
Ok, so then comes the socks. You know the ultra-plush-padded-comfy socks that make you think, “Yeah! This should do the trick!” No. Put those down. You want to get an ultra thin sock so as not to crowd your feet inside of your boot. I’m partial to Smartwool PhD’s, though I can’t say I’ve gotten any smarter since using them. Side note: I have never had an issue with temperature control since switching. Try it. Thank me later.
Ok, so we’ve put some quality insoles beneath your feet. Wrapped your feet up in the right sock. But we’re only just getting started my friends because boot selection is EVERYTHING. If we were in person, my eyes would get all big and I would throw my arms up in the air as I said it. Let me repeat: EVERYTHING!
And allow me to talk you down before you just spring for the boot with the best reviews, the right flex, etc., etc. and just say: DO NOT think that because you read about the features of the boot, you read the good reviews, etc. that you’re going to purchase the right boot from the modern bazaar that is the internet. No, no.
If you want to feel good, look good, ski good, go visit a retail shop and you have the dude (or lady) have a look at your feet and talk to you about their boot line up. If you do not feel that the person looking at your feet is actually talking to you about features or aspects of your feet that correspond with the boot, don’t waste your time and for the love of god, do not buy their boot. No chemistry? No boot. Go find another boot fitter.
I have been to a few people. I have had a few peoples’ hands on my feet. I’ve gotten a few suggestions. But it wasn’t until recently that I had an experience that resulted in an excellent fit, a new friendship, and the right fit for my foot. Brandon at Evo, you are amazing and as of Friday, this girl’s new best friend because you completely transformed the way I experienced skiing and ski boots. I now know SO MUCH BETTER how a ski boot should fit and feel. I appreciate you.
Allow me to recap so that you too can find an excellent boot fit:
Step one: Don’t be afraid to visit multiple boot fitters until you find your guy.
And your guy doesn’t have to be a guy, it can definitely be a lady, but emphasis on that special person that is giving you their undivided attention to talk to you about all the weird things that you didn’t know about your feet. This person should not be partial to any particular brand. Instead, they’re going to couple the unique deformities of your feet that make you, you and then they’re going to have you try on a couple of different boots to see which is going to be your Cinderella slipper.
Step two: Be uncompromising in finding a good fit, but go in with an open mind.
Turns out, I’m the greenest gumby of my skiing friend group. For the last few years, (SIX YEARS, people) I’ve watched the homies rip everything from backcountry lines to chopped up resort chunder and I have wondered how TF do they do that?! Well-fitted boots are a great place to start.
When I waltzed into Evo to talk to someone about honing in on the right alpine boot for me, I went in with a short list of my expectations for my boot: nothing softer than a 100 flex, nothing that looked soft, maybe a size down, and something with decent reviews that I was going to be able to jump in. Truthfully, I’d already purchased a boot and discovered that Miss Guide Girl had been misguided by her own preconceptions of what her next boot should be. #plzhalp
Brandon gave me a line up that resembled what I was asking for. But none of them felt right. He asked me to flex the boots. I kinda crouched down and tried to push the tongue out and then later confessed that I really didn’t know what he meant when he asked me to do so. (Like I said, baby skier. I’m still learning, even 6 years after my first day on skis.)
He then told me that he knew the boot for me. Taking care to not set me off about putting me in a boot that was softer than my 100-flex-minimum, he assured me that the boot would feel stiff and that it was going to fit my high-instep, medium-volume foot.
I slipped it on and felt secure, but not crowded. When I flexed the boot, I felt it respond to my movement. A light bulb popped on for me. Even though it was a fluffy-liner, soft-blue boot, it was the right one for me. (The aesthetics are a whole different rant. In sum: I don’t want cute gear. I want gear that looks good. Would a man wear a boot with a fluffy liner? No. Do I want to wear a boot with a fluffy liner? No. But here I am, loving my fluffy-liner boots.)
Step three: Acknowledge that the right fit is a journey that might take time.
My first pair of ski boots were given to me for free: hand-me-downs from my little sister’s friend. I skied them without insoles, with thick socks and without much joy for a few years. Then came the size 25.5 touring boots that I bought from a second-hand shop with zero guidance from the sales rep who sold them to me. (Face palm.) I remember asking, “How should they feel?” And he assured me that if they felt ok, they were probably the right fit. That was dumb.
Then, I got fitted by someone in a busy shop at a resort who essentially stuffed their hand into the back of my boot and confirmed for me that I should ski a 23.5 boot. So I hopped online, found the seemingly right boot at the right price, and bought it. Heat molded. Got the custom footbeds (thanks Jeff!) But…
OUCH. OUCH. OUCH. It has been SUCH a painful journey breaking these boots in. I one time accidentally hiked 10 miles on a trail in them (don’t forget your approach shoes, folks!) After all of that, I have learned:
Signs that your boots don’t fit:
1.) You feel like you’re constantly fighting them to stand/ski/exist in a comfortable position. They either put you too far forward over your skis or too far back. This can be remedied by a boot fitter.
2.) You can lift your heel up and down. An insecure heel leads to an insecure skier. I can’t entirely speak to the physical damage, but the emotional damage of having a shitty day on the hill while everyone else seems to be having a blast is enough to make you reconsider the sport. Give me an amen in the comments if you’ve ever had this unfortunate experience.
3.) If it feels like flexing your boot is being resisted by the Great Wall of China conveniently located in front of your shin, honey, you’ve got the wrong boot. I previously thought that I would eventually grow into a hella stiff flex (120) because I had planned on jumping and dropping cliff features. Nope. I was wrong. Your flex should correspond to your height, weight and ability. If you feel like you’re fighting your boot, you probably are, and you’re probably giving up some control in the process.
4.) It should go without saying, but if you feel pressure points as soon as you step into your boots, something is wrong. Some of these can be remedied by a punch by a talented individual like Brandon, but sometimes the geometry of your feet just doesn’t match the boot. Pay close attention to where buckles sit relative to your pressure points.
I think that’s about all I’ve got for you today. And I think there’s probably still lots to learn. All I can say is that I’ve embarked on this journey of learning the intricacies of a good fit in a climbing shoe, and I cannot believe how much more complicated fitting a ski boot is. That’s why good people like Brandon have jobs. I assure you it is completely worth your time to make the time and financial investment.
THANK YOU BRANDON! And in case you’re wondering, I went with the Dalbello Chakra.
I haven’t written much in the last few months. Several times, I’ve sat down and hovered my hands over my keyboard trying to write. But you know that feeling when a word is on the tip of your tongue and no matter how hard you think about it, it just won’t come to you? I’m finally ready to say all the things that have gone unsaid.
After my season of working in the mountains came to a close, I felt really lost. I had wrapped so much of my sense of identity up in what I was doing that when it stopped, I didn’t feel like I had much left to offer.
It’s also worth mentioning that I was working constantly between a busy restaurant gig and guiding jobs, so I hardly had a moment to stop and process. Back at home in Bellingham, I often worked late at the restaurant and began the following day early — like 4 a.m. early — to get down to Seattle to pick up clients for guiding jobs. For the majority of the summer, I slept the best on a thin Thermarest when I was out in the field. It was a lot, but I loved it!
If you know me, if you’ve read anything that I’ve written before or exclusively what it says in the address bar: You know that I’m passionate about climbing. Duh. I’m also prone to exhibiting high levels of stoke, because yeah, climbing. I love it.
As far as I can tell, Newton’s 3rd law about equal and opposite reactions to applies to everything. Including emotions. For as stoked as I’ve been, I’ve also been equally unstoked (destoked? Not stoked.) I think it’s really important to talk about that, because social media portrayals are so ubiquitous but limited in truth. I am not my social media. That’s what I want you to think about me; but that is not all of me.
It has been a hard couple of months. But I’m finally coming around and realizing that I’m not pitiful because I’m not projecting 5.12 anymore.
Whew, it feels great to finally say that.
Like any other living breathing human out there, I get anxious sometimes. A lot of my anxiety is the product of a stupidly huge ego that I try really hard to keep in check.
Ego. What a funny little — or big — thing. Sometimes I feel silly for having a blog dedicated exclusively to personal pursuits in climbing, because ultimately, who cares? I guess I just think a lot, write a little and hope it comes in handy for some reader someday.
My ego motivates me to try a hard route. My ego beats me up on the inside when I fail.
My ego scoffs at a moderate route. My ego doesn’t want to recognize that the best climbers climb EVERYTHING and that the grade doesn’t matter. It’s the climbing that matters. It’s the people you go with that matter.
My ego wants to be the best climber. My ego doesn’t like to recognize that the best climb 18,000 times more than I do and that’s a dumb reason to climb.
My ego wants to show off my goofy side on social media. My ego tells me to take a post down that doesn’t garner enough likes or comments.
My ego wants to be friends with everyone and anyone that climbs. But my ego tells me to focus on relationships that benefit my personal progress and development. My ego forgets that relationships take work and effort; especially the ones that don’t fall within my immediate focus on climbing.
My ego feels smug when people tell me about how I’m constantly “getting after it.” But my ego tells me that it’s never enough.
Enough of that bullshit! I’m sure you have your own echo chamber of egotistical garbage to scroll through on a daily basis. I do not wish to contribute to it.
My feeling is that social media profiles are an almost perfect manifestation or representation of all of the ego problems I just listed.
I think that a glossy social media profile is not a report card or reflection of success in life. It’s a measure of how much time you’re willing to dedicate to showing yourself off.
In pulling back a little, scaling down on exclusively scaling rocks, I’ve come to realize that I am not a complete person if I’m only a climber. I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a writer, a thinker, a doer, a drawer, a baker — a person full of LIFE! I have ideas and aspirations; and while climbing is a beautiful medium for challenge, achievement and accomplishment, it can’t be everything. I don’t feel whole when it is.
Yes, I am still very much a climber. Yes, I love what I’m doing. But no, climbing isn’t everything. It’s what I love but there must be balance.
That’s what I needed to say.
This weekend, I had the special opportunity to guide on Mount Baker leading a rope team of women. We were fast. We were strong. We summited on Friday via the Coleman Deming route in just over 5 hours.
After coming back to Bellingham, the mother of two sisters on my team — who also climbed and summited Mount Baker with my co-guide Arthur Herlitzka — told me that it was special to her that her girls got to climb with a female guide. I smiled and told her that I was excited about it too; but I didn’t realize exactly how important it was to me.
On the way down from 10,781 feet, Michaela, Tatum, Scarlett (my rope team) and I began to talk about feminism, outdoor media and climbing. At first, I didn’t have much to say beyond that I thought it was important to see more women outside and in positions of leadership, like guiding. And then I recalled and talked about the post I’d written about a bizarre and frustrating encounter with someone essentially mansplaining in a classroom environment how he understood the plight of all women in outdoor leadership because his wife had been slighted too… Yeah, I’m still a little salty.
But anywho, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you — as a female guide — about how climbing with a girl might differ from climbing with a guy. I’d also like to add the disclaimer right up front: the traits that I’m going to list are not necessarily gendered nor does gender exist in a binary. These are just my observations of climbing with women in the last couple of years and are not absolutes (i.e. women always X, men never Y, etc.) I mean nothing more than to highlight the things that I’ve really enjoyed about climbing with women. Also, I use “women” and “girls” interchangeably and don’t mean any offense by it. That said:
Girls are so fun to talk to. I’ve had a lot of really interesting conversations with women while climbing. I think that having a steady conversation while grinding uphill for hours on end is an impressive feat in and of itself. It definitely helps with the passage of time and mileage. I’ve also observed that women are more inclined to uphold their end of the conversation.
Breaks tend to happen right when they need to. Seems to me like a lot of women aren’t afraid of speaking up when they need to take a sec and adjust their pack, their boots or whatever comes up. When climbing with girls, I find that I’m well-hydrated, well-snacked and comfortable cruising at a sustainable pace. I find that girls tend to be more communicative about how they’re feeling and what they need before something like blisters become an issue. And I appreciate and respect that.
Speaking of snacks… Besides taking breaks for snacks, it seems like girls like to take a little bit more time with food prep and tend to bring the goods. And by goods, I mean chocolate. To be honest, I think most of my climber friends — guys or girls — are keen on summit chocolate. And post-climb beers. Yeah.
Girl-stoke is different than boy-stoke. Girl stoke comes out in giggles and shrieks and proclamations of love for the mountains. Boy stoke seems to come in the form of hoots, hollers and whoops. Stoke, regardless of the source, is often contagious. But as a lady, I find girl stoke to be especially infectious.
Oh man, can we take a second to reflect on the awesomeness of lady-beta? Yep. It’s happening. Right now. First, I’d like to say that I really appreciate when people pause to ask you if you actually want beta. Props to the people that deny it. Props to people who don’t automatically spray you down. However, I gotta say that I love getting the crucial lady beta that gets you through the crux (because I’m not 6′ with a 6′ wingspan and man-powerful-muscles. I’m 5’1″, short & powerful, but sometimes require a more delicate sequence.) I don’t know if there’s any way to describe in words how great it is; but when it happens for you, you’ll know.
And while we’re on the beta note, I’d just like to briefly comment on the numerous times I’ve been on trail and people have asked either my male clients or my male coguide for beta on a route — not me, despite wearing the patches and gear to suggest that I’m a guide. While it might seem like no big deal — and often isn’t in and of itself — I raise the issue because it’s happened on more than one occasion. While I can’t say conclusively that it relates to being a lady, I just wanted to mention the observation and I’ll leave it at that.
The bottom line is that I’m psyched when I get to climb with women.
I’m psyched when I get to climb in general; but it’s extra special to climb with an all-lady rope team. It’s different and it doesn’t happen very often (at least not in my climbing thus far.) I know that more and more women are getting outside and getting themselves into positions of outdoor leadership. I think it’s awesome; it’s necessary. I look forward to roping up with them.
You know that feeling when you’re standing beneath a climb, when you’re trying to puzzle out the movements, when you start to wonder: Can I actually pull this off?
Maybe it’s a project you’ve attempted several times before. Maybe it’s a string of long, strenuous pitches. Maybe it’s at your grade limit. Maybe it’s your anti-style.
But you begin all the same.
Sometimes, the first few moves are easy. You’ve psyched yourself up enough that when things go smoothly, your guard begins to drop. You’re flowing. Maybe I can actually do this…
Sometimes, the first move off the ground is heinous. You position your hands, your feet, begin to pull… Then come down. You reposition, begin to pull… And come down again. Maybe I don’t got this…
But you climb on. You go for it. And then:
Sometimes, you reach the crux, breathe really hard, grunt a little and barely make the move.
Sometimes, you reach the crux, grunt a lot and then take a whip. Having eliminated that possibility, you figure out the sequence and get through the crux second go.
Sometimes, you reach the crux. You give it hell, but it’s relentless. For whatever reason — excuses or otherwise — it’s just not going to go for you today. And that’s ok, because at least you tried. Guess that means you’ve got a new project.
That is climbing.
Besides the physical act of pulling yourself up a rock, you climb by pushing your limits. You discover what you are and are not (yet) capable of. By allowing yourself into that headspace, reaching complete physical and mental exertion, you discover the extent of your inner strength, grit and capabilities.
Encounters with “the edge” aren’t just limited to climbing; I can tell ya that much. But it’s good to take yourself there. It’s how we climb and how we grow.
I have a friend who likes to ask, “What color are you today?” Instead of, “How are you today?” Because it forces you to pause, think, identify how you’re feeling and associate a color with the emotion.
Yesterday, I was a golden glitter bomb.
I felt a wave of full body chills and I swear I felt my pupils dilate; it was as if the good news had galvanized my nervous system into sensory overload. The feeling was heightened by Freddy Mercury singing “We Will Rock You” loud on the radio.
Yesterday, I officially landed my first guiding job with Mountain Madness. I don’t think I could possibly be more excited about it.
If you’ve read anything else that I’ve written, you know that I have a lot of stoke for climbing and mountains. If you’ve climbed with me, you’ve seen it for yourself. My excitement is on par with completing first ascents at Smith and the first time I summited Mount Baker.
And so the journey begins!
I am in the middle of a wilderness first responder course. It’s been awesome. The human body is absolutely fascinating. All of the structures, systems and interactions sustaining you at this very moment are incredibly complex and intricate.
Today I learned about how to respond in the event of a cut, a burn and even an evisceration – definitely got a little queasy during that part.
Today, we also talked about leadership as informed by NOLS 4-7-1 model. We talked about the importance of each of the seven aspects of a strong leader. Communication being one of those 7 traits.
… and then we talked about women in leadership. We were told that the qualities of leadership are not gendered traits. We were told that a leader isn’t necessarily a “broad-chested drill sergeant-type.” However, we have implicit biases (we were encouraged to discover our own implicit biases using this tool designed by Harvard.) These biases can be overcome, but the instructor told us that we’re conditioned to expect certain traits of leaders. Y’know, like how society thinks your gender might effect your judgement and leadership in an emergency situation.
I should specify, a male instructor told us that women might experience push-back in leadership roles. Which got my gears turning because I know this to be true.
He warned us of the possibility of coming off “bitchy” or “bossy” in leadership environments and to be careful of our tone and the way that we approach leadership. Generally, he addressed leading with confidence without being overbearing. (He also mansplained how he gets it because his wife is an emergency responder.) However, the instructor failed to address men in the same way. Hmm.
What happened next is laughably ironic:
He did not open the topic to discussion. Women in the classroom were not invited to discuss the topic – despite healthy conversation throughout the entirety of the morning lecture.
A woman with guiding experience in the back of the classroom raised her hand to address the other women and said: do not be afraid of the push-back. It will happen. You do not need the approval of the one or two guys who will resist your leadership. If you have control over a situation, proceed.
To which the instructor then said that cohesion is important — and I’ll admit, at this point, I was frustrated. I’d raised my hand to contribute to the discussion to simply say that we should move away from gendered words like “bitchy” and “bossy” because they’re seldom – if ever – applied to men. If we want to reverse some of society’s conditioning, we must knowingly utilize vocabulary that can be applied to any obtuse, overbearing leader regardless of their gender.
I was told that we were going to move on and that the topic was closed for discussion. My question or comment was denied. Another male student raised his hand. His question was answered.
At that very moment, I became a feminist and advocate of women in outdoor leadership. Call me what you want, deny me how you will. I will rise. I will speak. I will overcome.
Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” That quote is tattooed on one of my friend’s arms. While it will stick with him in a different sense than it will stick with me, it remains all the same.
Generally speaking, I like that quote. It’s inspiring. But right now, as I’m sitting here on the couch and deciding what to do with myself, it would be easy to cast myself on the “nothing” end of the spectrum.
I don’t think that’s accurate.
When I scroll through my social media feeds — Instagram in particular — I’m genuinely excited to see what other people are doing. It’s one daring adventure after another. Truthfully, I’m also a little jealous of all of the adventures I’m not having. I think we all do this from time to time.
My point, in all of this, is that life is not “either” a daring adventure or nothing at all. Sometimes, life is a daring adventure. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like much of an adventure at all. In order to have mountains, there must be valleys, too.
Recently, it dawned on me that it has almost been two years since I finished college. Here’s a quick recap of things I’ve done, jobs I’ve had and places I’ve lived:
- June 2015. Diploma in hand. Bought myself a couple more cams, sights set on Squamish.
- Ended up spending most of my summer in Washington Pass.
- Got a job coaching my high school girls’ dive team. (I dove competitively in high school.)
- Moved back to Bellingham. Started working at the climbing gym.
- Opportunity popped up for me to work full time, 4-10s and use my degree. Hopped right on that… Until I realized that I wasn’t climbing enough, despite being out every weekend in the Cascades.
- Climbed lots of rocks and a couple peaks with my partner in-and-out of the alpine: Tim Black.
- Hello, Smith Rock! Fell in love with sport climbing. Hard.
- Sent it down south to Mexico with megababe and lady crusher friend Carey. Climbed my first 12a (still pretty hyped on that.)
- The plan was to return to Oregon, return to Smith and return to cold rocks. But my housing arrangement fell through (long story) and I found myself with a job and a place to live at Crystal Mountain.
And that brings us to the present: January 2017. I guess I still have 5 months until it’s been two years since I graduated college… But my brain isn’t always the best at time.
Today, I was inspired to write because I got to thinking about where I’m at in my career, given that it’s been almost two years. I put in my four years’ time, got my piece of paper that suggests I know how to read good (joking) and now look at me: I’m a part-time ski bum, part-time climbing bum and grappling with what to do with my personal process as time flows all around me.
I haven’t been working for material wealth; I haven’t been building the career that Western Washington University envisioned for me; however, I have been working. Hard.
Instead of doing professional networking, polishing my LinkedIn profile and collecting business casual blazers, I forced myself to move to a new place where I had to make new friends, new climbing partners and admit that I was a weak sport climber in a word-class sport crag. I got rid of most of my nice work clothes (most of my everything else, too.) I swallowed my ego, pushed aside my pride and suffered up a lot of spooky 5.10s.
When I could have easily stayed local (Bellingham) and climbed my way through the grades at Squamish — which I did, to be fair, but still have quite a ways to go — I chose instead to drive to Index, drive to Leavenworth, drive to Washington Pass where I knew that the climbing would be unfamiliar. I knew that the skills I’d collected from my previous experiences would come in handy, but I also knew that continuing my progression was more important than settling into a comfortable rhythm.
That’s also one of the main reasons why I quit my cushy desk job in Bellingham (I only lasted about 6 months.) I could have continued climbing on the weekends and pulling plastic during weekdays, but I knew it wasn’t enough for me. I knew that my climbing wouldn’t improve as rapidly as I wanted it to if I had just stuck around and been patient. That’s not how I operate. So I put in my two weeks, packed my life into my car and drove 7 hours by myself to a climbing area I’d never been to before.
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that there are times when I doubt myself. And if this is the first time you’re reading my work, welcome to the mindful madness that is Mallorie. I think a lot, so I write sometimes. I have boundless energy so I climb mountains. I climb mountains because things are much simpler up there. Out there. I belong there.
And that, in a long and roundabout way, brings me to who and where I am today. By no means do I climb the hardest; by no means do I shred the hardest on the ski hill; by no means do I even work the hardest; but by all means, I’ve worked damn hard to get where I am. I don’t waste my time doing what I think I “should” or worrying too much about what lies ahead. Instead, I work hard to carve my own path, to climb the rocks, to reach the peaks, to make meaningful connections and to make my limited time on this planet count.
I have the utmost respect for people who work hard at whatever they do. If your chosen career, hobby or activity brings you joy, passion and purpose, you know you’re on the right track. And while there may be moments of indecision, disjunctive plot twists and bumps along the way, ultimately, I think we’re all here to serve a purpose.
My calling is in the mountains and I fully intend to answer that call.