In 2015 I fed my love for California’s Sierra Nevadas by hiking the John Muir Trail. In the 21 solo days across 200 mountainous miles, I was rarely alone. The stunning views and challenging alpine passes were punctuated by passing many other hikers along the trail. As I catalogued who was out there and imagined why they may have taken this time out of their “normal” life, I was most curious about the women. After I returned home, hugged my husband and kids, scrubbed off the dirt, cleaned out my pack, sorted photos, and shared stories, I was left with a question… what makes women step up? Women who choose to hike in the Sierras, women who guide remote rivers, and women who leave groomed slopes to ski in the backcountry are all making a conscious choice to step up. They are saying “I can do this”, “I belong here” and “this challenge is worth my sweat and tears”.

For nearly 20 years, I have been teaching at Prescott College in Arizona, with an eye on supporting women in outdoor and adventure education. I believe that any woman who wants to teach, lead, guide, or simply be in outdoors should feel as if there is a place for her.

I am so excited for the immediate and positive response to Mountain Mentors. This enthusiasm reveals that there are plenty of women ready to challenge and immerse themselves in the outdoors…to step up. It has been proven in business, in science, and also in outdoor education, that for women to truly reach for leadership roles, they must have role models. Mountain Mentors will serve that need. 

I believe in structure, choice, relationship building, feedback, and valuation of authentic feminine qualities as being important in programming for women. Yet as my understanding of gender and social implications continue to grow, I see the intersectionality of women with cultural backgrounds that are rarely represented in the wilderness, women’s true identities emerging from male bodies, and women who struggle to spend time in nature because of financial constraints or responsibilities at home. For the women who freely enjoy the fruits of feminism and those who continue to face hurdles to their dreams, I say mentors are needed. I look forward to Mountain Mentor’s progress in matching young women to role models and teachers who can help open doors to the outdoors.

- Erin Lotz, M.A. Faculty, Undergraduate Adventure Education Program Coordinator at Prescott College.