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Georgina Miranda | 07.10.2019

Angela Hawse is an inspiration to the climbing community and beyond. She is co-founder of Chicks Climbing and Skiing, one of only 11 female mountain guides who are fully certified IFMGA​​​​​​, President of the Board for the American Mountain Guides Association, and the list goes on. She has not only made a career in the outdoors, but a life built to inspire and equip others to do the same.

At Outdoor Project, we've made it part of our mission to celebrate and amplify the voices of women in the outdoors, and Angela’s passion and dedication to creating a more inclusive global climbing community is truly remarkable. In our third year of Women in the Wild, we are proud to share our platform again with courageous and inspiring female figures who are making a difference in the outdoor industry and the world at-large. It’s been an honor to be a guest editor this year for Women in the Wild, and I am grateful and inspired by all of the remarkable women that I got to connect with and interview. They are shaping a new narrative daily, and they show us anything is possible with tenacity, creativity, and purpose.

 

When women no longer have to defend themselves and are protected by men and other women, we move forward leaps and bounds.

—Angela Hawse

 

In this interview, we talk to Angela Hawse about her 35-year career, getting more women into the guiding profession, and the rewards from helping others get outdoors and push their limits.

 


Angela Hawse amid the icebergs of Antarctica. Photo by Dana Ivers.

Georgina Miranda: Give us the skinny on Angela Hawse. How would you describe your connection to the outdoors?

Angela Hawse: I have deeply seated my roots in mountain life, mountain people, and my mountain craft. Over the past 35 years, I’ve spent the majority of my life outdoors working as a guide, alpinist, skier, and climber. I’m a nature lover and thrive on adventures shared in beautiful places. I know that I need to spend a lot of time outdoors to be happy and feel complete. My connection to the outdoors is a dance with gravity and one of gratitude where getting close to the edge makes life more vibrant. Professionally, I find immense joy in connecting others with the outdoors, taking them to places beyond their wildest dreams and sharing experiences that positively impact lives.

GM: What initiatives/projects are you focused on?

AH: I wear a lot of hats and have lofty goals when I put each one on. At this point in my career, I’m 100% focused on giving back to my career through work with the American Mountain Guides Association. I’m an instructor team lead/examiner and president of the board. Initiatives I’m focused on carrying forward include building more resources and benefits for AMGA members, elevating the public view of guiding, DEI initiatives, environmental advocacy, and stewardship. Another big project is celebrating our 40th anniversary!

I represent the AMGA internationally for the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations), working with other presidents and technical directors from 25 guide associations across the world on projects that support mountain guides and maintain international standards of training and certification. I sit on the Environmental and Sustainable Access Commission, where I’m involved in a number of projects. One I’m very excited about is developing more robust environmental protection initiatives into our training schemes.

As a co-owner of Chicks Climbing and Skiing, I work with three very inspiring women to deliver the best all-women’s, technical clinics available. Celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, we’re working on projects to set ourselves apart from growing competition (which we applaud) as the first all-women’s program in the country with most credentialed AMGA guides and instructors in the industry.

I’m a climate advocate and passionate about my work with Protect Our Winters to raise awareness and action on the climate crisis from the outdoor community. I’ve converted my house to solar, drive a hybrid, and consume consciously. I track my carbon footprint, invest in offsets, and educate others through first-hand experiences of change I’ve witnessed in the mountains over the past 35 years.

I work on a lot of cool projects as an athlete with the brands I’m involved with from direct marketing, product development, and testing to education and advocacy. It’s an honor to work with my sponsors and develop meaningful relationships. I’m super proud to work with Eddie Bauer, Sterling Rope, SCARPA, and Metolius Climbing.

GM: You’ve become only the second woman to be named president of the board of directors for the American Mountain Guides Association. Was that always a goal? How do you see your work there encouraging more women to become guides and enter this profession?

AH: It was a real honor to have been asked by colleagues if I would consider running for president of the board. It wasn’t something I set my sights on, but at this point in my career it’s a really good fit for both me and the AMGA.

As a woman and leader of the organization, I hope my work and career inspires other women to consider a career in guiding. Having role models is certainly important, but we need more than that. We need to see other women with families successfully pursuing careers as guides and making it work. There are only 11 women who are fully certified IFMGA mountain guides from the AMGA. That makes up just over 12% of IFMGA guides in the U.S. We may lead the world in percentages, but we are far from where we would like to be. Reaching 30% is something I’d like to see in the next 10 years.

To encourage more women to get involved, we’re working hard with our instructor team and all participants to make our programs more approachable and inclusive. We do not tolerate disrespectful behavior or speech. We’re offering our first all-women’s rock guide course this autumn in partnership with The North Face, which has had overwhelming interest.

I always encourage women to reach out and ask questions about full-time guiding if they are interested. Having a mentor and someone to encourage you along the way is incredibly important and supportive. Most women guides are eager to help others get started. The best way to get started is to build a solid base of climbing and skiing and commit to training and certification if you’re serious about a full-time career in guiding.

GM: Were you always drawn to a life of mountains and guiding? How did your journey get you to where you are today?

AH: I grew up climbing trees as a kid in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, where I was able to adventure and play everyday. It wasn’t until I went to Prescott College in Arizona that I discovered climbing and skiing and where I learned that a career working in the outdoors was possible. My first course was a 3-week wilderness orientation, and my instructors were the most interesting, bright, fun people I’d ever met.

From that experience onward, I knew I wanted to be a guide. I worked summers for Outward Bound and the rest of the year at Prescott College as an adjunct and faculty lecturer in their Adventure Education program. These were formative years and where I really cut my teeth on building a solid foundation of experience and technical expertise to eventually move on to more technical guiding.

In ‘92, I got a job at the American Alpine Institute, which gave me a wealth of experience guiding all over the world on more challenging objectives with smaller ratios. After 9 years guiding at AAI, I moved on to work for Exum Mountain Guides in the Tetons, where I thrived with a remarkable guiding community and incredible terrain for the next 13 seasons. Throughout this time I was taking AMGA courses and exams when possible.

I served on the AMGA board from 2003 to 2009, and around this time knew I wanted to become an instructor and examiner for the AMGA. By 2005 this goal became a reality, and I was the first female to join the AMGA instructor team. Since then I’ve worked over 65 programs training guides to the international standard that has taken me to places beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a real honor to give back to a profession that has given me so much. The opportunity to serve as the AMGA’s president of the board further enables me to put my experience and passion into something that has shaped my life.

GM: Where do you draw your inspiration/motivation from? Has that changed over your career?

AH: Inspiration most often comes spontaneously for me at unexpected times when factors line up to produce something remarkable. These priceless moments leave me in awe and full of gratitude. They are often something as simple as the sun casting shadows or rays of light on a landscape, guests reaching the summit of something they never thought possible, running into past students in the field who have become successful, certified guides, or even the sound of chirping birds at dawn’s first light.

I’m inspired by people who are passionate about what they do and devoted to giving it their best. This is more often people in my community who are doing things that make life better for everyone. Early on as an outdoor athlete, I was inspired by elite climbers, and although I still am I’ve become even more inspired by those who use their superpowers to do good things for humanity and planet Earth.

I’m always inspired by my students and guests working so hard to tackle new skills and take them to the next level. This I find incredibly rewarding, and it really motivates me to do my best as an educator, guide, and human being.

GM: What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome related to your outdoor pursuits or your career? What helped you overcome those challenges?

AH: I’d say the biggest challenge is knowing that I have untapped potential that I may never realize. I have so many interests and commitments I am truly passionate about that I just can’t do everything I would like to do. In many ways, this has helped me to focus on what I can do and helped me do it well.

GM: What do you see as the most important issue or set of issues affecting women in the outdoor/adventure space? Where do you see yourself having the biggest impact on these issues?

AH: Sexism and entrenched gender role socialization are what I see as the overarching issues that adversely impact women in and out of the outdoor/adventure space. As a result, women commonly have their competency questioned, feel marginalized, and often question their own abilities, self-reliance, or even being solid partners in outdoor activities.

At Chicks Climbing and Skiing, we train women to be self-reliant in mountain sports, create supportive learning environments, and meet each woman where they are to help take them to the next level. At the AMGA, we bring in professionals to train our instructor team, staff, and membership on unconscious bias and inclusivity issues. Personally, I will not tolerate disrespectful behavior in any environment and never hesitate to speak up on behalf of anyone being marginalized.

GM: What can the greater outdoor community and companies like OP do to better amplify and celebrate the voices of ALL women in our community?

AH: Firstly, I want to acknowledge all the work that has been done and how far this movement has come since I’ve been involved in the outdoors. It’s far from fixed, but we have come a long way and should celebrate forward progress. Promoting safe spaces in the outdoors for women to learn, try, and gain confidence is a great way to get women involved and amplify our voices. Learning with other women is supportive and fun and the industry should embrace opportunities for grassroots efforts and organized events. We should all commit to being the one that speaks up for anyone being marginalized, under any circumstances. When women no longer have to defend themselves and are protected by men and other women, we move forward leaps and bounds.

GM: What’s been the most useful advice given to you along your journey? What advice do you wish you were given when you were younger?

AH: Try hard, have fun, reach for the stars, and don’t take yourself too seriously. That has been invaluable advice received from many wise friends and mentors. I can’t think of any advice I wish I had been given. My parents were always incredibly supportive of my alternative career choice and lifestyle. I’m sure I was given all the advice I needed whether I listened to it or not!

GM: Any other tips for women looking to embark on a similar career or path?

AH: Don’t wait until you’re 120% prepared. Start with one step and keep putting one foot in front of the other. When you fall, get back up and shake it off. Don’t compare yourself to others. Climb a lot. Ski a lot. Build a solid foundation of personal climbing and skiing that you will always have to draw on. Make mistakes, learn from them, and don’t beat yourself up. Try as hard as you can and be willing to fail. Hire a certified guide to experience firsthand what you want to do from a client’s perspective. Find a mentor, coach, ally, and employer that will support you through your journey. Get AMGA training and work only in terrain you are trained to operate in. Love people, as that is what the job is primarily about.

GM: At Outdoor Project, we put a strong emphasis on the phrase “adventure like you give a damn,” which refers to putting effort into responsible recreation. How do you “adventure like you give a damn” in your own way?

AH: Many of my expeditions have involved service projects, clean ups, and raising money for non-profits doing good things for those in need. I have a long history of giving back because I give a damn. Climate advocacy and using my experiences to raise awareness and a call to action is work I am passionate about and doing what I can to make a difference. My work with the IFMGA on developing a curriculum for guide trainers to incorporate more environmental protection education into guide training schemes is something I see great potential in providing resources for other guides to make a difference.

GM: What is the message you would like to share with the world, the outdoor community, and other women in general?

Make time to slow down, turn off your phone, get outside and walk among the trees, creeks, and mountains. Feel the earth under your bare feet, listen to the birds, smell the flowers, and be open to how connected you are to it all. Take that energy and do something positive with it for yourself, for someone else, and our planet.

GM: Anything else you’d like readers to learn about you or what you’re working on?

I’m proud to represent Eddie Bauer, Sterling Rope, SCARPA, and Metolius Climbing as an athlete and advocate. I love this aspect of my work, and it’s a real honor to work with the fine people that make up the backbones of these brands.

My partner and wife of the past 20 years has been my biggest supporter and fan. I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate to be so loved and in love. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Want to hear more from Angela Hawse? Check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @alpinist007. She has been featured on the Blister Podcast, Colorado Public Radio, and on Sterling Climbing Ropes' online journal. For more inspiring outdoorswomen, find all of our interviews and articles at Women in the Wild 2019.

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Women in the Wild 2019

Women in the Wild is a movement that recognizes the amazing women who enrich the outdoor community with their passions, inspirations, and accomplishments. Outdoor Project is proud to grow this campaign in 2019 with the help of guest editor and 2018 #womaninthewild Georgina Miranda, adventurer, entrepreneur, mountaineer, and founder and CEO of She Ventures. We're proud to open our platform once again for the incredible stories and photography of women throughout our community. From in-depth interviews with outdoor advocates, influencers, and athletes to female-focused content from the community, Women in the Wild 2019 aims to amplify the voice of women in celebration of female fortitude, strength, and camaraderie in the outdoors.

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