Katherine Donnelly | 08.31.2018

As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person. 

Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I hope to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!

In this feature we talk to Marci Rosales.

While I have yet to personally meet this Woman In The Wild, it doesn't take a face-to-face encounter to realize that she has the unique ability to tell a story. Combined with her incredible passion for getting outside, her motivation to share what the outdoors can be with underserved communities, and what seems like an impossibly-long list of projects, ambitions, and to-dos, I'd say she is well on her way to being a true catalyst for good in the world. Get the full scoop below. 

Photo by Antonio Ayala Photography

OP: Give us the quick and dirty on who Marci Rosales is.

Marci Rosales: Hola! My name is Maricela ‘Marci’ Rosales. I am a Los Angeles native with Puerto Rican and Guatemalan roots. I am a rock climber, advocate, and volunteer. I love telling stories, gardening, learning, and figuring out my camera, all the while attempting to balance work-life, self-care and getting outside! I still wonder how I get enough sleep, eat my vegetables, moisturize, and have time for other things. Honestly, it baffles me sometimes. 

I devote my time to what really matters in a number of ways. Currently, I work at the Cliffs of Id climbing gym as front desk staff, private instructor, and a youth climbing coach. The gym is my home away from home. I also volunteer for Latino Outdoors’ National Team as the Outdoor Brands and Advocacy Coordinator. My goal is to help connect organizations, brands, and leaders together to expand their reach to underserved communities and to change the narrative of outdoor recreation participation, ambassadorship, and environmental conservation. I’m all about expanding accessibility to different types of outdoor recreation so that leaders and the community can bring cultural relevance to the forefront of getting outdoors. I am also slowly but surely working on the Abilities Project. The long-term goal is to develop and launch a website and app to help people of all abilities connect to green and open spaces in the city or outdoors and to connect to programs and organizations that provide resources and services. The app will create a platform for families, service workers/providers, and adaptive athletes to transform the way communities come together and advocate for access and recreation through technology. 

I guess that's just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been told I’m a renaissance woman.

OP: When did you first know that you were going to spend your life in the outdoors?

Marci Rosales: Good question… As a little girl growing up in the inner city I always day dreamed about the outdoors. Not really knowing what that exactly looked like, my source of inspiration came from my imagination and reading National Geographic magazines. But if we’re getting literal about my first “This is going to be my life” experience, it was when I went on my first climbing/camping trip to the Buttermilks in Bishop, California. About nine years ago, I was new to climbing and camping and just really underprepared in all the ways possible. I remember being the first one up, opening my tent, looking at the East Sierra Mountains, and slowly being greeted by the sunrise starting at the peak of the mountains and working it’s way down to the valley. The silence, cold crisp morning air, and the spectacular view of the sun rising really did it for me. 

OP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the outdoor industry?

Marci Rosales: To be a woman of color in the outdoor industry is an uphill battle and a culture shock. I’m sure that many can relate to my struggle as a woman in an industry dominated by privilege. I believe that in some capacities, I have more privilege than others, but I acknowledge ways in which I can help others get to where they want to go. 

When I started working for the brand Mad Rock, I was hungry and ambitious, but I didn’t know exactly what my goals were. I was new to the Outdoor Industry and really unaware of all the microaggressions and the biases placed on women and how differently women are viewed within the industry (indirectly and directly). It really changed my perspective and approach to goal setting and building intentional relationships with individuals with similar beliefs of equity, diversity, and inclusion. For the first few years, I felt like the black sheep, but I still held on because I knew that there was something I needed to do that was far bigger than myself. My upward mobility has been in the works for about six years or so. Without doors closing and others opening I wouldn’t be where I am today. Not everyone is going to agree or like you. Heck, you might even get blacklisted from time to time. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Were there times that I wanted to quit and give up? Absolutely! But I say this with the best intentions; things don’t happen overnight, and I quickly realized that if I don’t do something about it, then who will? If you yourself don’t believe that you can make a difference, then you won’t be able to see the end goal. I had to work harder than most to prove that I belong. I found a community that supported my dreams, and in return I support their vision and mission because it aligns with mine. I feel because of my intentional networking, volunteering, and passion I have seen that things have significantly progressed. I believe that this will continue to be a battle that I choose to be in because there is more work to be done that’s intentional and long term for everyone. At the end of the day it’s about authenticity, perspective, and strategy. I trusted in the struggle, and now I feel like it’s starting to pay off.

OP: What has the outdoors done for you, and how do you pay it back?

Marci Rosales: I come from an underserved community of Los Angeles where green and open spaces were something the community didn’t speak about due to factors like poverty, access, transportation, and park poor communities. I didn’t have true exposure to the outdoors until later in life, and now it plays a huge part in my identity. As a woman of color, I feel inspired and responsible to be a part of change. I want to give back, and the way I do it is by going outside, writing about it, speaking about it, advocating for it, working within the outdoor industry to talk to brands who are ready to change company culture, working as an ambassador, and helping brands work with organizations like Latino Outdoors to build long term partnerships. The work I do is all volunteer based, working partially behind the scenes and partially impacting one person at a time. Closing up that nature gap in any way possible! 

OP: Conservation and protection of our public lands are central themes in today’s outdoor recreation narrative. As someone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors and on public lands, what role do you think climbers - and outdoor enthusiasts, in general - should play in this evolving conversation and landscape?

Marci Rosales: I don’t think it’ll be easy, as some people don’t care, but for those who do care, there are ways to help minimize climbing-specific impact. The future of our climbing areas and sport need us to be proactive. Climbers and outdoor enthusiasts collectively have a personal stake in the health and environmental integrity of all the places we explore. Without these outdoor landscapes, we have no place to enjoy the sports we love. As all adventure sports continue to grow in popularity, you begin to see overcrowding and negative ecological impact. These two factors threaten access and disrupt the land's power to restore itself. If people think that their actions don’t impact the outdoors, then they are dead wrong. 

To me, the solution is educating, volunteering, and supporting organizations like Access Fund, Sierra Club, and local nonprofit organizations in our community and attending stewardships events. For example, Access Fund, is a nonprofit organization that works with local climbing communities across the U.S. to develop long-term stewardship plans. I suggest people find local climbing coalitions hosting Adopt a Crag in their area to support litter clean-ups, erosion control, trail restoration, construction, and invasive weed-control.

Since so many of us are on social media, I feel we should use that as a means to get the word out. Studies show that Latinos on average use social media 70% of their time. Using social media to enact change and spread information is powerful when using millennial influencers as a source of change and connection. I hope that more people join the movement and become lifelong constituents.

OP: Who has inspired you along the way?

Marci Rosales: There are many who inspired me along the way, but I am nothing without my family. I am really thankful for their support and kindness. Also, Jose Gonzalez, the founder of Latino Outdoors and the previous national director of Latino Outdoors, Graciela Cabello. Both took me under their wing, mentored me, and continue to do so. Their wisdom, patience, and altruistic hearts have helped me and many others become the leaders we continue to grow into. Lastly, the POC community who are amplifying their stories and grassroots movements on the trail, behind the scenes and on social media platforms. They are making representation matter in the outdoors, adventure sports, and in conservation, while supporting one another all the way. 

OP: What does adventure mean to you?

Marci Rosales: It’s so crazy how a question can be so simple, yet mean so much. Adventure means exploring places you know and places you don’t know that provide some kind of relief and happiness. This sounds silly. Going outside and figuring what outside means to you is adventure within itself. It’s all about perspective. Adventure means something different to everyone.

OP: What does the term "badass" mean to you?

Marci Rosales: I feel that anyone who steps out of their comfort zone can be badass. I feel someone who is badass knows how to be vulnerable -- they can just go after something. I also think the badasses out there can appreciate the journey regardless of the outcome. Get it!

OP: How have you managed to align your career with your passion for the outdoors? And do you have any advice for someone who is looking to do the same?

Marci Rosales: Every time I tell this story, it amazes me how life and our personal resilience shape our outcomes. When I was in my senior year at the University of California, Riverside, wrapping up the last political science and sociology courses to get that double bachelor's degree, I was also dealing with student poverty, living out of my car, couchsurfing, managing my physical pain, the loss of my dad to colon cancer less than a year before, and my mom dealing with breast cancer, all the while trying everyday to find a job as a millennial. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to my graduation. The thing that held me together was the thought of rock climbing and the community. I kept the idea of wanting to be a part of the outdoor industry in my head for as long as I can remember and really released it to the universe. I even cried about it. It’s amazing how the universe just listened, because I then happened to be at the right place at the right time and met my previous boss from Mad Rock at a climbing gym. Before I knew it, I started working at the headquarters two days after meeting him. I really got lucky and have worked hard to make what I do valuable and inspirational. I know that it sounds too good to be true, but that really is what happened. I feel lucky, as I know it can’t happen to everyone.

My advice to anyone interested about getting into the outdoor industry is research, ask, and always consider volunteering! I have made something out of giving back to my community. Honestly, the entire progression of where I am today is because of volunteering. To me, everything is interconnected. I have become a leader, advocate, and invested volunteer, all because of my experiences. Giving time to organizations like Latino Outdoors, Access Fund, and working with the community has opened many opportunities for me. I regret nothing. I am but one person, but my goal is to share what I have with others so they too can benefit from outdoor spaces, access, and wellness. I want you to get that job, to be that sponsored athlete, to be who you want to be in the wild!

OP: What mantra or set of words do you live by?

Marci Rosales: Listen to your heart and intuition. You are worthy and deserving of adventure and abundance. You got this. I believe in you.

OP: What is one thing that you never leave home without?

Marci Rosales: Hmmm. I would have to say my Latino Outdoors backpack, I’ve got tons of essentials in it!

OP: Let’s talk gear - what are your thoughts on women-specific gear? Love it, hate it? Are there any companies out there doing it right? And how so? When does it matter to you most to have gear specific to women versus unisex products?

Marci Rosales: There’s a thin line between love and hate when it comes to women-specific gear. I feel that in the last five years, brands have started doing a better job making clothes that have stretch and are more figure fitting and breathable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mountain Hardwear offers durable, comfortable, and stretchy options for the curvy types. I need to be able to highstep, bend in all sorts of ways, use a knee bar, and not be worried that my clothes will rip or snag. I know that we all come in different shapes and sizes, and not all brands will fit the same, and that's okay. However, there’s room for improvement through product testing and an addition of larger sizes to the current clothing fleet. I think that the industry is missing out on a very big market that wants to use their products. I’m glad to hear some brands are making moves to slowly fill that gap. The demographics of outdoor enthusiasts is changing, and so should the brand's motives. It’s important for brands to be aware of cultural and language appropriation when creating gear and products. Brands and folks should have solution-oriented conversations and act in a way that's innovative and inclusive! A seat at the table allows for diverse creativity and implementation when thinking about gear. Brands...don’t miss this opportunity to do the smart thing and the right thing.

OP: What is the greatest piece of advice or direction that you’ve ever received and what’s the story behind it?

Marci Rosales: On February 3, 2012, my dad was in hospice and I at the time had stopped talking about climbing around him to make quality of life for him comfortable, but he began to probe me about climbing. “Estás escalando Maricela, tienes fotos para compartir? – Are you climbing, Maricela, do you have photos to share?” I let him know that I had placed climbing on the back burner because I wanted to spend every moment I could with him. He asked me for one final request, to take him out somewhere knowing it was his last day outside. I decided to take him to Mad Rock, which is not far from my parents' residence, and I was ready to buy my first crash pad but didn’t want to stress him out. At this point he just wanted to get out one last time. I helped him into the car and off we went. As we waited in the showroom to be helped, my dad began to look at the climbing photos on the wall, the hardware, and the shoes. He tapped the crash pads and ask if they’re sleeping mats. I couldn’t help but smile at him. As we waited for my order to be processed, he reached for my hands and sat me down and caressed my callus hands and said to me “Tu escalando ha sido lo más feliz que había visto en tu vida por favor no deja de tus pasiones – You climbing has been the happiest I have ever seen you in your life, please do not let go of your passions.” 

I will always remember my dad's words and his support. After that moment, my life’s trajectory completely changed.

OP: If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out with rock climbing, what would it be?

Marci Rosales: Trust your feet!

OP: In a world seemingly run by online personas, how do you approach social media and how does it play into your lifestyle - both work and play?

Marci Rosales: I constantly think about how I manage my social media, how much of it is authentic, and how I can use it for the greater good. I think it’s important to be mindful of the things that I post. For me, responsible social media usage is important when using it to amplify personal stories, sustainability, conservation, and how outdoor spaces are being used.  

Being a woman of color and passionate about the work I do has helped me reach out to others and become my own brand. It’s kind of wild and overwhelming trying to handle it all. I feel that it comes with certain expectations to post regularly and keep it interesting. At least for me there are times I have really awesome things going on and I can post every day, and then other times so many wonderful things are happening but I have no time to balance my social media platform, my life,  and work. Priorities are all different for everyone. I can say it's definitely a job! If there was an opportunity to get paid to speak my truth and be outside a lot of the time, I would totally do it! I would love to travel, create content, and be in places I’ve dreamed of being in.

OP: The world of climbing is rapidly progressing. How are you stepping things up to stand out from the crowd?

Marci Rosales: I’m not really trying to stand out, but rather let others feel invited to come in. I may not be a professional athlete or climb the hardest, but what I do for the community is recognized as significant, and that adds more fuel to my work. I’m passionate about climbing and advocacy, so hopefully what I do can inspire others to do the same.

OP: What’s next for you in the coming months and years?

Marci Rosales: This fall I am excited to be back in school taking environmental certificate courses from Cornell Lab, taking a photography class from AIM Adventure U, devoting time to practice yoga, meditation, and getting back into climbing shape. Focusing on work, Latino Outdoors, environmental advocacy, The Abilities Project, and learning how to be an entrepreneur, social media influencer, travel and thrive. There’s just so much to do and I’m totally looking forward to it all. 

OP: The title of your autobiography would be...

Marci Rosales: The Many Facets of Marci.

OP: In your next life, you will come back...

Marci Rosales: As a female elephant. I love that they live in a matriarchy system. Elephants are intelligent, social animals who are self-aware, demonstrate helpfulness, empathy and compassion. Members never forget their family roots, even when they separate from the herd, but rather commit time and effort to keep track of their relatives through vocal and non-vocal communication. And how cool would it be to communicate using seismic signals.

OP: Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.

Marci Rosales: A magician never reveals her secrets. I wish I was magician. Lol.

OP: If our readers were to take one thing from this interview, what would you like it to be?

Marci Rosales: Follow your passions. If it takes time, roll with it and put effort into it. Do something you love at the end of the day. 

Learn more about Marci and follow along on her adventures through Facebook, Twitter, and the 'gram.

You can also check out her work and many features online with Modern Hiker, Rock and Ice, LA84 Foundation, American Hiking Society, Nature For All, Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, Shift History, Patagonia, and I Love Climbing.


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