In 2013, I was selected for a free, wilderness science expedition for high school-aged girls. The program was called Girls on Ice – North Cascades, now known as Inspiring Girls Expeditions. For eight days, the all-female team and I lived on Mt. Baker, an ice-covered volcano in the North Cascades of Washington state, and studied glaciers and the alpine environment.
Our base camp was set on a rocky moraine at 6,000 feet, nestled by the ablation zone of the Eastern Glacier. I documented my trip in a thin moleskin notebook and tried to learn as much as I could about mountaineering and glaciers, specifically the flow of meltwater and watersheds. Before this trip, I had walked on snow twice (?) and rarely traveled above sea level – and trust me, my Florida-origin showed.
Over the course of twelve days I met incredible girls and women, learned how to self-arrest with an ice axe, perform a crevasse rescue, how to WALK on snow – let alone climb up it, measure snow density and the rate of melt, glissaded and plunge stepped down steep slopes for the first time, picked-up on a bunch of jargon, and summited Mt. Baker despite my fear of falling through the blue belly of a crevasse.
At the summit, my fear of falling evaporated – I was stoked. I didn’t want to leave the peak! I liked feeling small. I liked the slow, steady pace of mountaineering. I felt comforted by the “vastness” of everything, and viewing range after range of mountains. My brain didn’t want to go back to the land of fast cars and cellphones and styrofoam cups and mindless convenience.
As cliche as it sounds – and is! – this program changed the course of my life. Because of this experience A. I am living in Washington B. I actively seek out opportunities for personal growth C. I cherish female friendships and teamwork and D. I was able to channel my newfound love of glaciers into a gig in Alaska (more on that later), which served as a stepping stone to my current professional work.
If you’re interested in learning more, want to donate to the program or participate, please visit their page: Inspiring Girls Expeditions.