Skiing at high altitude always feels a little goofy. In less than three weeks, @rob.lea and I leave to ski Cho Oyu. It’s a bit of a grind right now with packing and logistics (it’s hard to find 8000m technical gear in my size!) but we’re cranking it out. I’m nervously anticipating the challenge ahead…Photo: skiing at 18,000’ (5,500m) in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru.#MountainsAreForEveryone

A morning ridge scramble with @megan_dingman was a highlight of my week. Climbing a mountain with someone is an intimate, shared experience. Not everyone has compatible chemistry, but when you meet your people, you know it. I first met Megan many years ago when I was a ski coach. She was probably 8 years old, with the determination and grit of someone far older. This summer, we had a chance to reconnect and get out into the mountains. Megan is an adult now and I’m stoked to see she still has the same tenacity, resiliency and strength of character she had when she was a little girl. It’s not everyday you find someone who understands you. When you do, cherish that time together.

A morning ridge scramble with @megan_dingman was a highlight of my week. Climbing a mountain with someone is an intimate, shared experience. Not everyone has compatible chemistry, but when you meet your people, you know it. I first met Megan many years ago when I was a ski coach. She was probably 8 years old, with the determination and grit of someone far older. This summer, we had a chance to reconnect and get out into the mountains. Megan is an adult now and I’m stoked to see she still has the same tenacity, resiliency and strength of character she had when she was a little girl. It’s not everyday you find someone who understands you. When you do, cherish that time together.

One of my biggest heroes is my mom. From a young age, she demonstrated an ethic of caring for people and the environment. #sponsored I recently learned she has donated blood around 100 times. I never realized how important it is to donate blood until I found out more about our family story and a traumatic experience she had when she was growing up. Right now, the @AmericanRedCross is looking for donations and I'm hoping some of you will be inspired by the bravery and courage of my mom. I'll give you a virtual hand to hold while you donate. First, go to my campaign page (link in bio) and sign up to donate. I'll get a notification when you pledge and will send you a comment of support and appreciation! #AHandToHold #SleevesUpSummer

Someone who inspires me as an athlete is my friend @bowmankf. We are both on @Strava, and I always notice her fast times, especially on backcountry ski segments.This winter, I asked Kate to team up with me to compete in the Wasatch Powderkeg skimo team race, which also happened to be national championships. Neither of us had ever done a skimo team race before, but we worked seamlessly as a team, pushing each other when we needed it. The course had 6 climbs with around 8000’ of climbing over 14 miles. We ended up winning the female team race and became 2018 US Ski Mountaineering Female Team National Champions.I’d like to #GiveKudos to Kate for being a fierce competitor and inspiring me to push myself a little harder. I hope we can team up for another race this winter! Photo: @westonshirey

When we make ourselves vulnerable to nature, we open up our hearts to each other. I am still reeling from the excitement of my little brother’s wedding, @w_gleich to his best friend, @brittgold2 this weekend on top of Hidden Peak. Welcome to the family, Brittany! I had the unique honor of officiating their wedding. It was my first time officiating and I loved being of service to the couple to make the ceremony true to who they are. I tried to be focused and present during the short time I had together with my family, so I let the professional photographer do her thang! I’ll probably share one or two more photos when we get the edit. May their love remind us all to celebrate the love and friendship in our own lives! #GoldNGleich

Photo and caption by @sav.cummins: “Rosie the Riveter said ‘we can do it’ to ask women to rise up, and prove to men that we can do whatever men can do. She encouraged women to ‘not be afraid to be themselves’ while fighting for women’s rights during the 1940’s. Rosie was described as masculine, she wore men's clothes and did a mans job, however she wore lipstick to represent her feminine side. This photo of @heather_lightfoot on Split Beaver (5.10b) was inspired by Rosie the Riveter to show our appreciation for the strong, beautiful, non fictional women who are spreading the mantra that ‘we CAN do it.’———————Last week, I was in Squamish taking part in the #squamishexposed event. I was paired up with two climbers and given 48 hours to shoot photos, one day to edit hand in a slide show and present to a crowed. They’re currently running a ‘People’s Choice’ vote with one image from each photographer.” Vote for her image via the link below or in my profile: https://www.mountainlifemedia.ca/2018/07/vote-now-arcteryx-squamish-exposed-peoples-choice/

Switching gears from going fast and light to slow and heavy to prepare for my next big objective. In September, @rob.lea and I are heading to climb and ski Cho Oyu, the sixth highest peak in the world. Going to the Himalayas has been a lifelong dream for me, and I’m stoked that we’re finally doing it! Yesterday, we loaded up our packs with 40lbs and hiked up the mountain to build power in the legs for what’s ahead. Stay tuned for more! #ChoFoSho #rapidascent #MountainsAreForEveryoneSpecial shout out to @lekiusa, who makes my poles and gloves. Leki was my first sponsor many years ago, and I’m so grateful for their support. I highly recommend their trekking and ski poles for all of you active mountain people. It saves the knees.

Over 300,000 vertical human/bicycle powered feet ascended so far in 2018 (91,440 m). It’s not a record, yet keeping track keeps me motivated and gets me outside. Because when I’m in these places, I feel I can be the best version of myself. It’s easy to forget that nature is not a place we go. We are nature. I’ve always had to make time outside a priority in my life. Without it, I waste away. The mountains feed my soul. @KEEN #keenambassador Photo: @crossroadstudios

I was mildly hypothermic as I crossed the finish line of the @tusharcrusher after being out in pea sized hail and rain for the last hour and a half of the race. Covering 70 Miles with 10,000’ of climbing, I wouldn’t recommend the Crusher for your first bike race. Despite the challenge, I couldn’t stop smiling. I had so much fun climbing up and down huge mountain passes on my bike, getting splattered in mud and drenched in the rain. Huge thanks to all the volunteers, race organizers and fellow competitors who made this such a memorable day. And thanks to @binghamcyclery and @bingham_cyclery_peak_fasteners for inviting me to participate. And finally to @rob.lea for taking spectating to a whole new level.

12 hours out from the start of my first bike race, the @tusharcrusher. Time for a stretch, a foam roller session and then, early to bed. The butterflies are building… I know tomorrow will be a big challenge. My goal is to greet each hill (and competitor and volunteer) with a smile! @binghamcyclery @bingham_cyclery_peak_fasteners #bigmtndreams #flatbruce

The mountains are where I come alive, and I am so grateful for everyday I get to be outside, exploring and adventuring by foot, skis and bike. This Saturday, I’m competing in my first bike race, the Crusher in the Tushar! It is a tight turnaround two weeks after my first ultramarathon, but cycling has been a way to work through some the niggles in my legs and keep adventuring. Huge thanks to @binghamcyclery and @bingham_cyclery_peak_fasteners for the opportunity to train and compete in this race. Stay tuned for more as I make my way down to Beaver, UT for the start.

These blazing hot Utah days have me dreaming about cooler times and places…would you dunkaroo? Getting the legs submerged was enough for me. 😉 Lofoten, Norway. Video: @rob.lea

Taking a rock rescue class was one of the most important things I did to progress as a ski mountaineer. Gaining a deep understanding of rope systems allowed me to go from being a follower to a leader in the mountains. These courses aren’t regularly offered for non-guide folks which is why I wanted to let you know that my friends at @prival_usa have a course starting this week in Salt Lake City, UT led by IFMGA guide Jesse Williams. Check out the link below or in my profile for more info. And use code caroline5 for a discount! #nonsponsored post Photo: I was stoked to have the confidence to rappel first off the famous Aiguille du Midi bridge to ski the Cunningham couloir in Chamonix by @tom_grant_ http://www.privalusa.com/product/prival-partner-rock-rescue/
Follow me on Instagram @carolinegleich

42.5 miles (68 km), 6000 ft. (1828 m) of elevation gain, 88,000 steps, $2,917 raised for the @aclu_nationwide and @together.rising to help reunite immigrant families from 62 donors.Last weekend, I finished my first ultramarathon. I cannot thank you all enough – whether you donated, sent a note of encouragement or marched in your local #familiesbelongtogether rally. It was one of the hardest endurance challenges I’ve ever undertaken. I almost quit at mile 35 when my legs were cramping and my feet were blistered. I felt propelled by your support, and by the help from @rob.lea and the folks at the aid station. Race day reminds me that we are stronger together. Positivity, kindness and compassion win the day. The best part was seeing my parents at the last mile. The road to reuniting immigrant families will be long and challenging. Make sure to keep speaking up, showing up and choosing action over apathy. #twistedforkultra

Happy Fourth of July! Show your love for what makes America great by supporting trails with the @nationalforests Summer of Trails campaign www.crowdrise.com/SummerOfTrails.Photo: @matt_galland

Here are my nieces, nephew and me on a recent trip to Bears Ears. Tomorrow, I’m devoting my first ultramarathon to #familiesbelongtogether because what’s happening to immigrant families at the border breaks my heart. Being with my family is one of the greatest blessings in life. I’m still trying to raise funding to provide legal representation for children separated from their families at the border. Check out the link below or in my profile to donate. Thank you for your support. https://togetherrising.org/our-domestic-work/PS – Who else is marching tomorrow? @keen #BetterTakesAction #KEENambassador

Throwing it back to last summer when I woke up from a dirt nap at 10 pm to climb and ski Mt Rainier, just as the sun was setting. I’m looking forward to another long day on my feet this Saturday when I run my first ultramarathon! What are you doing with these long summer days? #tbt Photo: @scottrinck

I can’t believe we’ve already reached the fundraising goal for my Run to Reunite on Saturday! Thank you to everyone who has donated. Because this cause is so important to me, I’m raising another $1k for @together.rising, a non profit who is working to reunite families that have been separated to provide reunification services and legal advocacy and representation in immigrant court. I believe that #familiesbelongtogether and I’m planning to run 40 miles (64km) for the cause. You can donate via the link below or in my profile: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/TogetherRunPhoto, taken on the course I will race, by @brodyleven! #AnswerWithAction

On June 30, I am devoting my first ultramarathon run to reunite families of immigrants because #familiesbelongtogether. I am doing a fundraiser for the @ACLU in solidarity with the broader #familiesbelongtogether marches that are happening all over the country. To learn more and support my fundraiser and race (which will be the longest I’ve ever run), check out the link below and in my profile: https://action.aclu.org/teamaclu/campaign/carolinesruntoreunitePhoto: @crossroadstudios

Last fall, I took a trip to the Grand Staircase in Southern Utah with my family. Seeing my parents in this slot canyon will always be a highlight of my adult life. Their eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. Red rock walls hundreds of feet high have that effect. I just read an @npr article stating that a Canadian firm will begin mining on land that used to be part of the National Monument. This is a tragedy. I understand we need minerals, but there are some places that are too special and some actions that can’t be undone. You can read the article in the link below: https://www.npr.org/2018/06/21/622128554/firm-prepares-to-mine-land-previously-protected-as-a-national-monument#SaveGrandStaircase

#KeepGrizzlyWild Today, I’m spoke at a Central Wasatch Commission meeting about a new bill to designate a national conservation and recreation area in my home range, the Wasatch. As there are more and more demands on this small and very special mountain range, I believe it’s important that we continue to speak up to protect the human-powered backcountry experience. I’m especially concerned about maintaining the balance between ski resorts and backcountry. One area in particular that we need to protect is Grizzly Gulch. I’d love to hear your stories of adventure in Grizzly! Tag @wasatchbackcountryalliance and #KeepGrizzlyWildPhoto: @brentbensonphotography

#FamiliesBelongTogether. There are few things in life that bring me more joy than being an aunt to my nieces and nephews. When I’m with them, time slows down. Auntieland is like another, kinder world. And when I’m away from them, I miss them in the deep, heart-aching sort of way. I’m not a mother now, and I’m not sure if I’ll be one in the future, but family means everything to me. And that’s why I’m so disturbed by the fact that over 2,000 children have been separated from their families in the past six weeks. This is not who we are. This is happening to people who are attempting to enter the country at ports of entry and in between. We must urge Congress and the President to end this cruel policy of tearing apart immigrant families. This has been keeping me up at night and I had to do something about it. Today, I donated to the @aclu_nationwide to continue their work on this cause. I will be in touch with my elected officials. Let’s continue to speak out loud and clear that this is wrong and we won’t tolerate it. Thanks for the inspiration for this post, @brooke.froelich

Action alert: Today is the last day to submit comments to oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge in Alaska. It’s one of the last wild places in America (pictured here with @kitdski and @hilareenelson). Visit the link below or in my profile to protect this important place. https://p2a.co/ZFqUlaJPhoto: @jxnfigs

Cross-training. I’m excited for the opportunity to race the Crusher in the Tushar in less than a month with @binghamcyclery on my new @iamspecialized_adv Diverge. It’s nice to have a bike I can take from tarmac to single track and everything in between.

This is one of my favorite pictures from my childhood. Now that I’m older, I have no idea how my parents handled traveling with all of us kids. I’m grateful for all the lessons my dad has taught me over the years- how to be a good traveler, how to be a happy camper, how to have a sense of adventure and to always stay curious and ask questions. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! Love you dad!

Turning #bigmtndreams into specific mountain goals. Currently, I’m training to run a 40 mile/64 km trail race at the end of June (my first ultramarathon), compete in a 70 mile/112 km bike race mid-July and climb and ski Cho Oyu, the sixth highest peak in the world in September. I’m nervous to even write about these goals because I’m scared I might not succeed. But sometimes you’ve gotta try something ambitious and take it one day at a time, keeping in mind there are lessons in failure as well. It’s a lot to train for and it’s been challenging to manage the training load. •#bigmtndreams is my bigger vision of giving myself the tools to ascend peaks around the world by skis, foot or bike and test my limits of endurance. It’s bigger than a yearly project. It’s a lifelong journey to keep growing my skill set and evolving as an athlete. I like to pick challenges that push me out of my comfort zone so I can approach the mountains through the eyes of a student. There’s always something new to learn! •Thanks for following along and for your support and encouragement along the way. I’m excited to share the upcoming adventures with you. Photo: @rob.lea @keen #keenambassador @lekiusa

It isn’t easy to talk about depression. Last spring, I went through a particularly difficult time. I had just broken up with my partner (we got back together a few months later) and I have never felt more sad and alone. I’m lucky and grateful my friends @spicinguplife and @katieboue were available to spend time with me. One day after the breakup, we hopped into Iris’s awesome van and drove south through Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase and eventually to the Grand Canyon to run a half marathon. Being in the car for all those hours was miserable, for me and for them. I couldn’t stop crying. But I wasn’t alone. They sat with me through my pain and sorrow, never telling me to stop crying even though I’m sure that’s all they wanted. They showed up and stayed with me. It made all the difference. For that, I’m eternally grateful. Sometimes I feel like our society only wants to see us when we’re happy and energetic. I hope that sharing this story will help break the stigma of talking about depression. Life isn’t all smiles and rainbows. Sometimes it sucks. It’s ok to be a downer. The road trip didn’t cure me and magically make everything better, but it put me on the path to recovery. It’s a journey that we’re all in together. Be the kind of person who loves someone when they are at their best and their very worst. Sometimes knowing that you’re not alone can make all the difference. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need help at different points in our lives. Much love to all of you. ️️️

I’m grateful to have many rad, supporting men in my life. The guy who sent me that text last fall, which I reference in my previous post, has become one of them. I want to give him anonymous kudos for contacting me directly and for the positive efforts he’s made by standing up for me and talking to me openly.•That is the ultimate outcome I seek in calling out misogyny and sexism – not just to call it out, but to listen, learn and grow. I am proud of my friend for growing from this experience, and it makes me hopeful for future progress across the snow community. Some of the comments on my post disappointed me because they did more to hurt my colleague than to facilitate positive growth. We are all in this together.•When I talk about toxic masculinity, I’m not talking about men. Women often adopt the norms of masculinity in order to succeed in male-dominated workplaces. We all need to confront our biases and call ourselves out when we make mistakes. This isn’t a battle of the sexes. The mountains are for everyone.•Photo: scrambling in the Canadian Rockies with two rad men, @rob.lea and @lucas_really and the strong and feminine @alpinewithv in the middle.

Stoked to be at @mountainfilm for the next few days! If you’re in Telluride, come see my documentary with @rei and @ducttapethenbeer, Follow Through. It’s playing tonight (Friday) at 9:15pm at Off-Width and Sunday 4pm at High Camp. I’ll be speaking on a panel about re-evaluating risk on Saturday 5pm at Liberty Bar, leading a hike on Sunday at 10am (meet at Courthouse steps) and speaking on Monday at 8am at Hotel Telluride (topic: restorative power of wilderness). Can’t wait to say hi to old friends and new. Whew! Photo: all smiles after skiing through the crux of the Great White Icicle.

Addressing Rumors

This week, I’m in Telluride, CO for Mountainfilm. I’m incredibly honored that my short film, Follow Through, will be showing at the film festival. I’ve always wanted to tell my story and I’m proud at how my film turned out. Yet even with all the success of the film, I’m shocked that I still have to address rumors and heavy criticism that undermines my competency in the mountains.

This fall, the week before the film was released, I received a text message from another prominent ski mountaineer in the Wasatch. It said, “Hi Caroline! Top of the morning. Bunch of folks hitting me up about you and The Chuting Gallery project. Quick question, did you pay or trade to be guided on some of those lines? Got some guiding buddies that say so and it looked that way from some of the post. Just thought I’d ask and know instead of listening to rumors.”

It was hard for me to even read the message. I could feel the anger and tension rising, my heart rate quickening. I’ve spent over a decade honing my steep skiing skills, and I spent half a decade working on the project, equipping myself with the technical tools to be a confident leader on rock, snow and ice. During the project, I wore a lot of hats, not only deciding when to ski each line and how to do it, but also coordinating with ski partners, videographers, the production team and sponsors. I worked in a team, yes, but I was the leader—because it was my project. This ski mountaineer’s assumption otherwise was deeply insulting.

I took some deep breaths and typed a response. “I skied a handful of the lines with friends who are guides but they were with me as partners, not guides, and were not paid or traded. We did use a paid guide one day to help with some of the rigging for the videographer.”

On the single line where we did have a guide help with the rigging for the film team the guide initially put the rope up, I followed. And then I re-led the pitch. Every pitch of ice and rock, I led. I might add that it’s standard practice for mountain guides to run safety on ski films. This was not a typical ski film and I was in charge of my own safety and risk management.

In one way, I’m grateful that this man texted me to set the record straight. But frankly, I’m frustrated that I even have to address these rumors about “guiding buddies”, rumors that are simply a way to invalidate my accomplishments in the mountains.

The misogyny and sexism in the Wasatch backcountry and ski mountaineering community is real. I’m sick of it.

But I will not be defeated.

Before I met my friend Liz Daley in 2012, I had no idea that mountain guiding was even a profession. I didn’t know about the American Mountain Guides Association and the process to get certified. Liz opened my eyes to this world. Skiing with her, I learned about the amazing skills that mountain guides possess. I loved being with her in the mountains as an equal partner. And I wanted to find more friends who had her same level of technical expertise.

I realize that ski mountaineering is one of the most dangerous sports you can undertake, so I want to do everything to stack the odds in my favor. I also want to keep growing my knowledge base. I’ve taken courses in Avalanche Level 1, 2 and 3; Rock Rescue Level 1 and 2; and Ice Rescue; have a Wilderness First Responder certification; and do regular crevasse rescue refreshers.

I also make a conscientious effort to recruit partners who take their technical training as seriously as I do. Why wouldn’t you do everything you can to stack the odds in your favor?

On another international trip, I hired a local guide to help us with some of the trip logistics. Because of the difficulty of the ski line I was attempting, I had to clarify, in writing, that the guide was joining us as a climber/skier, not as a guide, and we were each individually responsible for our decisions to continue or not. She was compensated a modest fee for her time in pre-trip logistical organization. She did join us on the mountain, and since that trip, has become a good friend and mountain partner. Again, international ski mountaineering expeditions are dangerous. Why not equip yourself with information from a local guide to help set you up for success?

I wish I didn’t have to write this statement, to address these lies that people are spreading. They don’t just frustrate me, or hurt my feelings; they hurt my career. Last winter, when I took my Avalanche 3 course, one of the pieces of feedback I received was: “If you want to make the transition from pro skier to mountain guide, stop hiring guides and traveling with others that make decisions for you, put yourself in situations where you are required to put it all together, apply these skills and observations and form your own opinion everyday, don’t just regurgitate the opinions of others.” I have no idea where the evaluator got the idea that I was skiing as a guided client. These lies had become so pervasive that they were part of the reason I didn’t pass the course, and they are simply untrue.

When I wrote about this encounter with bias, a woman sent me a note sharing a similar story. She had received equally unprofessional and unhelpful feedback from an instructor during an exam. She said, “Your implicit bias post is a big part of the reason I stopped guiding.” My situation is far from unique.

The reason I’m writing this is because I want to get to a place where women’s accomplishments can be accepted and celebrated without bias. I want female mountaineers to get the same recognition and credit as their male counterparts. The way these local guides have fabricated a story about the style in which I climbed and skied the lines in The Chuting Gallery illustrates the kind of toxic masculinity that runs rampant in our culture.

This habitual sexism is part of the reason that only 10% of mountain guides are female, and why fewer than 25% of sponsored snowsports athletes for major outerwear brands (TNF, Helly Hansen, Arcteryx and Patagonia) are female, despite the fact that over 40% of skiers are female.

Also, while I’m speaking about statistics, it’s worth noting that 85% of snowsports fatalities are male in their late teens to late 30s (70%). This is the demographic that on a broader level, engages in high-risk behavior and suffers the majority of unintentional death from injury.

We need more female representation, especially in dangerous sports like mountaineering. It’s not enough to get women outside. We need women to get to the highest levels. At every turn in my career, I’ve battled sexism and harassment. I will not back down and disappear, giving in to the belief that I don’t belong. I will not distance myself from the world of ski mountaineering that I love so much. I will continue to show up and speak up.

In order to change the tides, I believe we need to do two things to start. First of all, the local mountain guiding company needs to consider putting their guides through implicit bias training to understand how to create an inclusive culture that doesn’t automatically de-value women’s skill. It will be a huge benefit to their company.

And my call to action to you, the reader, is to examine your own implicit bias and preferences. This isn’t a battle of the sexes. As a society, we are so habituated to sexism that women are often biased against other women.

Do the stories you tell discredit the efforts and achievements of women in the wordplace and/or in the mountains? Are you part of the problem?

When you hear someone saying sometimes to diminish another person, do you call them out on it?

Use your words carefully, and remember the adage, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

 

Power hiking season. Last week, I logged thirty glorious miles on the trails. I’m excited to continue getting my legs in summer shape (it’s harder when you can’t ski down)…@keen #keenambassador Photo: @acpictures

Patrouille des Glaciers (PDG) Race Recap

It has been called the most difficult team’s race in the world. The Patrouille des Glaciers (PDG) covers over 13,000’ (4000m) of ascent and 36 miles (58 km) through technical, glaciated, alpine terrain, organized by the Swiss military as a training exercise to make sure soldiers are prepared to patrol the mountainous borders of the country.

What did I get myself into?

We were heading into the coldest, darkest part of the night as we approached the top of the first climb. My hands and feet were starting to lose feeling. It was hard to tell the difference between the trail of headlamps up the mountain and the bright stars, under a new moon and dark, night sky. The climb was relentless. We had been going for four hours, ten miles (16k) and almost 7,000’ (2133m) and I was huffing and puffing as we approached 12,000’ (3657m). My team and I were roped together navigating the course and I was grateful to be close. We were on skis with skins and it was steep and icy. Just when I thought we were topping out, there was another false summit, and I had to dig deep to find the courage and energy to continue.

Given my track record for endurance on skis, I thought this race would be easier than it was feeling. But in the US, especially in Utah, there are very few mountains where you can climb up 7,000 continuous feet (2133m) without stopping. I was fit as a fiddle by Wasatch standards, but the Swiss Alps represented a whole new challenge.

Finally, we topped out and were greeted by soldiers and some of our friends from the Swiss ski brand I am sponsored by, Movement skis, who roped me into doing this race. Our friends fed us sugary soda and candy. They helped me put my jacket on. They were volunteering to come out here in the middle of the night, to wait at the top of a cold, windy mountain at high altitude, to help us. Thinking about their sheer generosity still amazes me. Race day brings out the most radiant expressions of the human spirit – I love the random acts of kindness and the way it brings us all together.

For much of my career as a mountain athlete, I didn’t understand racing. I thought, I go to these remote places in the mountains to get away from people. Why would anyone want to do a race with so many people? I worried about the environmental impacts of races. The erosion from so much foot traffic. The carbon emissions from the helicopters that stocked the aid stations at the PDG.
But in those moments, where two random strangers climbed up a crevasse ridden glaciated mountain in the middle of the night to give us aid – food and nourishment and encouragement – I understood what it was all about. It made sense to me. That having a race that exposes people to these places gets them to be fierce advocates to protect these types of experiences. To be good stewards. And as far as the carbon goes – the Swiss military was going to burn that carbon in the helicopters to do their training exercises no matter what. Why not provide a benefit to the people and give them the experience of the race? Why not celebrate their national pride?

The PDG happens every two years and the iconic course covers parts of the Haute Route. It’s a single day event where racers start in waves in the middle of the night to avoid the dangers of avalanches and falling into crevasses that come with daytime heating in the springtime.

My background as an athlete isn’t in racing. I considered myself more of an adventure focused ski mountaineer, wanting to explore places off the beaten path that take technical expertise and endurance to reach. After doing this for several years, I was left at a decision point in my career. Do I keep pushing the boundaries of trying to ski steeper and steeper lines, where a slip or fall ends in death? Or do I find another focus? I was delighted when my ski sponsor asked me if I wanted to compete in the PDG this year. I had secretly been intrigued by skimo racing. I had never had the confidence to pursue it before. With the sponsor putting together my team and providing the equipment, I had a chance to explore a part of my sport I may have never delved into. It was a way for me keep progressing, to keep finding my edge, without taking on more and more risk.

So, I got the skinny skis. I adopted the equipment of skimo racers – the packs with quick carry, the cross country inspired poles, the lightweight, breathable helmet. And I put my mind to training all winter, logging as much vert as I could, week after week. I was focused and determined. And the PDG was my goal. I competed in a 3-day skimo race at the end of February – US Nationals – and my teammate and I took first place in the female team category, and I took second place in the combined. I felt it was good preparation for the PDG.

I was wrong. After the first climb, we had to ski 7,000 ft down in a single descent, roped together. Again, it is difficult for an American to train for a ski descent of this length because there are few places in the lower 48 where you can consistently access mountains that are this long. By the end of the first climb and descent, my legs were hurting. The skiing was steep, icy and technical. It was chaotic – our team was strongest on the downhill, so we were passing many teams. I was worried our ropes would get caught.

Once in Arolla, it was a relief. We were back at a more normal altitude and we took some time to refuel and warm up. I was relieved that the coldest parts of the course and night were over with. We were halfway done, and I thought we would breeze through the rest. I was wrong. We started climbing again, and the snow was frozen and the terrain grew steeper and steeper. People were falling on their skins all around. You had to have perfect technique. The course was relentless. Where it wasn’t steep, the terrain was rolling. Sometimes, it was unclear whether to skin or skate. My teammates spoke French as their first language and communication was difficult. Being the lone female, I felt an added pressure to perform. Spending time in Zermatt prior to the race, I felt frustrated by some of the local’s and their perceptions of me. No one believed that I was going to do the long race. In the pre-race meeting for the long race, there were very few woman (I estimate fewer than 5% of the competitors were women – more women compete in the shorter race that covers half the distance, but it’s still under 20% female). I had just met my teammates and I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider. Competing in a team of three adds an extra challenge. Two allows for more nimble teamwork. Three is a crowd and when you aren’t in sync, it can be mentally very challenging.

My boyfriend, Rob Lea, an accomplished triathlete, shared with me some of his race day wisdom. He said on a big race like this, you only have a certain number of matches. You want to be mindful when you burn a match. Being on a team of three, it was difficult to pace myself properly. I felt we went out too fast from town (the race begins in downtown Zermatt and you run in ski boots or running shoes for one mile on the cobblestone street before getting to snow-I never get blisters, but I did get blisters from running on this surface in my ski boots in the warm temps). There were times when I didn’t use my energy efficiently. And the fatigue of traveling through Europe for the 3 weeks leading up to the race didn’t help. The week of the race, I spent too much time on my feet in Zermatt. Hauling my large duffel bag to the race start was a chore. Doing this kind of race is crazy, it was even crazier to do it internationally.

As the night turned to day, I started to see a bigger picture of the race, and it was unbelieveable, how many competitors were marching up and down these huge mountains, like a line of ants. The best parts were all the spectators who came to cheer us on and the support of the soldiers at the aid stations! At every pass, and every transition, there were soldiers stationed to make sure people were ok, not too delirious or sick. When it was time to put on sunscreen, a soldier doled out the perfect amount of sunscreen into my hand. They refilled water bottles. Skimo racing is a big deal in Europe and I’m so grateful I got to experience it.

Once the sun came out, it started to get so hot. The race suit performs well in most conditions except on the extreme ends – if it’s too hot or too cold, it leaves you desiring layering options…

As we got to the Rosablanche, I started to run out of energy. I’d burned too many of my matches earlier in the race and I was out. My teammates families started to greet them at different passes and I started to get emotional that I didn’t have any family or friends there. I could feel myself starting to spiral into a dark place. I cried. I tried to rally.

Luckily, my teammates helped. They stuck with me. We worked together. The descent into Verbier was again one of the longest ski descents I’ve done. My legs were screaming. I had to focus on engaging my core. I was worried I was going to crash and tear a ligament. When we crossed the finish line, I’ve never been so relieved. I was bawling. I called my boyfriend (even though it was three am in the US) and my mom. I was in disbelief that we actually finished.

Overall, we finished the race in 12 hours and 9 minutes. There is no division for mixed gender groups. We came in 49th in the men’s division, which is a respectable time for first time finishers as a team who had met a few days prior to the race. We finished an hour later than our estimated time (tip: always over estimate your time the first time doing a race) and I felt that being at the back of our pack in the beginning was difficult for morale. There are dozens of things I learned, that I would’ve done differently or improved.

And that was the whole point. I was so far outside of my comfort zone, completely vulnerable to a new experience. I pushed myself to do something differently. And it felt I grew by leaps and bounds, mentally and physically. Growth is usually uncomfortable. The end of the race also made me intensely homesick. By being homesick, I appreciated my partner, my friends and family so much more when I was reunited with them.

A huge thank you to my team mates, Eric Gachet and Aurelien Ducroz, to my Movement skis team manager, Vincent Bardy, and to everyone else who volunteered to make the race a reality.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I’m planning to do more skimo races. But first, I am raining to run my first ultramarathon and to compete in an endurance bike race. Stay tuned…

It’s never easy to get up in the dark, but the pink light makes it all worth it! What motivates you?This photo, taken by @jaybeyerimaging, is from my first (and only) ski trip to Alaska in 2014 where we snow camped on the glacier, and hiked up all the lines we skied down. I learned a lot on that trip about risk management and decision making in remote big mountains. It’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve come! #bigmtndreams

Happy Mother’s Day to my lovely Mom! Thanks for taking me outside and teaching me how to ski (and how to pee outside). As one of few women in your graduating class from medical school, you showed me that there were no limits on what I could become. Love you! Photo: a road trip to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument last fall. @keen #keenambassador

It was an honor and a delight to #climbthehill with over sixty other athletes and advocates from @americanalpine and @accessfund. This was my sixth trip to D.C. and every time, it gets better as we build rapport with our elected officials. As people who love to be outside, we have a duty to be good stewards of the land and to create a more inclusive and diverse community. My call to action to you is to get outside, see what’s there, and keep showing up and speaking up! Huge thanks to @patagonia for supporting this event and to all the elected officials and government agencies who met with us. #AnswerWithAction

Stoked to be on Capitol Hill with the @americanalpine and @accessfund for the third annual #climbthehill! Team Utah has had a busy morning so far meeting with @repmialove, @curtisut and @senatororrinhatch about protecting the wild places in Utah that we love so much! Want to learn more? Check out the link to the toolkit below and in my profile: https://www.climbthehill.org/toolkit/

Protecting public lands is so important to me, I’m trading in my skis for a dress this week and heading to D.C. with the @americanalpine and @accessfund to #ClimbTheHill. I’m excited to meet with our elected officials to discuss the merits of the Antiquities Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Recreation Not Red-tape and share stories about outdoor adventures! Stay tuned for more updates.

Springtime is really the best time of year for ski mountaineering. Long days and stable snowpack mean you cover lots of ground. I’m torn between feeling satiated with what I accomplished this ski season (and being ok moving on to trail running) or wanting one more big adventure on the snow… It’s a good kind of indecision. #bigmtndreams Photo: @rob.lea

For too long, we have ignored men’s role in the quest to create a more inclusive society. We need men, especially those in positions of power, as allies and supporters. This isn’t a battle of the sexes. It’s about making society more free so people can be the best versions of themselves. Men can help by holding themselves accountable for their actions and calling out injustice or systems of exclusion when they see it. Bystander intervention can be as simple as saying, hey that’s inappropriate. Or telling someone to stop when they say stop and respecting a persons boundaries. On a broader level, it can be pointing out when a situation is dominated by men and suggesting to add more diversity to the mix. Diversity is the spice of life. Just like soil dies in a monoculture, diversity in society offers a more sustainable future. The reality is, I don’t want to exist in a women’s only, gender segregated world. I love the men in my life and I know how supportive and encouraging they can be. To all the guys out there, don’t ever hesitate to ask how you can support women or people from other marginalized groups. We will love you even more for it. ️️️Photo: @acpictures

From a young age, my parents instilled in me a sense of helping and serving others, especially with my job. I’ve always found a way to join my passion for athletics and environmental activism. Read more about the evolving role of the professional outdoor athlete on the @rei blog via the link below or in my profile. I’m honored to be mentioned in this story by @running_bum_ alongside @alexhonnold and @clare_gallagher_runs.Photo: @mikumerikantohttps://www.rei.com/blog/news/the-evolving-role-of-the-professional-outdoor-athlete

I believe the modern professional mountain athlete has a duty that goes beyond excelling in sport: to speak up and take a stand on issues that matter and use their influence to make the world a better place. I’m excited to join the @americanalpine and @accessfund next week in Washington DC for the second annual #climbthehill. I’ll be joining a diverse group of athletes to advocate for public lands, outdoor recreation and improved management. Photo: @rob.lea

Spring is my favorite time of year. Last week, I enjoyed some of the best corn skiing of my life, back home in the Wasatch. Photo: @westonshirey #keepwinterwild

There was a time when I used skiing as a way to escape my problems, to run away from things. Now, I use ski mountaineering as a way to work through difficult emotions and find healing. On a long day out, you can end up in a dark place. But when you come out, the light is much brighter. I go to ski now out of a place of deep love and joy. I show you this picture from the @patrouilledesglaciers_official because I want to show the truth. It’s not all smiling selfies. Sometimes there are tears under my sunglasses. I’m so grateful for I am able to do what I do.#bigmtndreams

We did it! We crossed the finish line of the @patrouilledesglaciers_official, arriving in Verbier 12 hours and 9 minutes after leaving Zermatt. The whole experience pushed me far out of my comfort zone. The international travel logistics, the language barrier, the altitude, the distance, the Swiss military organization. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. At the end, I had to dig deep. It was an experience I will always cherish, the biggest reason being the people I got to share it with. @eric.gachet and @aurelienducroz thank you for teaming up with me for the challenge! I’m grateful to @movementskis for inviting me to participate! Pdg 2020 training starts now that I’m back home in Utah.

As someone who receives so much joy from spending time in nature, I feel I have an obligation to give back and be a voice for wild places. Let’s celebrate earth day everyday. Photo: @meg_haywoodsullivan @keen #KEENambassador

All packed and ready to go. Tonight, we start racing at 11 pm across the Swiss Alps! 53 km with 4000 m of ascent. Wish me luck!

There’s something special about being a part of a team and working towards a big objective. Today, I went out on the glacier with my @patrouilledesglaciers_official @movementskis team. @aurelienducroz and @eric.gachet are both incredible skiers and together, we practiced skiing on the rope, which is a big challenge for the race. As an American woman, I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of this international team! I’m confident now about our ability to finish the long course. The countdown continues… stay tuned.

When @movementskis asked me at the start of the season if I wanted to compete in the famous @patrouilledesglaciers_official ski mountaineering race, I instantly said yes. I spent a lot of time this season training, learning how to go faster in technical terrain. Last night was the first time meeting my teammates, @aurelienducroz and @eric.gachet. I’m a bit intimidated to race such a big course for my first time, but I’m also stoked to try something new and continue progressing my skill set in the mountains. And as an American, I’m embracing a new cultural experience! Stay tuned for more this week as we learn to work as a team and prepare to race Friday night.

It’s been an emotional journey to return to Chamonix four years after I first came here. Four years have gone and many of my heroes are dead. I’m still grieving the loss of my dear friend @liz_daley who first told me of the wonder of the mountains of Chamonix and invited me to come experience it with her. I’m grieving the loss of my youthful exuberance for ski alpinism. I’ve lost the carefree joy I could once walk through these mountains with, and instead, approach them with a different kind of humility, fully aware of the fragility of life. It’s been a heavy burden on my shoulders this week, and I’ve been in a weird day dream, thinking about what could have been. I find solace in the spirit of the community as I reconnect with old and new friends. And in walking amongst these giant mountains, feeling the wind in my face.