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Chamonix: A Photo Journal

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Chamonix: A Photo Journal

Mont Blanc and the surrounding valleys, particularly Chamonix, are often considered the birthplace of alpinism; climbing in the Mont Blanc massif is a rite of passage for any serious mountaineer. Alas, neither Paul nor I had ever climbed in Chamonix until earlier this summer. I’d been there once or twice as a hiker and runner, which mirrors my strong suit: non-technical high altitude work. Paul - who is the bona fide alpinist among the two of us with his ascents of Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy, and Denali’s South Face - had never even laid eyes on Mont Blanc.

With big alpine objectives coming up this summer, we decided to rectify this gap in our respective mountaineering resumes and set plans in motion to spend the better part of June in Europe. I’ll mostly let the photos speak for themselves, but here are a few things we learned during our inaugural climbing visit to Cham:

Enjoying what may just be the world’s second-most photogenic 5.4 on the Aiguillette d’Argentiere

Enjoying what may just be the world’s second-most photogenic 5.4 on the Aiguillette d’Argentiere

  • Access to the mountains above Chamonix is truly unparalleled. Unfortunately it comes at a steep price - literally, if you decide to use one of the many cable cars to cut what would otherwise be a 9000ft+ ascent approach down to an easy walk.

  • Another side effect of the easy access and prominence of mountain sports in the area is that it gets busy up there; REALLY busy. We found that if you spend time on easily accessible routes in decent conditions you 100% will get climbed over, passed or elbowed - unless you choose to do the same to the parties ahead of you, or get up several hours prior to the typical alpine start to ensure you are the absolutely the first among many eager parties queuing up for the same route.

  • It IS possible to get away from people and enjoy an uncrowded experience as long as you are willing and able to walk farther, climb stronger, and spend more nights away from town. After our experience this past month, Paul and I are already jonesing to get back to the Mont Blanc massif with more local knowledge (and time, and stable weather) and do just that.

  • The local ibexes are about as habituated to hikers and climbers as elk are in Estes Park! On the same note, there may not be any friendly humming birds (Paul and I greatly enjoy their frequent visits to our van all over the American west) in Chamonix but the butterflies do a pretty darn great job to make up for that.

  • When it rains, it pours. Literally. We put our GoreTex layers to great use throughout our time both in the mountains and valley over there.

  • Wine is cheaper than beer. And while food is pretty pricey all in all, you can buy yummy gazpacho in any super market for next to no money. I wish the US was like that…

But, now I’m rambling. Without further ado: hope you enjoy the photos!

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Breaking Barriers: The $5,000 AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship

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Breaking Barriers: The $5,000 AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship

SCHOLARSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT!
Come climb a Himalayan 6.000m peak with AWExpeditions…for free. Read on below for details.

When I talk about breaking barriers, it’s often about speed:  about becoming the fastest woman to complete a high altitude mission, or about doing something that no other woman has done before.  But this is different. 

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Today, I want to talk about breaking economic barriers.  I want to talk about economic barriers because I know that a number of the things that I do, and the experiences that I hope to share with others, are an expression of privilege and of economic opportunity: only a subset of people have the luxury of being able to afford big adventures, and to pursue the boost of confidence and inspiration they provide.

I know first-hand how empowering a life of outdoor adventure feels, and I love sharing that life with others.  I bring my family along, introduce my friends to my favorite far off-grid places - and now, as the owner and head guide of Aurora Women’s Expeditions (AWE), I regularly lead teams of women into the same big mountains that have been so formative for me.  

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But expedition climbing isn’t cheap: between mountaineering gear, airfare and on the ground logistics, big mountain expeditions tend to run in the thousands of dollars. That’s why I am incredibly excited to be able to announce the AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship, a $5000 grant that will enable a hand-picked woman to participate in this October’s AWE Nepal Expedition at minimal cost. 

The intent behind the Summit Scholarship is this: to enable a woman who might not otherwise have the means or the opportunity to do so, to participate in a big mountain expedition to Nepal.  The scholarship, which is powered by Nite Ize and supported by Lowa Boots, covers the full expedition fee, a stipend towards international airfare, and top-of-the-line mountaineering footwear.  The AWE Nepal expedition has Everest Base Camp and 20,305 Island Peak as its objectives, and is suitable for a first-time mountaineer as long as she possesses a high level of cardio fitness and a healthy appetite for long hard days in the mountains.  

Find out more and apply for the scholarship here: the 2019 AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship.

I know that there are plenty more pressing causes in the world than advancing gender equality through adventure sports.  Providing a platform for more women to experience big mountain adventures is not solving poverty or world hunger - but it is my way to share my passion for both gender equality and the mountains with the world, and I’m excited to be able to share this new scholarship with all of you!

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