I had been guiding backpacking trips in the summer with Sawtooth Mountain Guides and began to get the itch to pursue American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) ski guide certifications. This stemmed from the desire to continue growing as a competent partner in the backcountry, share the love of touring with others, and be trained at the highest level to lead groups on bigger missions in complex terrain. I was inspired by the guide team at Sawtooth Mountain Guides and especially by the women. Sarah Lundy was a co-owner when I shadowed her on the Ski Mountaineering Course in the Sawtooths. At the time, Sarah was preparing for her final AMGA Ski Guide Exam. Her advice to me was to take it slow and enjoy the process.
I shadowed Sarah as she taught several AIARE Rec Avalanche Level 1 and Companion Rescue Courses. There’s something special about woman to woman mentorship. When another person you can identify with is crushing it at anything, it’s much easier to see yourself in their boots - the she can do it, I can do it mentality.
The person who further planted the seed for avalanche education was another Sawtooth Mountain Guide, Margaret Wheeler. She is one of the most experienced avalanche educators, second American woman to earn an IFMGA pin, AMGA instructor team member, fire spinner, mother, and all-around rock star. The first time I met Margaret was at a summer guide training at City of Rocks where we got paired together. Since I’m one of the few that’s not a climbing guide, I get dubbed “victim” for rock rescue drills. After we were a few pitches up, I was supposed to fake being unconscious and hang limp on the rope while she did some rope trickery to rescue me. It took me a few rounds of her saying “for this to work you have to fully let go of the rock and go limp” before I determined it was time to just trust her. And that’s a lot of trust for barely meeting someone, but it started a frientorship (friend mentor) beyond climbing.
With a hearty dose of guidance from Margaret, during January of 2020 I completed the AIARE Instructor Training Course which enables people to work on AIARE avalanche courses under the leadership of a course leader. Coming full circle, in January 2022, Margaret and I will be co-instructing an all-women AIARE Avalanche Level 1 course in partnership with SheJumps and the Friends of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. This is a wonderful example of growing through mentorship and more people should have access to it.