Women of Color in the Outdoors

When I, Karla, first started getting outdoors I did not know of a lot of culturally diverse women who were avid hikers or adventurers. As time progressed, and once I started the #52HikeChallenge, I started using outdoors based hashtags and found a plethora of inspiring women in the outdoors who are a #ForceOfNature!

One woman I really admire is Georgina Miranda, when I think of her, I think that anything is possible for me as a Hispanic woman in the outdoors. Born to Nicaraguan and Salvadorian parents, she discovered the outdoors in her mid 20’s. (My parents are also from El Salvador, so this made me uber excited!) Miranda is an adventurer, entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, activist, and founder of Altitude Seven- an adventure lifestyle media platform for women inspiring them to live an adventure filled life and helping them find relevant stories, products, experiences, and community.

So why is she so admirable? She has climbed six of seven summits around the world, including Mt. Everest. (This seems impossible for someone who could barely run a mile in 2007.) Currently, she is attempting the Explorer Grand Slam which includes all seven summits and skiing the last degree of the North and South Pole, her goal is to complete it by 2018!

Miranda on Mt. Everest - the highest mountain in the world!

Miranda on Mt. Everest - the highest mountain in the world!

I took the time to interview Miranda, and here’s what she had to share about her journey in climbing:

Which of the seven summits have you completed? 

“To date I have climbed six of the eight summits, including Mt. Everest (2011 & 2013), with Antarctica (Mt. Vinson + South Pole), Carstensz Pyramid, and the North Pole left to go. Yet there are endless mountains to climb in the literal sense and in life.”

Why did you decide to start climbing mountains? 

“I was inspired to get serious about climbing back in 2007 after reading Eve Ensler's account of her visit to Democratic Republic of Congo documenting the issue of gender-based violence that had plagued the country. The stories were hard to read, but shed light that awareness and resources were needed. These women were incredibly strong and resilient and Eve’s mission was to turn their pain to power.”

What about that story made you want to climb mountains? 

“I thought to myself, what’s the most challenging thing I can put myself through to raise funds and awareness for a cause? I was reading up on different things I could do, and none excited me. Since I was a hiker and wanted to visit the seven continents as a kid, when I learned about the summits and read not a lot of women had done it- I thought, now this is something I can do.”

What was the first major peak you climbed? 

“My first mountaineering course was Mt. Rainier in June of 2008, we made it 200 feet from the summit but had to turn around due to a storm. Then I climbed Mt. Elbrus in Russia July 2008”

What was your training program to get you to the first peak? 

“Physically- lots of hiking. I was living in LA at the time, and I would summit Mt. Baldy, San Jacinto and San Gorgonio every other week for eight months. There was also running.”

Were you ever afraid? If so, how did you get over the fear? 

“I wasn’t afraid of failing or not completing the challenge, I was more afraid of not trying.  I would have more regrets sitting at home, so might as well go do it.”

One of the biggest reasons we become afraid is that we look at the end goal, instead of breaking down the goal to manageable steps. As the saying goes, “If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail.” -Benjamin Franklin. One of the reasons we believe the 52 Hike Challenge is powerful is because we’ve laid out a plan for success. The goal is 52 hikes, the baby steps to getting there is to commit yourself to one hike per week. Apply this concept to any other goal and you’re halfway there.

Miranda also had a plan for success, she took her time, and saved money to start her journey. However, as the unexpected occurs in life, she hit a bump along the way and got “derailed.” In 2011, she had to turn around when climbing Mt. Everest due to altitude sickness: hypoxia. Then there was timing: financially she got laid off and felt she had a lot of unexpected delays. In 2013, she started her company Altitude Seven. It took her years to get back to her goal with all the detours. She now hopes to complete her Explorer Grand Slam by April 2018.

What advice do you want to give to someone who wants to follow your footsteps? 

“Start somewhere, get your fitness level up. Endurance-wise start by running 3 to 5 miles, train with weights, and breathing at altitude. Start with smaller mountains and work your way up, take courses, get comfortable walking eight hours plus, and train your mind! Take the time to educate yourself on what to expect when you get out there. Reading “No Shortcuts to the Top” by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts was inspiring. Learn from people who are doing what you want to do, and educate yourself about the things you’re passionate about.”

Miranda on Mount Kilimanjaro

Miranda on Mount Kilimanjaro

Education is an investment that I believe is important to taking the next step in one’s outdoor endeavors. Right now, REI is offering various #ForceOfNature women's classes and events. You can find classes on backpacking, map and compass, meetups and more. You can also learn some of these skills at their Outessa summits.

Is there anything else you want to add? 

“Always remember why you started - that is what keeps you going.”

Miranda and I share the same theory on starting a big project or goal… Set your sights high and acknowledge fear will be present. However, you can work to break down the goal to manageable steps and learn to sit with the fear (it’s only a feeling.) “Working on facing your fears is like working out a muscle.” Once you overcome one small fear, you can move through the feelings and push a little more out of your comfort zone until you are victorious. You’ll never know what heights you can reach if you don’t try.

I’m thankful I have culturally diverse outdoor women role models who are a #ForceOfNature. This community and climbing mountains have changed my life in ways I never knew possible. We can all take a life-changing journey, all it takes in one foot, in front of the other and realizing, if she can do it, so can you!

 *This post was brought to you in sponsorship with REI and may contains affiliate links which help fund the 52 Hike Challenge.