Get Out There

Mentoring service hopes to make backcountry accessible to women

 | October 5, 2020

Ascent Mentorships launches for first winter in Revelstoke

Emily Wright, founder of Ascent Mentorships Society. Photo supplied

A new wave of women are getting in the backcountry this winter thanks to Emily Wright, founder and executive director of Ascent Mentorships Society.

It will be the first winter the society has been up and running, Wright created it recently after moving to Revelstoke, B.C. from Whistler, B.C. 

As a newbie to the backcountry herself she had found a mentor who helped her explore the Sea to Sky area. But after the move she found herself surrounded by new mountains but without the confidence and technical knowledge to safely explore. 

“It’s purpose was a bit self-serving,” she said. “I was having trouble finding touring partners that I was comfortable going out with and vice versa because I’m pretty green and they were uncomfortable bringing me out there. And I’m self conscious about a whole whack of things in the backcountry…pace and fitness level, ski ability or just basic knowledge of all the hazards out there.” 

Knowing how key her mentor was to being active when she lived further west, Wright surveyed the community and found a large group of women who were in the same boat. 

“All the experienced backcountry users I talked to can identify a mentor who was pivotal in getting where they are now so Ascent Mentorships is just making that connection for people. I saw that I wasn’t alone out there and wanted to help.” 

The backcountry mentor and mentee matchmaking service opened to applications for the first time this year and received more than 60 applications for mentees and are aiming to reach 20 mentors, who will commit to taking their mentees out for one day a month this winter. 

For a $50 fee mentees are matched and both members of the pair receive insurance coverage. 

“I just hope that it helps break some barriers for entry for women getting into the backcountry. You can just easily take an AST one and have all the gear, but if you don’t have anyone to show you around and teach you the real life experience it’s really hard to get out there,” she said. “I’m hoping that it helps to build confidence for both parties, the mentor and the mentee, and really helps to build a supportive like female backcountry community in Revelstoke.”

Wright understands the difficulties some women face in exploring the backcountry. Photo supplied

Eventually, Wright said, she would like to expand the program into other communities. Some residents of nearby mountain towns have already asked her to bring Ascent to their town. 

In the meantime, current members will be paired soon and kick off winter by getting active in the backcountry. 

“I know firsthand that it’s good for my mental health to be out there exercising, exploring the mountains challenging myself and learning new things. So I really hope I can help other women in this community with that as well,” Wright said. “Since women typically prefer a different learning environment to men, which is supportive rather than competitive, by providing that I hope I can build confidence and improve mental health and make an impact for the women in the community.”