I don’t know who they is, but I do know, first-hand, the power of a group of well-intentioned women.
This fall I offered a women’s only retreat in the Cascade Mountains…the mountains may not have physically moved, but they definitely shook!
You might wonder why I would offer a trip for women only instead of the usual co-ed. Or question that separating gender is anti-feminism, but I believe that when women join together in a safe and supportive space, amazing things happen.
But don’t take it first-hand from me.
I did a post-trip interview with one of the participants. And here’s what she had to say about it:
What inspired you to say yes to this trip?
I honestly had thought of 100 reasons not to go within the first 3 minutes the opportunity was presented to me!
My husband had just returned from Mt. Baker with Matt and spoke so highly of Matt as an amazing guide and the actual experience itself.
Then I realized I had nothing to lose, I needed something challenging and maybe this trip would motivate me in my personal and professional life to make some much needed course corrections.
Actually, the second reason why I decided to say yes was because there was a comfort in the idea of learning within a small group of women. It sounded “safe” and I needed to do something, anything!
Being green at rock climbing, I would not have signed up for this trip if it was a mix of men and women.
What was your biggest fear/challenge prior to the trip?
Quite frankly that I really didn’t know anything about rock climbing! I am not a rock climber and I had not successfully rock climbed in my past.
I’m also not a thrill seeking, adrenaline drinking kind of gal! I am more along the lines of yoga and spas!
The idea of participating was a bit overwhelming that I had to stop thinking about it. I participated in two climbing classes at an indoor climbing gym and my neighbor was kind enough to take me for 2 hours to a climbing gym before I started my adventure with Matt.
I was also afraid that I wouldn’t be able to complete the trip mentally or physically.
Turns out my fears were totally unnecessary.
How did you prepare mentally?
I researched a bit about Matt Walker, the area, Mazama Store, Freestone Inn, Cascade Mountains, etc. but I couldn’t really think too much about the actual climbing piece or I would have never made my flight out of Denver!
The biggest mental preparation came during the hike before we climbed South Early Winters Spire!
I was a mess, I couldn’t breathe, I was hyperventilating, I was ready to bail and Matt stopped and asked if I would like to have a different experience than the other three.
I was hoping he had a short cut trail or something easier to the base of the Spires then he asked me to give him my pack.
I was shocked!
He looked right at me and repeated it and said, “I’m going to carry your pack for a bit to insure you make it to the top. You’re making it to the top Tracy!”
And there was a hell of a lot of reassurance in that last sentence that allowed me to make a mental switch to push through this climb no matter how afraid I was at any given moment!
Did you experience any setbacks/resistance before or during the trip?
Yes, yes, yes!
During the trip I just couldn’t convince myself I was in the right place, but Matt, Steph and the Wolf Pack (the name we gave our group of women!) were armed and ready for each of those moments I had experienced along the way.
I can’t tell you how many times I stopped in my climb — frozen mentally, tired, overwhelmed and ready to say forget it….I’m just going to wait here for you guys!
It was honestly the most mental and physical stew I had consumed!
What major breakthroughs did you experience?
Mostly: my “summit” came when I heard the cars on the road through the trees, long after we had climbed up and down the Spires and through the woods.
I thought reaching the summit would deliver this grandiose feeling of accomplishment but it didn’t! I think because in my head I knew I still had to climb down and that is altogether a different experience than climbing up!
I didn’t know rock climbing could feel a bit like therapy and a work out!
I am inspired by climbing. Never in a lifetime would I have told anyone I would begin rock climbing at 42 years old and quite possibly enjoy it the same way I enjoy skiing!
I was amazed. This is the first thing I’ve ever really experienced that could quiet my mind. I appreciate the communication that is both necessary and not necessary in this sport and how that can be mirrored in my personal life.
I experienced a very physical exercise of taking challenges and breaking them into chunks or studying the pitch.
Sometimes it seems insurmountable and then one move creates eight more moves and it is motivating but also a pisser to think you have summited only to find another pitch…kind of like life!
I think the biggest breakthrough was actually surprising myself by accomplishing an adventure such as this one!
There is no way I could have done it without Matt, Steph and the Wolf Pack to push me when I needed to be pushed and supported me because I was “making a big move”.
This was a life changing trip for me!
Do you feel the trip would have been different if it was co-ed?
It would have been a completely different experience!
This was a chance for me to learn something new amongst my “peers” if you will. There was only a 10 year span between all of our ages which I think also added to the experience and ability to best understand each other and bond together.
It was a wonderful opportunity to accomplish something so amazing (in my personal book of adventures) and be fully supported not only by Matt and Stephanie but with the ladies on this trip!
I also appreciated having a female guide on the trip! Stephanie was the perfect guide for this trip — she
was so calm, capable, encouraging and she is inspiring to me. She is so comfortable in her own boots which created a fun and calm learning environment for each of us!
From a mental perspective, I think it would have been easier for me to bow out on the climb if I was with a group of men and women — I would have convinced myself somehow it is just easier for the guys.
With this group of ladies, I was also a bit beside myself: an Air Force pilot, ex-Navy, and a women who previously climbed Mt. Baker with Matt. I really questioned why I was there in the first place!
The support from the ladies really helped me to muster through any fear, anxiety, or lack of confidence I had experienced along my journey.
I don’t know if a mixed gender group would have created this safe environment in which to learn something new and learn about myself.
What were your top 3 take-aways?
There were really 5 for me:
- Climb Up
- Wolf Pack
- Present in the Moment
- I am Strong
How has your life changed since going on this trip?
There was a section on the climb that I felt frozen in fear, I called up to Matt for some guidance and he looked over the edge and called back, “climb up!”
It was then I realized that was exactly what I needed to hear at that point of my journey!
Being present in the moment with my kids:
This trip has made me realize all of the multitasking I was creating was forcing me to miss these amazing little moments. Keep things simple, when I’m overwhelmed I try to look at the problem like climbing – one pitch at a time.
I try to keep in perspective:
Communication that is necessary can be simple and effective but also verbal communication is not always needed in every moment. I have the support of the Wolf Pack!
Would you do it again?
Do you recommend it to other women? Why?
What an amazing adventure, experience, journey and reality all packed into a few days!
I did something extraordinary in my life, for myself, with the help from the people who shared my journey.
I believe this is the trip I needed to create movement in my life. I have learned even the smallest movement is still movement, sometimes you may need to go down to go up, it is ok to fall and if you need a new perspective: why don’t you sit back in your harness, rest your arms, calm yourself and study the wall for your next move?
If you would like to have a life-changing experience like Tracy, I will be hosting several all-women trips in 2018.