Mountain Mentors has had a pretty amazing 2021 year so far, despite facing a lot of the same challenges other organizations faced with COVID-19. Our primary goals were to keep our cohort participants safe while continuing to offer our programming. While we always knew that the Mountain Mentors community is made up of lovely individuals, we were taken aback by the patience, understanding, and stoke that they all brought into the last winter and summer seasons.
This summer, alongside our usual rock climbing mentorship program, we launched our hiking mentorship program. The hiking program was born out of Mountain Mentors’ recognition of the need for a more entry-user friendly and accessible sport and activity. Climbing and backcountry skiing / splitboarding are both high barrier sports in terms of the knowledge required, the cost of equipment, and the number of individuals who feel ready to embark on the role of being a mentor.
At Mountain Mentors, we are working to create a positive feedback loop, where mentees are empowered to take the skills, knowledge, and experiences they have acquired into their communities and, as a result, become mentors themselves. Bringing this work into the hiking community is critical to our vision of creating backcountry1 spaces where everyone belongs and feels safe.
We began by sourcing surveys from our community to gauge interest in participating in this new offering. After receiving overwhelming positive feedback,we decided to take a step forwards to launching the hiking program… and oh my was the response phenomenal!
Over the course of our 2 week application period, over 450 applied to be a part of our summer program. This resulted in the largest ever cohort for Mountain Mentors, with 60 mentors and 60 mentees, split evenly across our Climbing and Hiking programs. From May to early September, both climbing and hiking cohorts were able to get outside, develop their technical and mentorship skills, and build lasting relationships.
With over a dozen skillshare opportunities offered throughout the season, ranging from rock rescue clinics to traditional backcountry navigation, wilderness first aid to outdoor leadership workshops, mentors and mentees were able to have a variety of engagements to enrich their experience.
With the summer season now wrapped up, Mountain Mentors is looking ahead to the upcoming winter. Due to the success of our hiking program, we are looking to fulfill similar objectives of improved program accessibility and participant growth in the winter with the introduction of a snowshoeing mentorship program. This program will emulate much of our usual backcountry skiing / splitboarding program, with the emphasis being to reach out to a greater number of individuals who are looking to start their learning and leadership journeys in the snow.
While we continue to learn and grow as an organization we are encouraged by our supporters and by the many mentors and mentees who participate in our program. Mountain Mentors exists because of people who make it such a special community. Over the years, we have been humbled by those who have taken the time to contribute to our cohorts, and felt privileged to have been a part of their stories. Here are a few of those people, and their words about the program.
You can see more on our website at http://www.mountainmentors.org/cohort-highlights
Petra Giacomelli – Mentor
After being part of the program for over three years now (as a Mentor and Mentee), I can clearly say I feel a deep passion and ‘inner fire’ for MM. From the first moment on, I felt welcomed and a place/space where I belong. It gives me the great opportunity to meet like-minded people, create new friendships as well as building my skillset and confidence. To me its strong empowerment, knowledge sharing and community building through accessibility and trust.
I have met amazing people who became my best friends and most reliable backcountry partners. I have had my best outdoor-experiences with my mentees and the cohort exploring new areas, shredding lines and powder, reaching benches and ridges, enjoying full-moon skiing on our Wendy Thompson Hut trip and facing great challenges which let us grow inside-and outside of our comfort zone. With MM I can be me while being and learning with others.
Simone Williamson – Mentee
I am blown away by all the technical and skills-based knowledge I have gained so far this ski season with my mentor, Sarah. Sarah has shown me how to backcountry trip plan efficiently – helping to build my confidence in trip decision making and assessment. I’ve also learned how to skin up icy sections of a trail with a new hiking technique that Sarah showed me – an area that I had been struggling with. I’ve also improved my ski form and just generally feel more all-around confident.
This mentorship program has also been a process of sharing knowledge back and forth, as I feel I’ve brought a lot to the discussion as a mentee. Our relationship as mentor and mentee has been about mutual respect, communication and safety, which is the dream.
1. * To Mountain Mentors, ‘backcountry’ means the outdoor recreational spaces on the lands of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Qayqayt, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo, Tsawwassen, xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), St̓át̓imc Tmicw (St’at’imc), and Líl̓wat (Lil’wat) Peoples and upon which Mountain Mentors operates. ‘The backcountry’ is not a place to be owned, conquered, or disrespected. It is a destination, an aspiration, and an individuals’ experience.