The Rockin’ Women of WA

8

Wilderness Adventures inspires growth and wonder and so do the incredible women that lead our trips each and every summer. In honor of International Women’s Day, we reconnected with a few of our most animated and uplifting women leaders from over the years. We caught up on life and reminisced on their summers as WA leaders.  In doing so, it’s clear to us that their stories as impactful role models go beyond their summers of working with our students. They have continued to get outside and they each have exciting personal and professional adventures ahead. These women embody our core values of Community, Leadership, and the Natural World each and every day, and we’re proud to have them part of the Wilderness Adventures.

Elina Berglund 

What trips have you led with WA?

In 2015, I led Alaska Southcentral and Alaska Service.

What is your favorite WA moment?

On Alaska Southcentral, we spent 10 days backpacking through the Alaskan backcountry. Seeing a group of high school students learn how to work together and how to become more comfortable in the woods was awesome.

What have you been up to since leading with WA?

I currently live in Missoula, Montana where I am attending graduate school to become a certified elementary school teacher. I also work as a vocational coach for individuals with special needs and as a tutor. In my free-time, I love playing in the mountains (running, backpacking, and cross country skiing are my favorite activities).

Do you have any big adventures planned in the near future?

In August, I am moving to Tromsø, Norway, a town that is north of the arctic circle. I can’t wait! I will be student teaching at an international school, and am hoping to do lots of exploring as well.

What is the #1 lesson you want your WA kids to learn from being on a trip with you as their leader?

I hope for all of my students to feel confident being outside of their comfort zones.  Whether that means trying to grab a hold that you think is slightly too far away when climbing, trying a new recipe when cooking for the group, or sleeping outside, there’s so much growth that occurs when we push ourselves.

 

Molly Drake 

What trips have you led with WA?

In 2016, I led Hawaii Service. In 2017, I led Puget Sound and Grand Teton. Then, in 2018, I led Alaska High Trails.

Favorite WA moment?

My favorite moment was during my Grand Teton trip. I was worried that by kids were not going to get along because we had pandora’s box of strong personalities in front of us. They proved me wrong. The unity that formed between them was proof of how powerful these trips are in building a team. The moment that was so eye-opening to me was when we were preparing for our summit attempt of the Grand and they were checking each other’s bags, making sure to eat and drink, etc. This group was so set on summiting as a team, they wanted everyone up there together, even though a few weeks before, their personalities clashed. 

Life since leading with WA?

I now live in Park City, Utah where I work as a ski patroller at Park City Mountain Resort. This is my second season as a patroller here and I do a mix of Emergency Response and Avalanche Control work. On my weekends, I like to explore the Wasatch by going for a ski tour or escaping to the desert for some hiking or mountain biking. 

Do you have any big adventures planned in the near future?

This spring, I am planning on doing some backcountry ski/biking trips to Lake Tahoe, the La Sal range, and Moab areas. After that in the summer, as hard as it will be for me to trade in my hiking boots for books, will be pursuing a whole new adventure – nursing school!

What is the #1 lesson you want your WA kids to learn from being on a trip with you as their leader?
The number one lesson that I want my students to take away from their Wilderness Adventures trip is that you can be so much more than you think you are. On WA trips, kids arrive with nothing but themselves to offer and make friendships based on who they are. They learn to be humble and self confident at the same time. They learn the core principles of what makes them, them; beyond what kind of car they drive to school or who they hangout with on the weekends. There is no better way to learn self worth than the outdoors, where there are tangible successes at hand and the change to make lifelong friendships.

 

Emily Prigmore 

What trips have you led with WA? 

In 2017, I led Chamonix Zermatt.

Favorite moment with your kids?

On the Tour de Mont Blanc and Haute Route, just about every day you have to lose quite a bit of elevation only to gain it back on some grueling treks over mountain saddles.  Every time we hit our high point for the day everyone was stoked, and the views were beautiful!

What does life look like now?

I live in Durango, Colorado.  I’ve been working as a wilderness therapy guide for the last year and a half, senior guiding in an adolescent boys team since July. It is tough, but also so rewarding.  Right now I’m taking some time off, working as a gear specialist and adventuring around my mountain town. I also teach yoga. When I am not working, I spend climbing, backpacking, traveling, or snowboarding.

Any big adventures planned?

I actually just returned from a snowboarding trip in Japan. My hope for the next several months is to spend many days at Indian Creek, to section hike the Colorado Trail, and to travel every chance I get. 

What is the #1 lesson you want your WA kids to learn from being on a trip with you as their leader?

One of your most powerful tools is vulnerability.  In the modern world, we’ve been taught to communicate through screens, displaying only the prettiest parts of our lives.  Honestly, life gets ugly sometimes. That is totally okay. When we’re vulnerable and honest about where we’re at, it is easier to connect with one another in a meaningful way.  That’s what I love about the wilderness. You can’t just run away from the ugly–you learn to work with it.

 

Augusta Friendsmith

What trips have you led with WA?

In 2012, I led Hawaii Explorer. In 2013, I led Alaska College and an older version of Alaska High Trails. In 2014, I led Australia and New Zealand. In 2016, I led Peru Service and Ecuador Galapagos. In 2017, I led Kilimanjaro.

Of all the trips you’ve led, is there one moment that sticks out to you?

Arriving to the crater rim of Mount Kilimanjaro at sunrise with fourteen students was profound. We had hiked through the night in freezing temperatures, all of us feeling the discomfort and lack of oxygen in the high altitude.  No one complained, though I could tell many were in pain. When we crossed onto the rim, I knew that all of my students would succeed in their summit push and I was filled with a sense of pride, relief and accomplishment.

What do you do during the year?

I live in Jackson, WY working as a ski instructor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and direct support professional for people with developmental disabilities and elders. In my free time, I ski tour, mountaineer, dirt bike, hike, camp, scuba dive, travel, volunteer, and craft in my basement studio.

Where’s your next adventure?

My fiancee and I are co-leading a group of 20 volunteers on a Habitat For Humanity build trip to Puerto Escondido, Mexico in April.  We will also travel to Belize, where we will fulfill a major bucket list goal of diving in the Blue Hole.

What is the #1 lesson you want your WA kids to learn from being on a trip with you as their leader?

I hope that my students learn that they can live outside the box and lead the life they desire.

 

Morgan Comey 

What trips have you led with WA?

In 2016, I led Mount Rainier and British Columbia. In 2017, I led a version Utah Red Rocks and Montana Wyoming. In 2018, I led Ecuador Galapagos and Peru Service.

What’s your favorite type of moment with your students?

My favorite moments are all the same, just presented differently. It’s when a student lights up after they’ve done something they had doubts about, whether that be rolling a kayak, making a new friend, perfecting a recipe or carrying a backpack all the way to camp.

What have you been up to since leading for WA?

I spent the fall teaching Precalculus and Natural Sciences for the Traveling School during a semester in Southern Africa. I then moved back to Jackson, WY. I am currently working as a substitute teacher and skiing as much as I can in my free time. I have also starting spending time connecting with the arts in the ceramics studio.

Any big adventures in the works?

I’m currently planning a ski traverse of the Gros Ventres and a bike trip in the Colorado plateau, though I’m terrible at biking.

What is the #1 lesson you want your WA kids to learn from being on a trip with you as their leader?

I want my students, especially my female students, to learn confidence in themselves and their abilities. I want them to believe in their ability to accomplish difficult tasks, to develop their own unique leadership style and to be confident enough in themselves to support and encourage others.

 

Sophia Walling Bell 

What trips have you led with WA?

In 2018, I led Alps Pyrenees.

What is your favorite WA moment?

One of my favorite days was a very long day of hiking in the Pyrenees of Spain. We crossed a few different passes that day, and had to essentially boulder up a bunch of rocks to get up to the top of the tallest one. Upon reaching the top, I pulled out some surprise candy bars as a celebration for making it, and a moral boost for the upcoming snowfield that lay below. Everyone essentially slid down the snowfield, and I waited at the bottom to help catch incoming students. Some of the students loved the climbing and sliding, and for others it really pushed their boundaries. It was a long day, and there were parts of it that were challenging both physically, mentally, and socially, but in the end everyone made it, and I watched some students really push through their fears in a very inspiring way. I’m sure it’s a day that stands out for everyone on that trip.  

What have you been up to since leading for WA?

This fall I was in Fairbanks, Alaska finishing my B.A. in Foreign Languages, as well as starting a small jewelry business, Cerulean & Silver. I lived in a small dry cabin (no running water) in the woods near campus and was very busy getting everything finished. After the holidays, I put my life in my Subaru and drove down to Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where I’ve been since. These days I spend most of my time skiing (backcountry and resort), indoor climbing, hanging out with friends and doing weekend trips to the desert, but I also work in a hip little café to have some structure to my time and additional income.

Do you have any big personal adventures planned in the near future?

I am a part of a group of women called Alaska Mountain Women, and we are planning a mountaineering trip in the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountain Range in Alaska. In April, 8 of us will be flying out to live on a glacier with the goal of one of the first all-female ascents of various unnamed peaks. We’ve been talking about this trip since November, and it’s a lot to prepare for in terms of trip logistics, as well as physical fitness and rope skills, so it’s exciting to feel that things are coming together. I’m both stoked and a bit nervous to be out in the mountains together in only 6 weeks! Other than that, I have some smaller trips planned to the desert here in Utah before I leave.

What is the #1 lesson you want your WA kids to learn from being on a trip with you as their leader?

I want them to learn the feelings of being self-aware and self-assured, because I think that being confident in ourselves and our abilities is ultimately one of the best ways in which we can learn and grow. It gives a foundation to lean on, and also allows us to know our boundaries, and when it’s a good idea to push them or not.

Rock on, ladies.