ó Like most outings with a small child, taking a 13-month-old
to the rock-climbing crag requires extra preparation.
all, you need at least three adults in the rotation ó one whoís
climbing, one whoís belaying and one whoís on baby-watch
course, in addition to your own climbing gear and sustenance,
you have to pack in toddler snacks and water, and some form of
kid distraction. One trick: Shiny carabiners and quickdraws make
great baby rattles.
this is standard protocol for Brittany Aae (pronounced
"Ah"), a dedicated ultrarunner, rock climber,
backcountry skier ó and mother. Aae, 31, was living out of her
Subaru in the Methow Valley when she found out she was pregnant.
That was a surprise.
everything else leading up to the May 2016birth of her daughter,
Rumi (pronounced "roomie"), was highly scripted. Aae
kept an intense training regimen, skiing steep couloirs in the
North Cascades at five months with her pants unzipped, running a
30-mile week leading up to the birth, and going into labor at
the climbing gym.
training paid off after Rumiís birth, Aae says. The
self-employed endurance coach, whoís writing a book about
pregnant athleticism, returned to the climbing gym three days
later and resumed running the day after that. Now, sheís back
to climbing big alpine routes in the North Cascades and is
working to establish a 50-mile running loop in the Pasayten
Wilderness this summer.
over coffee and pastries at a Seattle cafe this spring, Aae is
quick to acknowledge that, depending on the individual
circumstances of pregnancy and birth, other moms will need more
time to return to their prepregnancy levels of physical activity
ó and some might decide not to do that at all. Aae, who
describes herself as an "academic feminist," never
wanted motherhood to be the single thing that defined her, she
says, and she offers zero apologies for her life choices.
donít want to sit around at some mothering group and stitch
Ďní bitch about how much I hate my boobs after having a kid.
Iím not interested in talking about the contents of her
diaper. Some moms are, and thatís healing and fun for them,
but Iím not them," she says, pausing to take a bite of
her gluten-free bakery bar. "People finally stopped
generation of young women, motherhood is becoming more of a
choice than an expectation. And it takes many different forms:
Moms can be single or partnered, breadwinner or homemaker,
helicopter or free-range. And increasingly, they can also be
ultra-runners, extreme skiers and mountain guides.
endurance sports and alpine climbing arenít like most other
hobbies: They require an intense dedication of time, mental
energy and physical effort. And the outdoor industry isnít
exactly known for showcasing the experiences of female athletes,
let alone mothers ó although that is changing.
this year, the overabundance of "male heroes, male voices
and male sensibility" in the outdoor-recreation narrative
prompted REI to launch a brand campaign called Force of Nature
that showcases the experiences of female athletes. Through the
rest of 2017, the Kent-based co-op has committed to using female
faces and voices across all its social accounts, and to donating
$1 million to nonprofits that create opportunities for women
spending time outside is a challenge for parents of all genders,
Laura Swapp, a marketing director at REI, says traditional
child-care roles create a double standard when it comes to how
mothers spend their spare time.
not unlike the parallel of working mothers," says Swapp,
who is a mom to two teenagers. "Women, if they are assuming
more of the parenting responsibility, are going to be hit by
more of the double-bind."
female climber who lives for weekends spent above tree line, Iíve
often wondered to myself: Is my alpine life on the same timeline
as my biological clock? If I have kids, will I limit myself to
hiking Mount Si with a child carrier for the next decade or two?
mountains come with their own glass ceiling?
athletesí quest to oscillate between climbing big mountains
and tending to tiny humans, Margaret Wheelerís Instagram feed
is the yin-and-yang blueprint. In one photo, sheís leading a
group of clients on a ski tour through Italyís famous Haute
Route. A week later, sheís lounging in a sunny meadow in
Chamonix with her toddler daughter. Throughout, her photos are
captioned with hashtags like #ohtheplacesyoullpump and, on a
particularly deep powder day last spring, "Pumping while itís
43, is one of the top alpine guides in the country, having
served as an instructor-trainer for both the American Mountain
Guides Association and the American Institute for Avalanche
Research and Education. She calls Snoqualmie home, but since
2010, she and husband Matt Farmer, also a fully certified AMGA
guide, have spent a good chunk of each year living and working
in the Alps and the Dolomites.
returned to guiding eight weeks after her older daughter was
born in 2014, alternating work and child care with Farmer. But
the birth of daughter No. 2 last December has added new
challenges. For the first time since becoming parents, the
couple didnít relocate to Europe for the spring ski-guiding
season, deciding instead to rent a house in Ketchum, Idaho, and
enjoy the areaís Nordic trails while carrying their newborn in
an Ergo and towing their 2-year-old in a convertible Thule
general, Wheeler says it has been more difficult to get back
into guiding this time around. But the family is now in the Alps
for the summer climbing season, with Mom and Dad alternating
work trips and family time, and Wheeler focusing more on
"pick-up work" that will enable her to be home with
her daughters at night. When we checked in the day before their
flight, Wheeler was researching how much frozen breastmilk and
dry ice she could take with her on the plane
got the mobile-feeding part down (ask about the time a male
guide mistook her electronic pump for an oxygen tank), but itís
the mental aspect, she says, thatís most difficult ó
especially with a new baby.
much of your brain ó I swear to God, itís just biology ó
is obsessed with the survival of that little human," she
and Farmer are finding fulfillment in the parallels between
climbing and parenting: the new environment, the uncertainty,
the challenges you canít possibly foresee until youíre
staring them in the face.
this whole volume of the universe that doesnít exist until you
have kids," she says.
STORY CAN END HERE)
One of the
first things you notice about Becca Cahall is that sheís
ripped. Bending down to adjust the seat of her 5-year-oldís
mountain bike at Issaquahís Duthie Hill Park, the Seattle momís
sculpted shoulders and biceps are a testament to the physical
activity she gets in-between working full-time and raising two
40, and her husband, Fitz, run an outdoors-focused branding
agency called Duct Tape Then Beer and produce The Dirtbag
Diaries podcast. She says parenthood has brought big changes to
get out alpine climbing as much as she used to, mostly due to
the amount of time required for big, all-day expeditions. Before
kids, it was totally cool not to get back to the car until 11
p.m. or midnight. But now, things are different.
stayed active during both of her pregnancies, completing the
200-mile Seattle to Portland bike ride in a single day when she
was four months pregnant with her first son, Teplin, and
climbing well into her second pregnancy with Wiley, who is now
Teplin was born, however, she was surprised to find that her
desire to get out in the mountains took a sharp dip.
something very strong about the hormones that are going through
your body, particularly in the first six months after you have a
baby. And those hormones are telling you to be with your child,
and to meet your childís needs," she says. "At
first, I was like, ÄėIím cool; I donít need to go do this
stuff anymore.í "
away was easier after her second baby, but it still took
persistent pushing from Fitz. As Becca takes laps with Teplin
around Duthie Hill, Fitz chases after Wiley and reflects on the
gender dynamics of co-parenting.
says, works harder; puts more thought into the lives of their
sons; and is the one left in charge while he travels for work,
which can be for up to 10 days at a time. But even with a really
involved dad, Fitz says, "Itís never a true 50-50
split." Kids demand more from Mom, especially when theyíre
small, he says, and mothers are faced with more outside
a lot of pressure on moms in a lot of different ways," he
says. "Even with being really cognizant of that
discrepancy, the only way to really end it is to kick Mom out
Aae is no
longer romantically involved with Rumiís dad, Ryan Audett, but
the two live near each other in Winthrop and share custody. She
and Audett have had many conversations about what makes for an
equitable parenting split. After Rumi was born, Audett put in a
lot of time with the baby so Aae could get back into training.
These days, Rumi regularly accompanies Mom to the climbing crag
or on short hikes, but Aae also is frequently on her own for
several hours at a time, when Rumi is with Dad or a sitter.
Later this summer, Aae will leave for a four-day climbing trip
in the Picketts, a remote, rugged part of the North Cascades
that contains some of the rangeís most difficult peaks.
the struggle for new moms, Aae says, is the long-held assumption
that caring for a young child is primarily a womanís
responsibility, and that mothers who leave to pursue their own
desires are "bad moms." Even in the ultra-conscious
Methow Valley, Aaeís female friends will say their male
partners are "baby-sitting" so they can get out
climbing without the kids. And people still tell her, "Oh,
youíll stop" climbing eventually ó an assumption that
someday her passion for the outdoors will run its course.
love my child ó itís clear," Aae says. "But I also
love myself. And you canít give from an empty well."
STORY CAN END HERE)
activities were always a family affair for Raquel Gaston, who
grew up traveling through the Pacific Northwest in a trailer
with her parents and siblings. She started backpacking as a
teenager and progressed to climbing in her mid-20s after taking
a course with the Washington Alpine Club. A couple years later,
in 2007, she became pregnant with her son, Gabriel.
together from the beginning, starting with Gaston hauling
Gabriel in a carrier as a baby and gradually working their way
up to multiday backpacking trips as he was able to walk longer
distances on his own. Now 9, Gabriel loves all things outdoors
and is especially fond of skiing, his mom says. The duo even
went out on low-key backcountry ski tours last winter at Mount
Rainier and Blewett Pass.
meantime, Gaston, 37, has continued to hike, ski and climb on
her own. She and Gabrielís dad share custody, and she uses her
kid-free weeks to push herself on challenging peaks. On some of
those trips, Gaston says, motherhood has made her re-evaluate
whether going for a summit in iffy conditions or skiing a
certain slope is worth it. But itís also encouraged her to be
more vocal with her climbing partners about her concerns.
have a high risk threshold. Iím willing to take some
chances," she says. "I definitely feel like that has
enabled my voice to be a little stronger."
made Olivia Race, a 41-year-old Leavenworth mountain guide and
mom of two, more selective about the trips she goes on. When she
had her first child at age 35, Race and her husband, who are
both fully AMGA certified, were guiding at least 200 days a
year. Recently, sheís been more focused on the business side
of the coupleís guiding service, Northwest Mountain School, as
she recovers from an injury sustained on a ski guiding trip last
one of Raceís friends, also a mother, died in an avalanche. It
was a reality check, especially because the friend wasnít a
was doing everything totally reasonably," Race says.
"Sometimes it just goes the way you donít want it to
STORY CAN END HERE)
the outdoors are having a moment. From REIís Force of Nature
campaign to the viral "Where the Wild Things Play"
video released by Seattle-based retailer Outdoor Research, a lot
of conventional ideas about gender and the outdoors seem to be
on their way out the door. Pair that with an emerging fixation
on active pregnancy, a la Serena Williams, and you might end up
concluding itís really no big deal to have a baby and continue
to do all the things you did before.
perception can put women in a tricky place, Cahall says. The
notion that moms have time to do everything ó and do it at the
same level they did before kids ó presents an ideal that can
end up more harmful than helpful.
OK that things change ó motherhood should change you.
Hopefully, thatís part of the joy," Cahall says. "I
feel like Iíve learned as much about myself as I have my child
in these first five years of motherhood."
shares a similar ethos, saying the excitement in getting outside
has largely shifted to watching her son fall in love with the
same places and activities that she cherishes. What would be
helpful, she says, is more levelheaded advice about getting
outside with kids and a general understanding that itís not
any more challenging than, say, "running around to four
different soccer games on the weekends."
is active on social media and faced backlash for her slim figure
during pregnancy, says itís important to tread lightly and not
invalidate other womenís experiences.
simply seeking to expand what we think of as an allowable
norm," she says. "For me, the point isnít telling
people they should be running long distances or climbing, but
that they can, if they want to."
experience, life as a parent has led to new appreciation for
activities that are easier to do with kids in tow, like rafting,
biking and surfing. But climbing and skiing are still very much
a part of her life, and the alpine isnít something she plans
to give up.
brings so much richness to your life," she says. "Itís
hard to imagine living without it, too."