The 2017 Women's March

Written by NMLFF Ambassador Dana Wilfahrt on the 2017 Women's March in Washington DC. All photos by Tee Smith.

I’ve sat down to write this many times but the events of the week and dismay in our country has left me feeling uninspired and a bit frustrated. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to try not to rain on my own parade…

I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Women’s March on DC last weekend with a group of aware, thoughtful, intelligent, peaceful, loving women and men who I’m lucky enough to call my friends.

With an alpine start from Portland, ME on Friday morning, 14 friends and I piled in our rented van-bus and drove and drove and ate and didn’t drink water (it would have added at least 5 more stops) and drove some more. 14 and a half hours later we landed in D.C. feeling car tired but energized with the buzz of juxtaposition in the political capital of the country.

Saturday morning slowly approached, as excited anxiety always seems to slow time. A day of unity, blood (frozen snot), sweat (shivers) and tears (tears) was about to begin. The walk over to the rally site was welcoming as groundskeepers of the city clapped and cheered, and thanked and photographed the sea of proud smiles and pink “cat” hats.

Two amazing things happened while the rally took place pre-march:

1.     Total silence. The speaker closest to our spot in the school of sardines stopped working after the first speech by America Ferrera. Bummer. The group around us – close to two thousand people – grew absolutely silent. You could’ve heard a pin drop. Never before had I been a part of a group that, when silence was necessary, every single person obliged. All outdoor explorers know, silence is the easiest way to listen; not to hear, but to listen.

2.     Conscious noise. When noise was necessary, it was done so with purpose. No anger. Peace offerings to your neighbors (snacks), laughter and meaningful conversations filled the crowd. It was pure magic. Maybe not magic though, maybe just how living beings naturally treat each other. As the great Cyndi Lauper said, “anger is not better clarity and humanity. That is what opens people’s minds”. Thank you, Cyndi.

I traveled with 15 friends but quickly realized upon arrival that every person there was a friend. Do you remember those characteristics that I listed my friends as having earlier? Well, all 2.5 million people that showed up to marches across the country value those characteristics too. (I almost wrote “the people that showed up to marches across the country possess those characteristics”, but c’mon, everybody possesses those qualities.) We were all there together – not necessarily with common beliefs or interests, but a common intention: the intention to spread peace and respect. Respect in a peaceful way. Peace respectfully.

Additional Reading for the 2018 Women's March

Find Events Near You. Women's March Official Website.

Women’s March Returns a Year Later, as Movement Evolves. The New York Times.

Why We (Still) March: Women's March Leaders On The Importance Of Momentum. Girl Boss Media.

Photo by Tee Smith

Go Fast. No Rules.

This piece was written by one of NMLFF's original Ambassadors Hannah Lippe. 

I looked up at the thin, shimmering line of ice above me.  Water dripped out the sides of the ice, dampening the rock underneath the tenuous frozen line I was supposed to climb up.

“So, um, how do I do this?”

My climbing partner, a guy I’d met skiing only a few weeks before, gave me a bemused look. He was probably wondering why he’d invited me on the first ice climb of the season in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  He replied, “Go fast. No rules.”

He checked that my carabiner was locked, turned his crampons uphill, and swung his tools into the fragile ice.  Within a few minutes, he was out of sight.

I stood there, feeding out rope as he moved quickly up the pitch, shivering and wondering why I’d thought ice climbing might be fun.

Pretty soon, I heard the call from above: “BELAY OFF!”

I took the rope out of my belay device, pulled off my enormous puffy coat, and put on my thinner climbing gloves.  I waited until I heard, “ON BELAY.”  Here goes.

I swung the ice tool into the first patch of ice I saw.  Ping!  It bounced right off.  I kicked my crampon into the ice at my feet. The ice shattered. There was too little ice and too much rock.

“Oh Jesus,” I thought. “How the hell am I going to get up this cliff if I can’t even put these sharps things in ice? Isn’t that the whole point of them??” My heart pounded as I envisioned the catastrophic embarrassment of yelling up to my new climbing partner that I couldn’t do it.  Then I remembered: Go fast. No rules.

I took a deep breath and reached up to hook my ice tool behind a rock.  I lifted my opposing leg to wriggle my crampons in between two rocks and started moving, forcing myself to let go of how I thought I should I use my tools and crampons, and instead used the sharp objects attached to my hands and feet as wedges, levers, hammers, and hooks.  I grabbed, pulled, stabbed, jammed, wriggled, and clawed my way up.   

I reached the belay about 70 feet later, with my Arcteryx bibs torn in a few spots and feeling utterly victorious.  

My climbing partner quickly tied me into the anchor and we prepared to set off for the next pitch. I followed him up the next two pitches, forcing myself to keep my heart rate down and experiment with different ice tool and crampon placements to move quickly, though maybe not gracefully, up the ice.

As the sun began to sink below the mountains, we topped out on the top of the Black Dike, one of New England’s most iconic ice climbs. I pulled on my enormous down jacket, a little stunned and very proud. I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Photo Credit: Mickey Hardt

Go fast.  No rules.

These words have continued to ring true for me in many ways.  A year after this experience, I keep reminding myself, when I get stuck or lost or confused: Hannah, go fast. No rules.

I have always loved rules. Growing up, I played team sports, where rules abound.  I loved school because I knew the rules: study hard, listen to the teacher, get good grades, go to a great college.  When I was class president in middle school, I loved helping the school administrators enforce the rules.  I saw things pretty black and white -- either you did the right thing and followed the rules, or you did the wrong thing and broke the rules.  

And, when it came to following the rules, I certainly did not go fast.  I went sloowww. My sister’s favorite story to tell is about the time I visited her at her college on a weekend. I spent the entire weekend in her college library studying for an upcoming plant biology test.  When my sister swung through the library on Sunday with friend to check on me, her friend asked me, “Oh wow, is your test tomorrow?”  I said “Oh no, it’s in three weeks.”  Slow. I would read, re-read, and re-re-read every essay I had written and agonize over every decision I made.  Slow.

And, because of my love of rules, I’ve struggled with a lot of anxiety, fear, and depression for the eight years since graduating college. During that time, I was in search of the “right” career and life path that I thought followed all the rules -- find a good career path, get a great job, find a husband, buy a house.  For one reason or another, though, these things didn’t happen as quickly, at all, or in the order I thought they were “supposed to,” even though I was following the rules.

I spent a lot of nights panicked and wondering how I’d gotten so far outside the rules. I dwelled in a slow, indecisive pool of anxiety.  I wanted a teacher to tell me that I was doing the right thing in life and give me an A, and without that, I didn’t how how to discover my own path forward.

In the last year, climbing and learning how to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of ice and rock has flipped my perspective.  With the mantra of  “Go fast, no rules,” I started to see how I limited myself with my own perspective and desire to do the “right” thing.  In climbing, there’s no one path to the top, and it’s rarely straightforward.  You always have to be prepared to respond to a turn in the weather, an unexpected change in the route, or just not feeling at your best.  You have to move fast and be decisive.  Rather than looking at these hiccups as barriers or negatives, I learned to look at them as part of the adventure.  I never know exactly what’s going to happen, but I keep my stoke high, reframe each problem into a new opportunity, and go fast.

Photo Credit: Mickey Hardt

Climbing has helped me discover, as many of you probably knew way before I did, there are no rules in adult life.  There’s no one way to live your life -- no right job or path. Not only is there no right way, but there’s no wrong way. I used to fear what I didn’t know about what life would hold and would worry that I wasn’t doing the right thing.

These fears still pop up from time to time.  But now, I’m more comfortable with ambiguity and not knowing what path my life might take, or if the decision I’m making is the right one.  I make decisions more quickly, creatively, and fearlessly, whether it’s jumping into a new project at work or flying out spontaneously to join a friend to for a bike and ski adventure in Oregon.  I am excited about a life of discovery and exploration rather than rules and answers.

Right now, I’m nowhere I ever thought I’d be, and I’m happier than ever.  I have a quirky job working in innovation at a massive financial services company and many friends that will laugh through the hail and windstorms with me. I am pouring energy, time, and passion into my adventure life.  I don’t have a set career or life direction, and I’m having a fucking blast.  

And when I start to panic, I keep my heart rate down and experiment with unexpected movements and handholds, forcing myself to move quickly, though maybe not gracefully, through life.  Then, every so often, I look at what I’m doing and still feel a little stunned, very proud, and can’t wait to keep doing it.

Aisha + Kathy go to Austin, TX

Kathy and I had just 48 hours to spend in Austin, Texas. Since this is our second trip to Texas in the last few months, we are returning more seasoned and ready for Segways. While the trip was short, we did get the essentials before the big event. We made it to Jo’s Coffee for breakfast tacos and Iced Turbos, the Big Top Candy Shop, Allen’s Boots, and made it to the bridge just in time to see the stream of bats launch into their nightly feeding frenzy. 

The event - a fundraiser for Casting for Recovery, was stupendous. The Yeti Flagship store is revolutionary and includes all of the necessities for a good time: a bar, good people and indestructible coolers. Who could ask for anything more? A powerful and impactful cause? Check. Casting for Recovery does incredible work and we look forward to teaming up with these ladies every year. CfR was our first tour stop, so coming back here is a great marker for how far we have come and it feels like coming home.

Lise and Susan, two of the figureheads in the company have fostered an amazing community of diverse women who are all connected by two elements: breast cancer and fly fishing. Casting for Recovery provides women affected by breast cancer a free weekend-long fly-fishing excursion, granting these women an opportunity to step away from their diagnoses and be with others who understand their journey.

We are honored to be a part of this incredible organization and are looking forward to years to come. Casting for Recovery gives us hope and reminds us that humanity is rooted in good. See you next year, Austin!