Based out of Boulder, Colorado, Kayleen balances a demanding worklife in law, with a life devoted to the mountains. Kayleen Glaser is self-described as having a wild mane of blonde hair, usually lugging around a backpack full of adventure books (training manuals, nutrition texts, novels, you name it), gear for climbing and running, and a laptop. She tends to smile and laugh a lot and make weird faces when I make direct eye contact with others. Kayleen is a part of the 58 Peaks Project, an all-female team, powered by herself, Becky Boyle and Kristen Mohror. See her photo story, here.
What are your three most prized accomplishments?
Landing my dream job at the Environmental Protection Agency, marrying my best friend, love of my life, and adventure partner, and having advanced enough skills in mountaineering and rock climbing to teach my friends about those sports.
What are your three favorite things to do?
Mountaineering, rock climb, and talking about gear.
Where are your three favorite places to be?
Above treeline in the Sierras and the Rockies, in the desert, climbing or canyoneering, and in the hills of the Midwest in the fall.
What is one thing that people don't know about you, but should?
I have a birthmark on my right leg that I abhorred until college. I avoided wearing shorts out in public until my early 20s. This level of self-consciousness led me to have some serious body dysmorphia issues through high school and undergrad. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that heading into the outdoors is a fantastic way for me to battle those insecurities. I’m by no means perfect, but I’m learning to love my body the way it is, and I try to share my experiences to help others!
What is your wildest adventure?
My husband and I embarked on a 200 mile, off trail backpacking trip for our honeymoon. Every day was a totally new and wild adventure. Our first day, right below a mountain pass, a thunderstorm rolled in unexpectedly and we had to set up a tent and wait out a hail storm. For the next twelve days, we crossed valleys completely void of any signs of other people. We scrambled and slab climbed up class two to four rocks, up and down mountains. We jumped in frozen streams and watched the sunrise totally alone. It was wild, invigorating, and empowering!
If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would it be?
I’d retire, buy a truck camper, and travel the country, climbing, mountaineering, trail running, backpacking, canyoneering, and boating. On the side, I’d work as a gear developer because talking gear is one of my favorite pastimes.
What is your personal definition of feminism?
From a textbook standpoint, I think through feminism, we are trying to achieve the social, political, and economic equality of all people, particularly women and those who identify as female. But, I think it’s important to give it some context. In the outdoors, feminism means trying to ensure that women aren’t doubted about their abilities simply because they are women. It means making sure that women feel accepted and welcome and that they have a place in the outdoors.
What do you find valuable in being a woman in the adventure/outdoor industry?
The most valuable thing about being a woman in the adventure industry is having the chance to give back to other women. I was brought into the adventure atmosphere by men, and for a long time felt that to be in the outdoors, I had to “be one of the guys.” This lacked authenticity to me. While I loved every second I spent outside, I felt something was missing. So, once I had enough skills to bring other people into the outdoors, I dedicated myself to teaching women new outdoors skills. Being outside – climbing, mountaineering, adventuring – has given me so much self-confidence, a sense of self-worth, and a place in this world where I felt like I had to give that back. And now, I look for adventure partners who are willing to do the same. Because, as cheesy as it sounds, I really think we can make a difference in the lives of other women.
Who is another woman who inspires you?
My partners on the 58 peaks project, Becky and Kristen inspire me. They inspire me every day to keep going, to dream bigger and badder, to live more fearlessly and authentically. I’m also constantly inspired by my fellow Outdoor Women’s Alliance leaders Laurie, Annie, and Jenny. It’s very inspiring to be around badass women who are so willing to dedicate their time to promoting women in the outdoors.