Armed with a smartphone and a life partner who resembles a wolf, Kristen is a dog-loving, mountain climbing, do-good enthusiast who happens to go on a lot of adventures. From the highest peak in the lower 48 to the 2nd deepest lake in the world to jumping out of planes, off cliffs and into situations that scare the shit out of her mother, she likes to push her luck and limits with new adventures, really long runs, and cold brew coffee. Kristen is the final third of the 58 Peaks Project, with Kayleen Glaser and Becky Boyle. Don't miss her photo story on Steller.
What are your three most prized accomplishments?
When I was in second grade, I won the South Dakota Young Authors Extravaganza Award. Other than that, I think the first time I stepped onto Hayward Field to race my first collegiate 5000m at Oregon was another solid visual for the memory bank. And finally, crossing the line of the Mt. Hood 50k as the third woman finisher and being told that the three of us (women) had all broken the course record.
Describe yourself to a stranger so they could find you on a crowded street.
I feel most at home with dirt between my toes, snowflakes in my eyes, sweat dripping off my chin, and a wolf hybrid by my side. Typically, you can find me with a book in one hand, an Americano in the other, and my dog howling at passersbys. And if you look really closely, I’m probably rocking a backward snapback with a side braid, Chacos on my feet, and running garb everywhere else.
What are your three favorite things to do?
Waking up in a tent is, by far, my favorite way to spend a morning. A close favorite to that is building forts and dressing up as dinosaurs with my 5-year-old nephew. And beyond that, as long as I’m outside or with my dog (or both), I typically have a shit-eating grin on my face.
Where are your three favorite places to be?
Oregon, Colorado, or South Dakota.
What is one thing people don’t know about you, but should?
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease nearly 8 years ago. Having Celiac rarely limits me physically, mentally, or emotionally, but it does require a bit more time spent researching backcountry snacks, meal prep, and maintaining a diet that will keep me energized and motivated to get outside and into the mountains. Recently, I found out that because of my diagnosis, my body stopped absorbing vital nutrients like Iron, Folate, B12, and Magnesium wreaking a bit of havoc on both my indoor and outdoor lives. I’m currently in the (very exhausting) process of healing, recovering, and trying to stay optimistic regarding the situation but feel that it’s incredibly important to speak out about the situation regarding food allergies, autoimmune diseases, and staying active because it’s so easy to give up when your body needs rest. I’m in the thick of it but am making steady progress with IV injections, support from family and friends, and realizing that I don’t always have to be going 100 mph to be happy, successful or fulfilled.
What is your wildest adventure?
To be very honest, and also very cliché, I’d have to say, life. From growing up in the Midwest and escaping to Oregon to falling in love with the mountains, rivers, trails, people and discovering just how much energy, passion, and love I’ve been able to jam-pack into a short 29 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that life is pretty freaking awesome. Whether I’m sucking air on top of a 14er, am grimacing in pain as I attempt to climb offwidth, or am thanking the volunteers at an aid station 30-miles into a race, I can honestly say that I never actually thought life could be this amazing and so full of experiences. I don’t know why I’ve had to relearn this so many times, but when you begin to define who you want to be and take the necessary steps to get there, the risk is worth the reward and the reward is this one crazy, adventure-fueled, dawn patrolling, sunset chasing, rock climbing, trailblazing love fest you get to experience with your favorite people. How cool is that?
If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would it be?
Sometimes I think about all of the directions I could have taken in life. I think about that one time I was engaged or the other time I had a one-way ticket to Australia or that one really interesting time I was a Republican. And sometimes I think there might be so many other places I could be. But the reality is that it isn’t true. There’s only one place I could be and that’s right here. A few months ago, 'right here' would’ve been in Portland, Oregon. A weekend ago, it would’ve been South Dakota. And while I’m constantly planning trips and adventures for the future, they’re not right now either. Right now, I’m here, rooted for just a second and taking advantage of living in Colorado with my best friends, enjoying each moment good and bad as they come. Taking care of my mind, my body, my heart, and making lifelong friends. I know it’s fun to play ‘what if’ and ‘remember when’ but I also really like to take in my surroundings and count my blessings. Because life in the mountains, rivers, oceans, or on the road is always great and life in a city is incredible. But neither are wrong.
What is your personal definition of feminism?
To me, feminism is a mindset. A movement. An open-minded, no barriers, no bullshit responsibility to pursue your identity according to you, regardless of your gender. It’s an obligation to lift up and empower rather than belittle or berate for having opinions, thoughts, ideas, successes, or mistakes. Being a feminist means more than standing for women’s rights. It means claiming your voice and your body in a world that has been taught to make you feel less than. It’s changing the status quo and demanding more. More as in better. Better understanding. Better friendships. Better support. Better love. Better lives. It’s encouraging and supporting myself and those around me as we all experience our own journeys both in our daily lives and the outdoors.
What do you find valuable in being a woman in the adventure/outdoor industry?
The most valuable thing to me is authenticity. There is such a drought of it: in the industry, on social media, in real life. It seems as though we are leaving a very narrow trail for the next generation to walk through. I find value in having a voice, handfuls of passions projects and a thirst for the outdoors that can’t be quenched by square boxes or Facebook statuses. I find value in watching women defy the odds, pushing boundaries, breaking speed records, and empowering other women to do the same. For so long it felt like we’d lost the wild woman and I am finding so much value in being a part of the movement to bring her back to life.
Who is another woman who inspires you?
Becky Boyle and Kayleen Glaser are two women who have helped me disintegrate many of the ideas I’ve had that were harmful. To myself, my relationships, my outlook, etc. From the first track meet with Becky to the first few miles of the JMT with Kayleen, there was this instant calibration between souls. Maybe we all have the same wild, bewildered, hungry look in our eyes, but whatever it is, it feels like we’ve known each other forever. Our friendships started innocently enough but quickly ripened into something bolder. Trust in handfuls of very strange situations was formed and now every adventure, night out, weekend excursion, or trip to the gym rivals the last. I have to admit, I feel so proud to stand with these two, my favorite women, as we take on this project together. Whether we’re celebrating another summit, another send, or another ultramarathon finish – all mutual loves of ours—it’s so comforting to know exactly how much love, support, and trust lives between us. They are both so confident in the mountains and in every adventure, really, as if every new experience is like winning the lottery somehow; we’re constantly laughing, growing, developing, and learning how to navigate the wilderness and life together. And to me, these friendships are both priceless and easily the most meaningful aspects of my life.