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Women Hikers!

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Women Hikers!

Postby mahjzha » Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:47 am

I just found this thread and decided to chime in a few years late!

viewtopic.php?f=9&t=5931#p39466

I am an older woman that has been hiking for many years, but didn’t get into backpacking seriously until about 10 years ago. I always try to find friends/family to take with me, but my husband doesn’t enjoy going, my hiking child is now in grad school, and most of my backpacking women friends are younger with young children and can’t get away very often. I got tired of always putting off plans and started going solo. I really like having the freedom to decide when and where to go, how far, where I’m camping for the night etc.! I have gotten a lot of looks and questions from people about being alone, but I have never felt threatened. There is probably more danger in driving to the trailhead then there is on the trail! I think that most people you run into are there for the same reason you are – to enjoy nature!

I would be interested in hearing more from other women that backpack. There is always more to learn! I am really interested in doing more off-trail hiking, but feel uncomfortable doing it alone - if I have an accident (potential increasing along with my age!) there is no help readily available. Do you also have a difficult time finding people to go with or do you go it alone? If you go off-trail what safety precautions do you take? What is your biggest challenge as a woman backpacker? Mine is staying in shape over the winter so that I can backpack in the summer!!!



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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby markskor » Sat Jan 03, 2015 11:32 am

Interesting question -
Over the last few seasons, have seen only but a few solo women backpacking - (probably a lot more than backpackers of color but that's for another discussion.)

All met had much the same attributes - good, well-used gear, knowledge/confidence in their abilities, and a dynamic Sierra presence indicating their belonging where they wanted to be. Not coincidentally, these same "attributes" are generally found in most solo males met too - an aura that belies their personal mountain acumen - all radiated an undefined but distinct Sierra attitude. You either have it...can't fake it...takes time to acquire it. Kudos to you!

Those giving you funny looks don't know/ don't have it. Congratulations on going solo...hopefully in style. BTW, Most solo (both sexes) hikers started out with similar stories...too often having to abandon pre-made plans due to others dropping out last minute. Some go out solo and are immediately uncomfortable - cannot handle the isolation...Some thrive in it. Freedom and self-satisfaction are the typical results once you make up your mind to just go it alone, again.

I'd hike with you.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby maverick » Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:05 pm

I would be interested in hearing more from other women that backpack. There is
always more to learn! I am really interested in doing more off-trail hiking, but feel
uncomfortable doing it alone - if I have an accident (potential increasing along with
my age!) there is no help readily available. Do you also have a difficult time finding
people to go with or do you go it alone? If you go off-trail what safety precautions
do you take? What is your biggest challenge as a woman backpacker? Mine is staying
in shape over the winter so that I can backpack in the summer!!!


Here are some electronic devices like SPOT, SatPhone's, PLB's, and our ReConn Form,
that can be used to let people know where you are in case of an emergency, but
neither are 100%.
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10192.

You can also join one of the many hiking/backpacking Meet-ups that are available
all over the US, or some outdoor hiking organization like the Sierra Club.

Letting folks know here on HST about you intentions, ahead of time, you may land you a
backpacking partner too.

Join a gym, find a good trainer that understands your traing objectives, this way
you will learn the correct exercises, and be able to put together you own routines
after a while.

For a lot of folks, it is best to plan dates for outings/events in advance, and trail for
them, this will keep you motivated and have goal to work towards thru out the year.

Finally, if you have enough expereince under your belt already, come join us on our
HST Meet-up in July, it is in a challenging location, and you will meet several fellow
members, including a couple of women.
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=12006
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Jan 03, 2015 6:27 pm

Most of the solo female hikers I run into out there are allot better than me at hiking for sure. Normally putting in massive amounts of miles or doing a ton of cross country in a short period of time.

I only ran into one solo female hiker in 2010 that was very happy when there were lots of people around because she was afraid. I certainly got the impression that the only reason she didn't sleep in the Muir Hut that night because I was the only other one there. A shame considering the high winds and freezing temperatures of that night. Was nice and comfortable in the hut.
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby rlown » Sat Jan 03, 2015 6:41 pm

How come you didn't let her have the hut?

otherwise, I agree with Mav:

You can also join one of the many hiking/backpacking Meet-ups that are available
all over the US, or some outdoor hiking organization like the Sierra Club.

Letting folks know here on HST about you intentions, ahead of time, you may land you a
backpacking partner too.
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Jan 03, 2015 9:10 pm

Rogue- considering how long you go out into the Sierra, you probably looked like "wild man"! As for giving up your place in the Muir Hut - no, no - I would consider you chauvinistic if you did that. It was her free choice to camp out in the cold.

I never said, oh, I want to go out and backpack solo. It just was circumstances- could not find anyone to go with who wanted to do the crazy stuff I did. In only a few more years I can con the grandkids into going with me. They are a bit too little right now.

I actually see a lot more women backpacking now than I did ten to twenty years ago. This summer I was in Wyoming for two months backpacking. Funny thing is that almost everyone I met was OLD!! like me! Many older - well into their 70's. Many women too. And similar stories to yours- started backpacking after kids raised and even after retiring from work. That is pretty brave, in my opinion.

I started climbing when I was 16. I was very lucky to be mentored by wonderful experienced adult climbers who put up with a bunch of us teenagers. I never had to figure it out myself - I had so many opportunities to learn from really great climbers. I never had many fears because I was introduced to backcountry travel so gradually and over such a long period that it just seemed like normal. The "anxiety/fear/danger" levels in backpacking are much lower than in alpine climbing. I actually eased out of climbing and into backpacking because I wanted reduced risks and still be in the mountains. It is pretty hard for me to think if backpacking as scary. It is pretty mellow, really.

I am getting spoiled solo backpacking - I can selfishly have the entire trip be MY agenda. Maybe that aspect is more true for women, because men are more comfortable unquestionably taking the lead and setting the agenda and take it for granted.

Bottom line - I just like being in the mountains! Does not matter if I am alone, with men, with women, with children, or just with my dog. It is all good.
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby balzaccom » Sat Jan 03, 2015 11:29 pm

My wife backpacks, but only with me. We do run into single women on the trail sometimes, and we've taken a few friends backpacking with us.

The biggest challenge for my wife is that no man on the trail ever wants to be passed by a woman...so she often finds herself passing a guy...and than having him huff and puff and pant past her. Only to rest again and she catches up. Sometimes we decide to call a rest stop for a snack just to the let the poor guy catch his breath, and maybe get a headstart.
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby mahjzha » Sun Jan 04, 2015 1:24 am

Thank you Markskor for the kudos and Maverick (and rlown for seconding) the great suggestions! As to Rougue/Muir Hut, I wouldn’t have cared if you were a Yeti if it meant being warm!

I appreciate the wisdom from Wandering Daisy. What a wonderful way to learn about the outdoors – especially with great teachers/mentors! When I was a kid, my dad would take me and my siblings to the deserts of southern Utah for the summer, and I learned a lot from him. The best lesson that he taught me was that girls can do anything that guys can do – rather a novel idea for the early 1960’s! I agree that I see more “mature” women backpacking now than when I started (I hate to call them old, because then that makes me OLD too!). I too have found that being in charge is quite a bit of fun!

Not sure if I could keep up with your wife Balzaccom!

I will continue to work at x-country travel this summer, including posting possible trip plans. Maybe the pro backpackers out there will consider mentoring an old (oops, I mean “Mature”) lady on a trip or two!
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Jan 04, 2015 2:42 am

Well the way it all played out I really never had a chance to offer for her to stay.

Oddly enough I have a photo taken up there. From my expression I guess I do look scary lol. I only took this photo to focus the camera on my face for a video but I kept it anyway.

Image
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 04, 2015 1:22 pm

Wow Rogue- you do look scary! LOL.

As for the original post - referring to keeping in shape over the winter, I do not worry about that much. I do limit my weight gain, but have never been one to do a lot of work outs. I find that simply starting slowly at the beginning of the season, I am back in shape quickly. I walk and bike a few time a week and do some shorter winter hikes on the coast during the winter, but since I am gone so much in the summer, I cram in a lot with my family in the winter. Babysitting the grandkids seems to be in great demand.

My biggest challenge is finalizing my route (so many mountains and so little time- I want to see them ALL- choices, too many choices!) and getting out the door. Once I am down the road even if just a few blocks, I am 100% ready to go. But, as I leave the house, I see a million things that I need to do. Probably my puritanical upbringing - no recreation until all your work is done- but all your work is NEVER done!

I have been scared plenty of times, but I never start out thinking that I will get into a scary situation- they just happen so I have to deal with it at the time. When solo I really focus on being safe - more so than when I am with someone. That is one thing I learned from climbing - 100% focus is really needed with things get sketchy in "fall-you-die" situations. Also, instead of fearing risk, accept it and mitigate. I do so much off-trail that I do not meet many people, so I do not worry much about deviants. I have a great sense of direction and am good at orienting myself, so getting lost is never a fear. I do get temporarily lost but always find my way back. Grizzly bears, moose, snow storms and lightning are more likely potential dangers. River crossings freak me out so I avoid difficult ones. I also do a LOT of retreating. You can always go back the way you came. As for simply being alone- I love that. Longest I have been without seeing a single person is 8 days. Many 12 day trips I see 2-3 people. A day on a busy trail is about all I can tolerate - after that I simply leave the trail. I love the terrain along the JMT; I hate the JMT.

I never soloed when I was younger, but I suspect that I would not have been as comfortable alone in my 20's. Not that I would be scared, but more lonely. I think younger women are simply more social, or at least value social interaction more than older women. I have observed also, (not a total generalization but just my observations) that men are over-confident in youth and women under-confident. Men tend to get more realistic as they age, and women tend to become more confident. Experience breeds confidence - so just get out there a backpack a lot.
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby oleander » Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:57 pm

I'm still scratching my head at the relative lack of women backpackers. Women's bodies are optimized for all-day endurance sports that require the ability to keep moving at a steady pace all day, and still feel strong at the end of that day. That pretty much describes backpacking.

I was very lucky growing up with a lot of women backpackers in my family. My first backpacking trip was with my mom. I then learned most of my skills, including thru-hiking and cross-country skills, from my aunt. Another aunt is still backpacking at age 84. That aunt's daughter, my cousin, was one of the youngest females ever to do a winter ascent of the Whitney mountaineering route. That's how we roll.

No fear of going solo. I know my navigation. Carry a Spot device for piece of mind.

The "deviants," as someone said here, all seem to be in the front-country campgrounds.

The only unpleasant male type encountered with any frequency in the backcountry is the Mansplainer. (See Urban Dictionary.) Mansplainers haunt the popular, crowded trails. Whereas, a man encountered at a remote location, such as Colby Pass, will have quiet confidence and is far more likely to treat a lady as an equal who perhaps knows what she is doing. (A Mansplainer has probably never heard of Colby Pass.)

Rogue doesn't look scary at all. He has kind eyes.

I like to introduce women to backpacking, and have led a lot of trips for newbie friends.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Women Hikers!

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:03 am

I belong to a women's backpacking group, and organized for about 8 years a very large meetup with many women in it, and organize a backpacking group with quite a few women in it.

Not sure what it is that women think solo backpacking is so dangerous, and not sure that all of them think that way - I think it's more that they want the company. There are many mismatched spouses - one of them doesn't like camping or backpacking - and I often have groups made up of them regardless of gender.

I do know that new-to-backpacking women have a lot of worries and fears. That's unfortunate. They seem to think that bears are the biggest worry - men are another, and then bugs and cold and having your period.

In any case, there are lots of groups out there that are women specific - just a google away. I cannot guarantee that all of them are going to have experienced backpackers in them. The Bay area group I just joined seems to be mostly eager newbies. I walked a newbie off the trail just this past weekend when she attempted to backpack with a day pack, two actually, and a collection of other bags she had loosely attached to herself in various ways. But, she was fairly eager to learn, and I was able to steer her in the right direction.
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