All of the 2022 LGBTQIA2S+ Single Pitch Instructor Course participants in the distance
LGBTQIA2S+ Single Pitch Instructor Course
2022 alumni
Portrait of Ella Petersen
Ella Petersen (they/them)
As a social worker working for an adventure therapy company, I have been interested in pursuing rock climbing programs within our organization for the young people we work with. I applied to the course in the hopes that receiving my SPI certification will help our organization begin offering outdoor climbing trips as a way to help folks create meaning from the experience that is transferable to everyday life.

The ability to overcome challenges and step outside your comfort zone is something I love about climbing, and I feel it is an extremely powerful mental health intervention for young people and adults.
Ella works on ropes mid course
I have been hesitant to pursue professional guiding certifications prior to seeing this course offered as I have been challenged throughout my rock climbing experience to find and connect with mentors I feel safe with and trust and often feel a large sense of imposter syndrome in climbing. I am passionate about coaching and teaching young people through educational contexts, yet feeling insecure and fearful of others' perception of me has created a large barrier in my ability to pursue the professional avenue of rock climbing as a guide or coach. Having an SPI certification will give me the foundational knowledge and confidence to pursue this path and help others have access to climbing experiences and the mental and physical benefits of the sport.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was the idea that the right choice of knot, system, or technique is not a black-and-white issue and that the gray of it has to do with choosing the right knot for the right time in the right place. I really enjoyed the way Sean was able to speak about the gray area and the importance of weighing all of these factors against each other instead of sticking to something in all situations. This was a great metaphor for life in general.
Ella participating in the SPI course
Being around a group of solely queers felt so safe and special, like nothing I have ever experienced before. It shows me that it is possible to be who I am and pursue my dreams.
For me, this is not even common in my everyday life and to be able to be surrounded by a group of specifically LGBTQ+ people in climbing was a huge first, and something I hope to continue to prioritize in my life.

If we do not continue to push for change within the climbing community, and outdoor spaces in general, we will lose so much. We will lose people who could have been on our team to fight for the protection of these spaces, and we exclude so many groups of people who deserve to benefit from climbing and other outdoor sports.
Portrait of Ella Petersen
I have been hesitant to pursue professional guiding certifications prior to seeing this course offered as I have been challenged throughout my rock climbing experience to find and connect with mentors I feel safe with and trust and often feel a large sense of imposter syndrome in climbing. I am passionate about coaching and teaching young people through educational contexts, yet feeling insecure and fearful of others' perception of me has created a large barrier in my ability to pursue the professional avenue of rock climbing as a guide or coach. Having an SPI certification will give me the foundational knowledge and confidence to pursue this path and help others have access to climbing experiences and the mental and physical benefits of the sport.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was the idea that the right choice of knot, system, or technique is not a black-and-white issue and that the gray of it has to do with choosing the right knot for the right time in the right place. I really enjoyed the way Sean was able to speak about the gray area and the importance of weighing all of these factors against each other instead of sticking to something in all situations. This was a great metaphor for life in general.
Ella participating in the SPI course
profile shot of Ella smiling during the course
Portrait of Riley Nightingale
Riley Nightingale (she/her)
As a transgender and queer climber, I often feel out of sorts in climbing communities. I don’t look like or have experiences similar to most of the pro climbers, guides, or people at my local gyms. This program has allowed me to get closer to my goal of bringing my local trans and queer communities from the urban area of New York City to the crag and helping them connect with the incredible aspects of outdoor climbing that have helped me become more embodied as a trans person.

I often find significant gaps in services for people like me. Niché spaces that should be available to minorities often don’t exist, and even when we assume they do–a lot of the work I do in my community is figuring out how to fill those gaps.
Riley climbing during the course
I’m always overjoyed to find aspace already created for people like me, one I don’t have to construct myself.
I had never before been in an educational setting where I felt supported in taking the risks required for learning–until this program. I trusted Sean and Nikki to hold me to the high standards required for the SPI program while creating as safe a space as possible for me to learn new skills and ask questions.

Queer and trans spaces are precious because they are zones away from many aspects of heteronormativity and cisnormativity. They are spaces where it is much easier for me to just be.
Riley participating in the SPI course
So much of climbing for me is connected to being embodied while in nature and feeling the connectedness between my self and the world around me, but that mindset can be difficult or impossible to access if I’m surrounded by people making transphobic, homophobic, or misogynuistic comments, or simply those who do not feel affirming to who I am as a climber.
Getting the opportunity to be in Red Rock with a cohort of fully queer and mostly trans climbers was–I can’t help but use a cliché here–a breath of fresh air. And these connections will help me connect into a growing network of affirming and safe-feeling climbing partners nationwide.

Additionally, I strongly believe that supporting queer, trans, and BIPOC climbers is one way for the climbing community as a whole to start acknowledging its colonizer roots. By training minorities to be leaders in the climbing community, I believe we can connect more minorities to this sport I love so much and give them more opportunities to reclaim not just their bodies but the rocks as well.
Portrait of Riley Nightingale
I’m always overjoyed to find aspace already created for people like me, one I don’t have to construct myself.
I had never before been in an educational setting where I felt supported in taking the risks required for learning–until this program. I trusted Sean and Nikki to hold me to the high standards required for the SPI program while creating as safe a space as possible for me to learn new skills and ask questions.

Queer and trans spaces are precious because they are zones away from many aspects of heteronormativity and cisnormativity. They are spaces where it is much easier for me to just be.
Riley participating in the SPI course
Riley hanging off a rock upside down and smiling
Portrait of Sarah Meehan-Marinich
Sara Meehan-Marinich (she/her)
Crys Moore (a member of the 2021 cohort) and Erin Hurt became my mentors almost immediately, even though they didn't know it. They taught me everything I knew. They were also the first people there when I learned how to lead trad outside. I did my first pitches with them. It was really special having that space, having that support, and so I wanted to give back. I saw that the AMGA was doing these affinity spaces, and I wanted to be a part of it so that I could learn from queer people and how to give back to my community.
Sarah climbing during the course
To teach these things to my community was really special–and to know that I have a career in this.
Getting to spend time with other queer climbers meant that I was in a space where I didn't need to explain my identities. I didn't need to worry about somebody misgendering me. I didn't need to worry about anyone commenting on my wife. It was really special having that.
Sarah participating in the SPI course
We are people who run groups. We're not just the people who are coming out and climbing occasionally.

I would've taken the course anyway because I really do want to be a mountain guide. That's been a goal for a couple years now–but [this program] made it feel doable, and it made it feel accessible.

I can share my experiences and my learnings of how to create a safe climbing environment and how to make an inclusive space.
Portrait of Sarah Meehan-Marinich
To teach these things to my community was really special–and to know that I have a career in this.
Getting to spend time with other queer climbers meant that I was in a space where I didn't need to explain my identities. I didn't need to worry about somebody misgendering me. I didn't need to worry about anyone commenting on my wife. It was really special having that.
Sarah participating in the SPI course
Sarah repelling off the edge during the course
Portrait of Ryan Terry
Ryan Terry (they/she)
This past winter I took a step away from the service industry and towards a career in the outdoors by joining the Big Sky volunteer ski patrol. This step opened my eyes to the potential I have in the outdoor industry. There are many accomplished women on the patrol who work as guides, wildland firefighters, and EMS during the summer that have inspired me to go after what I actually want to do as a career. I received a scholarship for avalanche education this past winter, and am a WEMT, so taking this course felt like a perfect next step in my outdoor education, which I plan to continue through the AMGA’s guide track.
Participating in a queer affinity space was amazing beyond words. I identify as a non-binary woman, and have been a part of many women’s affinity spaces, where I didn’t feel entirely seen. Being able to exist and learn in an entirely queer environment felt so affirming, and created a space of comfort to let down my guard and fully be myself while feeling safe to ask questions without judgement. Part of this feeling of comfort came from having an instructor who also identifies as a queer person, and because of that they really integrated with the group.
RYan
 climbing during the course
I think it is extremely important to continue creating these spaces and opportunities for marginalized groups so they are able to go out and show younger generations what is possible for them, hopefully without having to work past the barriers we are trying so hard to break down now.
Having instructors who can identify with the group is also important–it creates a sense of community rather than an us and them situation in the learning environment. Before this course I had never been amongst all queer/genderqueer folx, and it is an experience I wish for any queer person to have themselves.
Ryan participating in the SPI course
This is especially important in the great outdoors, where the majority of users are white and male. People of other groups who appear different feel their gazes, and it can be hard to surpass that initial discomfort.
Being among like minded and looking people adds a sense of security, and safety in numbers. This can help people overcome their initial fears of being in the outdoors or the backcountry, and helps people expand their comfort zone. By doing this it allows for folx to later feel more comfortable in the outdoors without being in an affinity space.

Having so many queer people I now know who work and exist in the climbing and guiding industry gives me hope for a more inclusive future. This course connected me with a group that I didn’t realize fully existed, and has motivated me to find other climbing partners and folx to work and climb with to be visible in the outdoors, hopefully creating space for others to be out as well. With more and more of us earning these certifications it opens up opportunities for everyone. Having a guide who looks like you, sounds like you, or just sees you as you are, can be so motivating, and hopefully will inspire many to continue with this sport.
Portrait of Ryan Terry
I think it is extremely important to continue creating these spaces and opportunities for marginalized groups so they are able to go out and show younger generations what is possible for them, hopefully without having to work past the barriers we are trying so hard to break down now.
Having instructors who can identify with the group is also important–it creates a sense of community rather than an us and them situation in the learning environment. Before this course I had never been amongst all queer/genderqueer folx, and it is an experience I wish for any queer person to have themselves.
Ryan participating in the SPI course
Ryan participating in the course
Portrait of Son Tran (they/she)
Son Tran (they/them)
I couldn’t believe it when I received the acceptance email… My dreams of a career in guiding were moving forward. The first year of the Mountain Hardwear LGBTQIA2S+ affinity course brought longing, and I wanted to apply, but the prerequisite of 15 trad leads held me back. At that point, I had been searching for a trad climbing mentor, but I wasn’t able to find one.

I’m queer, Vietnamese-American, assigned female at birth, a child of refugees, and non-binary. I don’t see many people at the crag or gym like me, let alone thriving professionally in climbing, so my search for climbing knowledge and growth was very solitary.
Another year of the course passed and my best belaytionship and I further developed our plan for climbing careers. We would marry mental health and climbing in a program that would center the BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ communities. With renewed passion, I dove into outdoor meetups organized by my local BIPOC climbing organization, Climb the Gap, and they helped me bridge the gap from my knowledge fervently gained in books and videos to application on real rock, giving me the confidence to tackle trad leads.
Son
 climbing during the course
The first day of this course, I battled self-doubt and a whirlwind of emotions that prevented full immersion in the course. Sean helped me slide into the vulnerability needed to learn, and because of that, my connections with my classmates grew as well.
Being in a space where I don’t have to explain who I am or fear discrimination gives me the room to thrive. It takes a lot of energy to put on masks when it isn’t safe for me to be myself and it was a gift to be able to direct that energy towards learning in the course.
Son participating in the SPI course
SPI certification will give me greater confidence to be a climbing mentor and grow the capacity of my communities to nurture climbing amongst people of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ communities. I look forward to greater involvement from community organizations that aren’t affinity groups and the outdoor industry to increase accessibility to climbing. Whether that’s through providing or subsidizing gym passes/memberships, gear, trip funds, scholarships, supporting the work of affinity spaces ran by community members and more or socially in the development of diversity campaigns and education, active recruitment of folks from diverse backgrounds for membership and roles of significance, and mentorship programs and supported tracks for growth in climbing.

We have incredible leaders working towards a more diverse guiding industry/outdoor community. Through this course, I had the honor of meeting Monserrat, Sean, and Nikki who are shaping affinity spaces and forging paths for all of us.
I found support and strength in everyone from my course and I’m excited to continue my path alongside them.
Portrait of Son Tran (they/she)
The first day of this course, I battled self-doubt and a whirlwind of emotions that prevented full immersion in the course. Sean helped me slide into the vulnerability needed to learn, and because of that, my connections with my classmates grew as well.
Being in a space where I don’t have to explain who I am or fear discrimination gives me the room to thrive. It takes a lot of energy to put on masks when it isn’t safe for me to be myself and it was a gift to be able to direct that energy towards learning in the course.
Son participating in the SPI course
Son participating in the course
Portrait of Sarah E Wassmund (she/they/he)
Sarah E Wassmund (she/they/he)
I have been climbing for about 9 years and leading indoor climbing meetups for Queers since May of 2019. I wanted to deepen my knowledge of climbing systems to benefit my personal climbing and also apply the knowledge I learn towards teaching Queers how to climb outside.
An SPI certification can certainly help with underrepresentation–and if representation continues to expand over time, then it will likely lead to less homophobia/transphobia, as well. It will also create new roots and threads of queer knowledge in the communitiy which unlocks gatekeeping and encourages community learning.
Sarah
 climbing during the course
I gained so many lessons from this experience. In my debrief at the end of the course I got some ideas about my post-course trajectory and what that could look like. In regards to guiding, learning with a group of Queers created a space of belonging in the sense of “we belong in this space and in guiding spaces in general” which feels really important as a gender-nonconforming person entering a space that has been, and still is, predominantly dominanted by the white-cis-heteropatriarchy.

Another lesson that has stayed with me is that I can exclusively work within the Queer community. If I maintain my normal job and do the guiding/teaching on the side, I will have the flexibility to focus on the continued knowledge and skill building with Queers for Queers which will hopefully help boost representation in climbing.

Sharing learning space with fellow Queers adds a beautiful neutrality to the space where we can just exist and learn without having to deal with the weird looks, comments, or questions from people who might be well-meaning and cool but still do things that are uncomfy to be around.
We are here, we do exist, we are in these spaces, we are just sometimes spat on by the dominant white-cis-heteropatriarchy. The underrepresented people and groups are out there doing the things, but what's important to note is that we do the things while dealing with the unexamined, internalized homophobia, transphobia, racism, etc. of others.
Sarah participating in the SPI course
It’s so important to advocate for representation because we need to normalize a diverse climbing community so people stop looking at us weird, stop being surprised that we are competent and basically start treating us like neutral people. The goal would be to get to a point where there are more than a handful of tokenized people from each marginalized group getting representation as climbers and to generally exist within a climbing culture that celebrates diversity and is liberated from the oppressive structures that harm us all.
I will feel even more hopeful when I can name more than a handful of Queer guides, when there are multiple Queer SPI providers, and when Queer youth can climb without their identities being an issue.
Portrait of Sarah E Wassmund (she/they/he)
I gained so many lessons from this experience. In my debrief at the end of the course I got some ideas about my post-course trajectory and what that could look like. In regards to guiding, learning with a group of Queers created a space of belonging in the sense of “we belong in this space and in guiding spaces in general” which feels really important as a gender-nonconforming person entering a space that has been, and still is, predominantly dominanted by the white-cis-heteropatriarchy.

Another lesson that has stayed with me is that I can exclusively work within the Queer community. If I maintain my normal job and do the guiding/teaching on the side, I will have the flexibility to focus on the continued knowledge and skill building with Queers for Queers which will hopefully help boost representation in climbing.

Sharing learning space with fellow Queers adds a beautiful neutrality to the space where we can just exist and learn without having to deal with the weird looks, comments, or questions from people who might be well-meaning and cool but still do things that are uncomfy to be around.
We are here, we do exist, we are in these spaces, we are just sometimes spat on by the dominant white-cis-heteropatriarchy. The underrepresented people and groups are out there doing the things, but what's important to note is that we do the things while dealing with the unexamined, internalized homophobia, transphobia, racism, etc. of others.
Sarah participating in the SPI course
Sarah participating in the course
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