A view of behind the shot, one of the photo clinic participants stands in front of a big circular light diffuser, held by two other photo clinic participants
open aperture

In the late 90s, I stood in an outdoor gear shop, flipping through the pages of equipment catalogs. One page made me stop and take notice. Renowned Japanese rock climber Yuji Hirayama looked calm and collected as he finger-tip jammed up a Yosemite Valley test-piece. At the time, I didn’t know what was so intriguing about this image, but I was instantly obsessed. I knew that I wanted to do what he was doing. From that day, I devoured everything I could about climbing, sought out the nearest climbing gym, and have managed to build a career and lifestyle in the outdoor and climbing community.

Not that long ago, I was recounting how I got into climbing and what sparked my interest and told this story. I was probed as to why that moment was different than any other introduction to climbing. Surely I had seen rock climbing in magazines, movies, or on the news, but how was this moment different? And then it struck me like a ton of bricks. I saw myself in Yuji.

I was born to parents of different countries and races: a Thai mother and a white, American father. Being a military family, we moved around a lot in the U.S., requiring me to quickly assimilate in places like Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky. I didn’t run into many people who looked like me. In this pre-digital time, when I saw Yuji, he was one of the few Asians that I had ever seen put on a pedestal. Perhaps seeing him made it easier for me to imagine that I could climb like him (I can’t, by the way).

Last summer, I was chatting with Mountain Hardwear ambassador Nikki Smith about how we could support underrepresented people and communities in the outdoor and climbing spaces. We, as a brand, knew there was (and still is) far more work to be done and were conscious about bringing awareness and advocacy to these folks. And I, as an individual member of our community, felt strongly about using whatever influence I might have to take action. A large part of my career has revolved around showing climbing through print and digital media and needed to create an opportunity to show people of color and marginalized groups participating in the outdoors. But the “right” way to do this is debatable. We don’t presume to hold the answers, but wanted to be thoughtful in our approach. As much as possible, we try to show real, authentic experiences through the point of view of our community and document them. So, rather than simply hosting casting calls for climbers of the right “skin tone,” we wanted to create a valuable experience for its participants.

As those conversations evolved, the MHW Photo Workshop, led by Nikki, took shape. Our goal was to add value to underrepresented communities and organizations by providing photography skills to help document their stories and showcase their talents. The photo clinic took place over several days in September of last year, with additional guiding and rigging support by The Mountain Guides. Mountain Hardwear offered six all-expenses-paid scholarships to the program, with the course curriculum developed and taught by Nikki herself.

In reflecting on the photos and words expressing the participant’s experiences, they all point towards a positive program. But the most important thing that we learned is just that… It was a single workshop. A step in the right direction but not an entire journey of inclusivity for Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ in the outdoors and climbing. By providing more visibility, I can only hope that it will inspire, motivate, and make personal connections to the outdoors and climbing, as it did with me.
portrait of Mountain Hardwear Brand Marketing Director,
Matt Burbach, holding a film reel.
Matt Burbach

Brand Marketing Director

Mountain Hardwear

portrait of Mountain Hardwear Brand Marketing Director,
Matt Burbach, holding a film reel.

As those conversations evolved, the MHW Photo Workshop, led by Nikki, took shape. Our goal was to add value to underrepresented communities and organizations by providing photography skills to help document their stories and showcase their talents. The photo clinic took place over several days in September of last year, with additional guiding and rigging support by The Mountain Guides. Mountain Hardwear offered six all-expenses-paid scholarships to the program, with the course curriculum developed and taught by Nikki herself.

In reflecting on the photos and words expressing the participant’s experiences, they all point towards a positive program. But the most important thing that we learned is just that… It was a single workshop. A step in the right direction but not an entire journey of inclusivity for Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ in the outdoors and climbing. By providing more visibility, I can only hope that it will inspire, motivate, and make personal connections to the outdoors and climbing, as it did with me.
Portrait of Mountain Hardwear Ambassador Nikki Smith
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ

In 2018, I came out publicly as trans. I've been a climber for 28 years and worked in the outdoor industry for 22 and had never seen or heard of another trans climber. Over time, not seeing anyone like me made it hard to think I'd be accepted. I still remember vividly the day that changed, and I saw an article about a trans climber. It gave me so much hope. Since then, I've made a personal commitment to use my photography to better represent not only the queer community but other underrepresented communities.

In my career, I've been a freelancer and staff photographer, and have taught photography for the Rock & Ice Photo Camp, and workshops at other events. As I taught, I saw that the people typically attending these classes mostly looked like the stereotypical view of who recreates in the outdoors. I started to think of ways to help change this and thought if I could get industry support to bring photographers from underrepresented communities together, we could make a real change and empower others to tell the stories of their own communities better. No one can tell the story of a marginalized group's experience better than those directly affected.

I wanted to involve people from grassroots advocacy groups across the US, as participation in this clinic could not only benefit the individual involved but also support the organization in its mission. Some of the participants I had already met and wanted to support, and others came from reaching out to organizations like Brown Girls Climb and Brothers of Climbing to let them choose a participant.

Mountain Hardwear has been very open and receptive to initiatives I've proposed that have pushed them into new territory in the outdoors. Having a brand trust you enough to support a program like this is an amazing vote of confidence in me and the vision for change.
Nikki Smith, she/her/hers

Mountain Hardwear Ambassador

Behind the shoulder shot of Nikki Smith giving direction to all the photo clinic participants on what they will be working on next
participants

PHOTOGRAPHER, she/her/hers

FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NATIVE WOMEN'S WILDERNESS
jaylyn
sabrina
gough

Photography has always brought me joy. I have a profound relationship with the land and the emotions it brings forth. I love the creative challenge of capturing the emotions I feel when I’m experiencing its glory, or working to visually convey the emotions of someone exploring the land and all the feels it conjures up for them, camera in hand. I combine these two loves, of photography and of land, out on the trail, in the wilderness and now...on the wall. The land provides such beauty, mystery, and strength. Attempting to capture and share just a fragment of that through my lense is a creative quest I cannot resist.

I am a Native woman from the Navajo Tribe. We have a deep connection to the land, the cliffs, the sand, the sagebrush, and the lizards crawling upside down on the rocks. Growing up, I was that lizard. We climbed the sandstone cliffs on our Reservation. In fact, when I got to college and started sport climbing, I was a little confused by the use of ropes. Now when I wander back to the places where we roamed as children, I’m often mesmerized by the actions of our youth and what we climbed without ropes. And then I remember that this is my heritage, and this is the land that my ancestors climbed, also without the use of rope or a Grigri.
portrait of Jaylyn Sabrina Gough
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
Photography has always brought me joy. I have a profound relationship with the land and the emotions it brings forth. I love the creative challenge of capturing the emotions I feel when I’m experiencing its glory, or working to visually convey the emotions of someone exploring the land and all the feels it conjures up for them, camera in hand. I combine these two loves, of photography and of land, out on the trail, in the wilderness and now...on the wall. The land provides such beauty, mystery, and strength. Attempting to capture and share just a fragment of that through my lense is a creative quest I cannot resist.
I am a Native woman from the Navajo Tribe. We have a deep connection to the land, the cliffs, the sand, the sagebrush, and the lizards crawling upside down on the rocks. Growing up, I was that lizard. We climbed the sandstone cliffs on our Reservation. In fact, when I got to college and started sport climbing, I was a little confused by the use of ropes. Now when I wander back to the places where we roamed as children, I’m often mesmerized by the actions of our youth and what we climbed without ropes. And then I remember that this is my heritage, and this is the land that my ancestors climbed, also without the use of rope or a Grigri.
Jason Hinds climbing at the photo clinic
IMAGE BY JAYLYN SABRINA GOUGH
When Nikki invited me to participate in the photography photo camp, multiple feelings emerged, “I’m not good enough for this,” “I’m not strong enough,” and “I’m not a good enough photographer.” The list goes on. You see, Native people are rarely seen or heard in the climbing community. To me, that translates into a loud statement saying that we Native people don’t belong and aren’t respected. But Nikki saw me and believed in my skills as a photographer and climber. I was invited into a world that has shut me out. She exemplified my skills, teaching me climbing and photography tricks that have changed my approach to photographing the raw emotions of climbing and being face to face with the land.
At one point during the photo camp while on the wall, learning how to jug the ropes...I had a breakdown. I was so frustrated with myself. Nikki took notice and climbed up to me. In that moment, she showed me such love and encouragement. You see, I live in a world of extreme pressure as an indigenous person of color. I always have to be on point. I always have to prove my worth. I always have to fight and fight hard. For me, I must excel and learning something more slowly isn’t an option. I always have to prove that I belong. On that wall, as I was crying and thinking “I can’t do this. What am I doing here? She picked the wrong person”, Nikki looked me in the eye and told me that I belong, I didn’t have to prove my worth to anyone. And she continued, sharing that she had hand picked me for this event, that she sees my talent.
She provided me with a space that no one else has ever done. A space where the BIPOC community came together to just be us. We laughed, we broke bread together, we supported one another, but most importantly we loved and believed in each other. I saw my worth in their eyes and I’ve have been working hard in acknowledging and celebrating my worth. Through this experience I have a great desire to assist in showing other Native people their worth and providing them with an opportunity that I had and to share their own stories and worth.
Atim and Cody look out into the distance while at the photo clinic
IMAGE BY JAYLYN SABRINA GOUGH

A view of behind the shot, one of the photo clinic participants stands in front of a big circular light diffuser, held by two other photo clinic participants
 
open aperture
 
Introduction
Nikki Smith
In the late 90s, I stood in an outdoor gear shop, flipping through the pages of equipment catalogs. One page made me stop and take notice. Renowned Japanese rock climber Yuji Hirayama looked calm and collected as he finger-tip jammed up a Yosemite Valley test-piece. At the time, I didn’t know what was so intriguing about this image, but I was instantly obsessed. I knew that I wanted to do what he was doing. From that day, I devoured everything I could about climbing, sought out the nearest climbing gym, and have managed to build a career and lifestyle in the outdoor and climbing community. 

Not that long ago, I was recounting how I got into climbing and what sparked my interest and told this story. I was probed as to why that moment was different than any other introduction to climbing. Surely I had seen rock climbing in magazines, movies, or on the news, but how was this moment different? And then it struck me like a ton of bricks. I saw myself in Yuji. 

I was born to parents of different countries and races: a Thai mother and a white, American father. Being a military family, we moved around a lot in the U.S., requiring me to quickly assimilate in places like Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky. I didn’t run into many people who looked like me. In this pre-digital time, when I saw Yuji, he was one of the few Asians that I had ever seen put on a pedestal. Perhaps seeing him made it easier for me to imagine that I could climb like him (I can’t, by the way). 

Last summer, I was chatting with Mountain Hardwear ambassador Nikki Smith about how we could support underrepresented people and communities in the outdoor and climbing spaces. We, as a brand, knew there was (and still is) far more work to be done and were conscious about bringing awareness and advocacy to these folks. And I, as an individual member of our community, felt strongly about using whatever influence I might have to take action. A large part of my career has revolved around showing climbing through print and digital media and needed to create an opportunity to show people of color and marginalized groups participating in the outdoors. But the “right” way to do this is debatable. We don’t presume to hold the answers, but wanted to be thoughtful in our approach. As much as possible, we try to show real, authentic experiences through the point of view of our community and document them. So, rather than simply hosting casting calls for climbers of the right “skin tone,” we wanted to create a valuable experience for its participants.
Matt Burbach 
Brand Marketing Director 
Mountain Hardwear
portrait of Mountain Hardwear Brand Marketing Director,
Matt Burbach, holding a film reel.


As those conversations evolved, the MHW Photo Workshop, led by Nikki, took shape. Our goal was to add value to underrepresented communities and organizations by providing photography skills to help document their stories and showcase their talents. The photo clinic took place over several days in September of last year, with additional guiding and rigging support by The Mountain Guides. Mountain Hardwear offered six all-expenses-paid scholarships to the program, with the course curriculum developed and taught by Nikki herself. 

In reflecting on the photos and words expressing the participant’s experiences, they all point towards a positive program. But the most important thing that we learned is just that… It was a single workshop. A step in the right direction but not an entire journey of inclusivity for Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ in the outdoors and climbing. By providing more visibility, I can only hope that it will inspire, motivate, and make personal connections to the outdoors and climbing, as it did with me.
Behind the shoulder shot of Nikki Smith giving direction to all the photo clinic participants on what they will be working on next
 
participants
 
Jaylyn Sabrina Gough
Sam Ortiz
Janelle Paciencia
Bree Robles
Jason Hinds
Tiffany M Blount
Atim Enyenihi
Cody Kaemmerlen
PHOTOGRAPHER, she/her/hers 

FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 
OF NATIVE WOMEN'S WILDERNESS
jaylyn 
sabrina 
gough
Photography has always brought me joy. I have a profound relationship with the land and the emotions it brings forth. I love the creative challenge of capturing the emotions I feel when I’m experiencing its glory, or working to visually convey the emotions of someone exploring the land and all the feels it conjures up for them, camera in hand. I combine these two loves, of photography and of land, out on the trail, in the wilderness and now...on the wall. The land provides such beauty, mystery, and strength. Attempting to capture and share just a fragment of that through my lense is a creative quest I cannot resist. 

I am a Native woman from the Navajo Tribe. We have a deep connection to the land, the cliffs, the sand, the sagebrush, and the lizards crawling upside down on the rocks. Growing up, I was that lizard. We climbed the sandstone cliffs on our Reservation. In fact, when I got to college and started sport climbing, I was a little confused by the use of ropes. Now when I wander back to the places where we roamed as children, I’m often mesmerized by the actions of our youth and what we climbed without ropes. And then I remember that this is my heritage, and this is the land that my ancestors climbed, also without the use of rope or a Grigri.
portrait of Jaylyn Sabrina Gough
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
Jason Hinds climbing at the photo clinic
IMAGE BY JAYLYN SABRINA GOUGH
When Nikki invited me to participate in the photography photo camp, multiple feelings emerged, “I’m not good enough for this,” “I’m not strong enough,” and “I’m not a good enough photographer.” The list goes on. You see, Native people are rarely seen or heard in the climbing community. To me, that translates into a loud statement saying that we Native people don’t belong and aren’t respected. But Nikki saw me and believed in my skills as a photographer and climber. I was invited into a world that has shut me out. She exemplified my skills, teaching me climbing and photography tricks that have changed my approach to photographing the raw emotions of climbing and being face to face with the land.
At one point during the photo camp while on the wall, learning how to jug the ropes...I had a breakdown. I was so frustrated with myself. Nikki took notice and climbed up to me. In that moment, she showed me such love and encouragement. You see, I live in a world of extreme pressure as an indigenous person of color. I always have to be on point. I always have to prove my worth. I always have to fight and fight hard. For me, I must excel and learning something more slowly isn’t an option. I always have to prove that I belong. On that wall, as I was crying and thinking “I can’t do this. What am I doing here? She picked the wrong person”, Nikki looked me in the eye and told me that I belong, I didn’t have to prove my worth to anyone. And she continued, sharing that she had hand picked me for this event, that she sees my talent. 

She provided me with a space that no one else has ever done. A space where the BIPOC community came together to just be us. We laughed, we broke bread together, we supported one another, but most importantly we loved and believed in each other. I saw my worth in their eyes and I’ve have been working hard in acknowledging and celebrating my worth. Through this experience I have a great desire to assist in showing other Native people their worth and providing them with an opportunity that I had and to share their own stories and worth.
Atim and Cody look out into the distance while at the photo clinic
IMAGE BY JAYLYN SABRINA GOUGH
Atim and Cody walking through City of Rocks
IMAGE BY JAYLYN SABRINA GOUGH

PHOTOGRAPHER, she/her/hers

FOUNDER OF CLIMB BIG
sam
ortiz

I grew up in the small town of Winchester, Kentucky, not far from the Red River Gorge, a world class rock climbing location. I was somewhat familiar with climbing and was even invited to climb on a couple of occasions but always turned it down because I didn’t think it was something that someone like me could do. I realized later that I’d never considered it because I never saw climbers who looked like me: plus sized or of color. I spent all this time living next to this international climbing area yet never thought it was accessible to me.

But I’d always been a mountain goat and it wasn’t until I lived in Seattle that I decided to try it out. The first time I got on the wall was at my local YMCA. I got two feet up before coming back down. My hands were unbearably clammy and I cried because I was afraid of heights. But I kept going, climbing higher on the wall each time, and eventually, I got better. Once I did all I could do at the YMCA, I joined the local climbing gym. My transition outdoors began with a sport climbing course with The Mountaineers. My whole life opened up after that.
portrait of Sam Ortiz
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ
I grew up in the small town of Winchester, Kentucky, not far from the Red River Gorge, a world class rock climbing location. I was somewhat familiar with climbing and was even invited to climb on a couple of occasions but always turned it down because I didn’t think it was something that someone like me could do. I realized later that I’d never considered it because I never saw climbers who looked like me: plus sized or of color. I spent all this time living next to this international climbing area yet never thought it was accessible to me.
But I’d always been a mountain goat and it wasn’t until I lived in Seattle that I decided to try it out. The first time I got on the wall was at my local YMCA. I got two feet up before coming back down. My hands were unbearably clammy and I cried because I was afraid of heights. But I kept going, climbing higher on the wall each time, and eventually, I got better. Once I did all I could do at the YMCA, I joined the local climbing gym. My transition outdoors began with a sport climbing course with The Mountaineers. My whole life opened up after that.
Atim and Cody sit back to back wearing the Ghost Whisper hoody, taking in the views around them
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ
But after a while, I was tired of being the only plus-sized person in a climbing class, at the gym, in the alpine, or at the crag. A major barrier of entry for plus-sized climbers is worrying about whether or not the harnesses will fit. Imagine trying to visit a climbing gym with your friends and not being able to get the harness up over your hips… It can be humiliating to be singled out and left out like that. I worked with my gym, Edgeworks in Tacoma, to get a set of harnesses that would fit plus-sized bodies, and it was way more successful that I thought it would be. Since I’m plus sized, I became a resource for gear, and we now have a group, Climb Big, which creates community and provides resources for plus-sized climbers who identify as female or non-binary.
When I learned more about the program, it sounded amazing. Beyond learning photography skills, networking at a program like this is powerful. Having connections in the outdoor world often comes from privilege and not many climbers who are underrepresented have access to that privilege. One of the amazing parts of this experience is meeting these people and making connections with each other and organizations. We all know what it feels like to be an outsider: to not feel welcome at our gyms or out at the crags. We’ve all gotten stares or not been invited into the space the same way other people have been. Every one of us left feeling like this was one of the best moments of our year. Not only because of the skills we gained but the community aspect of it, too. One of the things we talked about as we said goodbye is almost every single one of us hadn’t had the opportunity to exist in a space like this before. There is something really powerful about coming together and being with other people who understand your experience. The more we can develop the tools and skills to tell our own stories through photography the more we can create that representation for ourselves.
My call to action to our climbing community is to not assume someone’s climbing ability, status, or knowledge based on how they look. People assume that I’m a first time climber because I’m plus-sized and of color, but I’ve been climbing for years now, and I teach classes. I want other BIPOC friends to get the same treatment.
Atim and Cody look out into the distance while at the photo clinic
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ
Mineral King tent in the distance, under a starry night
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ

PHOTOGRAPHER, she/her/hers

OUTINGS LEADER FOR THE DENVER CHAPTER OF LATINO OUTDOORS AND ONE OF FIVE 2020 NEXTGEN TRAIL LEADERS FOR THE AMERICAN HIKING SOCIETY
janelle
paciencia
portrait of Janelle Paciencia
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
Bree makes her way up a route, looking up at the camera. Dramatic shadows in background
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ
Representation matters because, for many, it’s hard to become what you cannot see. We are many. We have a voice, and it’s time we get loud with our message. Our strength comes in numbers and passion to uplift one another. That’s the beauty of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities; we have the potential to go far and we want everyone to win. Through this program, I was able to deepen my commitment to use my visual storytelling to be a vehicle for reflection and change for the betterment of my communities.
I see myself as a facilitator and advocate at the non-profit orgs in outdoor spaces I work with. I am dedicated to bringing awareness and facilitating access to the outdoors for those who have traditionally never seen themselves or others like them represented in these outdoor spaces.
Atim and Cody look out into the distance while at the photo clinic
IMAGE BY JANELLE PACIENCIA
Close up portrait of Atim wearing the Super/DS Stretchdown hoody.
IMAGE BY JANELLE PACIENCIA

PHOTOGRAPHER, she/her/hers

EVENTS MANAGER FOR USA CLIMBING, STAFF LIASON FOR DIVERSITY EQUITY AND INCLUSION TASK FORCE (DEITF), AND DIVERSITY CHAMPION FOR THE UNITED STATES OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE (USOPC)
bree
robles
portrait of Bree Robles
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
Close up artistic shot of Cody wearing the Ghost Whisper Down Hoody
IMAGE BY BREE ROBLES

I was immediately immersed in the climbing community through my partner, Alex Johnson, who is a Mountain Hardwear-sponsored athlete. After only playing soccer from kindergarten through college, it was interesting to have the close-up lens I did into climbing. Not only was it an extremely predominantly white sport, but the sport even emulates our country as it pertains to patriarchy and race and the issues that come with. It was a love-hate relationship.

I hated that Alex couldn’t be herself because the sport, in emulating society, was making her uncomfortable to do so for 20 years. 20 years. For that long, Alex felt and was even shown by this sport that she wouldn’t be supported as a gay athlete. This broke my heart, I ached for her, and I wanted change.

I loved that I quickly found myself behind a camera. Watching Alex climb was something I wanted to be able to continue to look at forever. For me, that’s what photography is; an opportunity to create forever.

I know people see me and they draw conclusions, as we all do, because we are human. I look “straight” to the average human because I “represent femininity well” and because I look like the image of the woman that our white, patriarchal-run country wants us to think a woman should look like. I want you to know that I’m not what you should look like. You are what you should look like.
When I was younger, I knew I was different. I didn’t know how or why but I remember the feeling of guilt and shame, whatever this difference the abnormality of being gay was. I grew up with white privilege in a religious family and have a wonderful recollection of my childhood pertaining to my parents, and life in general. The aforementioned doesn’t mean my life was easy, nobody’s is, but I want you all to know that I know I started ahead. Many steps ahead. And it was a privilege and honor to be welcomed into a diversity photo workshop given the paleness of my skin.
Looking up at Atim, wearing the Ghost Whisperer Jacket and headlamp, purple sky behind
IMAGE BY BREE ROBLES
It has been quite a few months since the workshop, and since then, I have changed a lot. Not only have I become a better photographer but a better human being from this experience. I’ve learned that I have a voice and that I get to choose when and where to use it. I’ve learned that others’ voices are just as important as mine, if not more at certain times, and that I can amplify these voices. I’ve learned it's okay to take up space, I’ve learned it's okay to be wrong, and I’ve learned there’s a difference in trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and actually having the capability to do so.
On her approach to the next climb, Atim walks with the scrambler pack while on the photo clinic trip
IMAGE BY BREE ROBLES

PHOTOGRAPHER, he/him/his

jason
hinds
Do you know what it feels like to turn your brain off and just be? For me, that usually happens when I’m doing something that involves finesse with all four limbs. From driving a manual transmission car or riding a motorcycle to rock climbing, there’s no greater feeling to me than being able to disconnect from all distractions and allowing my body to take over. As someone who tends to overthink everything, these moments of pure existence have quite literally saved my life.
portrait of Jason Hinds
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
An artistic shot looking at Atim in between to giant boulders, stepping forward
IMAGE BY JASON HINDS
After I told a couple close family and friends about the camp, a question was posed to me, “Why not you?” I sat with it for a day or two. Did I have a DSLR? No. Had I ever taken a photography class? Nope. So, why me? Do I have a generous support group who allowed me to borrow any equipment I needed? Yes. Did I have access to the internet to learn the basics of digital photography? Indeed. Do I feel like I have a creative eye? Sure. What could an amateur photographer with borrowed equipment and a YouTube University degree bring to this melting pot of a photography camp? I wanted to find out. Then it hit me. Why not me?!
Honestly, I'm not yet sure how exactly I can leverage this opportunity moving forward. What I do know is that I want to highlight Black, Brown, and POC faces in anything I do. At the moment, I’m just honing invaluable skills passed down to me from the talented individuals I met there. From jugging up a rope and hanging off the side of a cliff looking through a lens to editing, this camp opened my eyes to a new space to tinker, make mistakes, and learn.
Atim in the air, leaning on Cody's shoulder
IMAGE BY JASON HINDS
In the distance, Atim and Cody stand on a rock taking in the view, with gear and packs on, ready for their next climb
IMAGE BY JASON HINDS

PHOTOGRAPHER, she/her

FOUNDER OF BLACK GIRLS BOULDER
tiffany m
blount
I only discovered rock climbing four years ago and am in love. I prefer bouldering over all other disciplines, but there's nothing like being on ropes close to the clouds. I saw it as an opportunity to explore lands I've never been before, like Utah and Idaho; connect with other folx who want to share their unheard stories; and learn how to tell stories with my camera.
portrait of Tiffany M Blount
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
Atim makes her way up a big crack climb
IMAGE BY TIFFANY M BLOUNT
Climbing or even just watching other climbers climb is therapeutic, and I saw people heal during this clinic. During this experience, for instance, I saw my first moonrise. I didn't even know the moon rose. I want to make sure more Black girls get to experience what I felt in that moment. I want them to see themselves doing bold things in the outdoors and to help them grow.
I am intrigued by the power of still images but am a lover of moving images, and I learned that I should stick to that. The other folx in the clinic are amazing photographers and storytellers and I want to see their work recognized, but I realized my lane and the impact I can have on my community by giving them a space to express themselves and learn about themselves.
looking up at Jason and Cody at the top of a route
IMAGE BY TIFFANY M BLOUNT

CLIMBER, she/her/hers

atim
enyenihi
portrait of Atim Enyenihi
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
Atim wearing mountain hardwear gear and holding rope on the way to climb
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ
Since l emigrated from my native country of Nigeria, being the only one or one of a few has been the norm. It has been the case my entire career as a PhD Chemist. It is often the case while I am tango dancing, snowboarding, doing yoga, swimming or climbing. So, when I received an email from Nikki Smith detailing the Mountain Hardwear climbing photo camp with other minorities, I was ecstatic. I love rock climbing, I love the camera. And I love spending time with a diverse group of people. The event was bound to be stellar, and it was.
I hope that people see these images and feel represented. The outdoors are for everyone. You belong here no matter the color of your skin, sexual orientation, national origin, or ethnicity.
Looking up at Atim, wearing the Ghost Whisperer Jacket and headlamp, purple sky behind
IMAGE BY JAYLYN SABRINA GOUGH
Cody and Atim at camp, sitting in camp chairs outside their tent
IMAGE BY JANELLE PACIENCIA

CLIMBER, he/him/his

PODCASTER AT WILDER MIND CO.
cody
kaemmerlen

Someone beautiful and brave invited me to dig deep and join an incredible group of humans from underrepresented communities in the outdoors. Like every single soul that said yes, I was full of self doubt, feelings of imposter syndrome, and reminders of what it’s like to wish you were born someone else: someone that fits the standard narrative that others around you enjoy, someone that is seen for their truth and not for their ability to blend in.

Added to that, for me, was the storm of emotions of being adopted. Yes, I’m damn blessed to have been adopted by the greatest parents on earth. And yes, at the same time, I’ve felt that my birth was an absolute mistake. That’s hard to reckon with. I’m just skin and bones, I can only sort through so much, I suppose.
portrait of cody
kaemmerlen
IMAGE BY NIKKI SMITH
Someone beautiful and brave invited me to dig deep and join an incredible group of humans from underrepresented communities in the outdoors. Like every single soul that said yes, I was full of self doubt, feelings of imposter syndrome, and reminders of what it’s like to wish you were born someone else: someone that fits the standard narrative that others around you enjoy, someone that is seen for their truth and not for their ability to blend in.
Added to that, for me, was the storm of emotions of being adopted. Yes, I’m damn blessed to have been adopted by the greatest parents on earth. And yes, at the same time, I’ve felt that my birth was an absolute mistake. That’s hard to reckon with. I’m just skin and bones, I can only sort through so much, I suppose.
Cody climbing at sunset at the photo clinic
IMAGE BY JANELLE PACIENCIA
I was intrigued to attend as I’d never once been invited into a space that was fully dedicated to uplifting the narratives and skills of underrepresented communities like mine. A space where I would not have to explain myself, my skin, and my identity. And, even more, one centralized around two of my favorite pursuits: climbing and photography!

But it shook me with nervousness to take part in four days of elevating those that feel like they don’t belong in the spaces they hold dear. I’ve not always been proud of being me. Of being a Korean-American. Like so many of us, I grew up absolutely confused as to where my place amongst friends and social scenes was. Should I be the token Asian friend? Should I laugh at the racist jokes pointed my way? Or the dumb comments every time my “friends” and I were in an Asian cuisine restaurant, and they’d say “Hey Cody, are these all your cousins?!” (And yes, “friends,” in quotations.)

Those four days, and the beautifully courageous humans I have been so honored to share them with, have filled my heart with love in ways that words cannot do proper justice. I promise that my actions forever will. I intend to leverage this opportunity moving forward in creating media that represents and celebrates the diversity in our outdoor spaces through podcasting, still imagery, and motion film. This event was a big step in the journey that finally compelled me to leave my corporate career and pursue media creation full time.

It’s a unique chance to show up and help underrepresented groups gain certain skills in the outdoors to help shift the narrative. To help us all better understand that our wild spaces truly are for everyone. And help build confidence in those that have been made to think it’s not. This experience showed me how much others were longing for this experience, too. Point is, it’s special to be seen. To be witnessed. And appreciated. Nikki Smith has helped me understand that in ways that she didn’t know until recently. I’m damn glad she reached out, and I’m damn glad that life has helped me find the strength to be able to say yes to showing up and doing whatever I can to help others in their journey.

We’ll keep climbing. The view only gets better.
Cody putting his hands through his hair, smiling
IMAGE BY SAM ORTIZ
Cody with climbing rope around his shoulders standing by the tent by Atim
IMAGE BY BREE ROBLES
Page generated at: Mon Nov 23 2020 13:50:12 GMT-0000 (GMT)