The group gets ready to climb, coiling rope, adjusting harnesses, etc.
The Women’s Network & Protrack
sisters of the rope
The outdoor industry is growing every year, and with that, the need for more guides—but even more so: guides of all backgrounds who can support the diversifying communities of rock climbing and skiing. The Women’s Network and The ProTrack are two programs designed to usher women into guiding, developed and run by The Mountain Guides, our alpine and rock climbing guide partner.
is a public program for anyone to join that involves weekend meet-ups for climbing, skiing, and avalanche courses in Las Vegas, Moab, Colorado, City of Rocks, and the Tetons.
is a professional development program for women in the industry.
The Mountain Guides set up a proper top anchor
“These programs are actually creating work for these women. It's amazing to think that ladies can come through, and there is a pool of women to pull from to get your outdoor education with.” -Aimee Barnes, AMGA-certified rock guide, wilderness responder & avalanche safety instructor.
I started guiding in 1985, and I can tell you of three other women who I met back then who are still around. Today, there are definitely more women guiding, but it is still just as hard, if not harder, to succeed in this industry than it was then.

Something that's really developed from the ProTrack for me personally is an awareness of where I have come from as a climber and a climbing guide.And I think the thing that I've realized the most is that I came into this industry with all male mentors...

I had some incredible male mentors and some incredible men that I climbed with that were like, "Hey, it's your turn. Take the rope." And I wanted to take the rope—I've always desired to be on the sharp end. But it meant that I started my career guiding men. I mean, I guided for 18 years at Teton Village, and I can tell you, I had not a single female client. All my clients were men. All of them. And I was booked all year—I'd work 500 hours as a backcountry ski guide.
Aimee on belay with a participant from the program
group photo of the participants
Starting these programs and bringing in diverse groups of women, it made me realize that, "Wow, I can actually let some of these guards down, and I don't have to go down that path to accommodate feeling comfortable around men. I can just be more productive and more myself." It's been a real eye-opener on how I structure my day and the way I actually approach women now, and how I approach people of color, or anyone who's coming into a climbing class.

Unfortunately, there’s not a clear path charted for women within our guide structure that we have. The AMGA has an 80-20 split, men to women. So, the network's a little stronger on the male end of it. They know how to show up and speak the language, and people want to pull them up because they can see themselves in them.

Being in this space with all these women made me realize that I did it; I've actually made a career of this. I remember one night at one of these campfire talks we had at a ProTrack, and I was like, "Wow... I'm a Teton guide! I'm proud of that!" I'm proud of punching out 14 Grand Tetons in a summer. Not everyone's doing that. And so, it makes me really proud to be able to offer guidance and offer respect to these women who are coming in and want to be a part of that, too.
It makes me so pleased to be a resource, and more than anything, to let people know that there's a safe network for them and that we can create a safe network for each other. As much as we’re climbing together, it’s really about the conversations that we were having putting our shoes on. It brings you down to be isolated; you're not working at your optimum best if you feel alone, just out trotting along. When you bring people like you together and give them a chance to connect, everyone benefits. We all succeed.
“I feel very proud. I'm seven of eight girls, and we weren’t ever really told that you couldn't do anything. I just wasn't raised that way. So for me, it’s like I have my sisters around me. We're sisters of the rope, however we use that rope.”
Birds eye view of two smiling participants on the ground from the rockface
“Sharing honest conversation and ideas with these women was an opportunity I had never had before and cherished.” -Genevieve Walker, Mountain Hardwear climber & AMGA-certified rock guide.
When I was initially invited to The Mountain Guide’s ProTrack event in City of Rocks, imposter syndrome hit hard... I felt a lack of experience and credentials to share the space with the other ladies who’ve been in the industry for so long, and honestly, the thought of bailing was on my mind until I left Salt Lake City.

Everyone was already out at the crag when I arrived, so I quickly set up my tent and drove straight to meet them. Nerves quickly set in as I turned the corner and caught a glimpse of a group of ladies climbing, something I don’t typically see outside. My eyes rushed to find Nikki Smith, my fellow Mountain Hardwear teammate and the one familiar face I knew, and there she was on the wall. Aimee Barnes and several other organizers of the event met me with big smiles making me feel welcome. I started to loosen up and my nerves started to dissipate.
portrait of Genevieve Walker, Mountain Hardwear climber & AMGA-certified rock guide.
Genevieve climbing
That night, Aimee started a group discussion with introductions. I was super intimidated hearing the other women’s extensive accomplishments. Everyone was so badass with their alpine climbing experience, while navigating the male-dominated professional guide space. At first, I was cautious to engage with my limited experience of only having my SPI for two years without any big alpine objectives. But that would have been missing the point. Yes, we were there to work on skills development, but also to connect and build bonds with other female climbing guides.

It’s not often that ladies in the guiding/outdoor industry world get to share space outside of work, and as a climber and WOC, surrounding myself with people like me is important. In this case, it was with other women in the guiding world, which was a first for me.

The next day, I was still feeling unsure of why I deserved to be there, but as conversations began to flow, I started to realize there was nothing to be intimidated about. Sure, these women were more experienced than me, but we all shared the bigger vision of how we wanted to see the guiding/climbing world grow. We talked about the hustle and grind of guiding; the lack of women, diversity, and representation in the industry; the physical toll and danger we accept as guides; the importance of mental health; and more.
Sharing this space with female AMGA guides and aspiring guides also provided an opportunity to work on new and previous skills and get an idea of what the rock guide path looks like. I loved this opportunity to refresh old skills and learn a couple of new ones along the way, all while under the mentorship of other women, which is what made this event so special. It was a chill, non-judgmental environment where I could ask questions without the pressure to perform, which was incredibly refreshing.
Trying something new or stepping into an unknown space can be scary but also very rewarding on many levels. For me, the ProTrack event encouraged connection, community, and guidance through colleagues and mentors who genuinely care. I arrived with doubt and uncertainty, but left with more confidence, friends, and a deep sense that I belong.
shadow of Genevieve climbing
On The ProTrack
with Miranda
Mountain Hardwear climber Miranda Oakley has been working
as a climbing guide at the Yosemite Mountaineering School
since 2013, establishing herself as one of the best all-around
female trad climbers in the United States.