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A resource for women in Outdoor Education and Recreation

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Gear Resources
Gear manufacturers have realised that lots of women like the outdoors and they're different shapes from men. Here's what's out there, and where you can buy it.

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Travel Resources
A selection of travel resources especially for women who love to travel. Includes a list of online communities if you do it yourself, or companies if you need a little help.

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Surfing Resources
Listed here are some links to resources from all over the world that cater to women who love surfing.

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Hiking Resources
Extended walks are great for the mind and spirit and lots of women love to take part in them. Check out these resources and get inspired to go on a walking adventure.

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Snow Sports

Snow Sports Resources
Skiing, snowboarding, backcountry, polar expeditions - all done in the snow and all done by lots of amazing women.  Check out these resources to find out more...

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Kayaking Resources
White water, surfing, sea kayaking, sprint racing, marathon racing, multisport, fishing...is there anything you can't do from a kayak? Explore these resources!

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Cycling Resources
A list of resources for all sorts of cycling - mountain biking, road biking, touring, racing, recreation and commuting - all specific to women.

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Climbing Resources
Women can (and have) achieved incredible things in climbing. Listed in this section are a collection of climbing and moutaineering resources that are useful and inspiring for all climbers.

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A list of organisations that cater exclusively to women, or run trips exclusively for women. A great way to find a women-specific adventure in your area.

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Outdoor Industry

Outdoor Industry Resources
Looking for resources to help you plan programs, companies and organisations that cater for women or organisations you can join? Look no further...

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Passages Northwest

Passages Northwest climbing trip
What is courage and why is it important for girls? 

Passages Northwest, a non-profit organisation that runs outdoor courses for girls in Seattle, see courage and leadership as vitally important in the development of a supportive community of girls and women in our society.  They are dedicated to educating and motivating girls to develop courage, leadership and respect for one another through their wide range of outdoor programs.  Erica Nixon-Mack, a Program Director for Passages Northwest and herself an experienced and passionate outdoor educator, talked to me about the organisation and what they hope to achieve with the girls they take on programs.

Passages Northwest has been running since 1997 and is a successful and growing non-profit organisation.  They run three tPassages NW Climbingypes of programs - Girls Wilderness Adventures, After School Programs and Partnership Programs.  Girls Wilderness Adventures are typically in summer and can be anywhere between 4 and 12 days of backpacking, rock climbing or sea kayaking.  During the school year girls can choose to take part in 10 week, after school rock climbing courses called Girls Rock and Girls Rock On.  The Girls Rock program was so successful that almost 100% of participants wanted to come back for more, so Passages Northwest developed the Girls Rock On program as a follow up.  Partnership Programs are specialised courses developed more or less on demand and range from consultancies involving workshops and training to specialised wilderness training programs.  These have included a course for queer girls and their allies, a mother-daughter program and corporate training.

Passages Northwest also have a Girls Advisory Board consisting of alumni of the programs who have expressed an interest or been recruited by the staff.  The Girls Advisory Board is a parallel to the Board of Directors and are asked advice about topics such as new programs, the new website or the scholarship packages.  They also do some promotion for Passages Northwest such as doing talks, and every year they run a fundraising climbathon for the organisation. 

Passages NW GroupLike their sister organisation, GirlVentures in San Francisco, Passages Northwest gives out scholarships to two-thirds of their program participants.  Each course consists of one-third full paying girls, one-third partial scholarship girls and one-third full scholarship girls.  The girls arrive at Passages Northwest programs from a wide range of backgrounds, and this provides a fantastic environment for teaching about diversity and the importance of community.  A number of the girls come to the wilderness programs from trauma and Passages Northwest do a screening process to make sure the girls have the coping strategies for being in a physically and mentally challenging environment.  Erica says that she is regularly amazed by the strength and resilience of the girls who come to Passages Northwest.  She says that you can look at the paperwork that details the backgrounds of the girls, then look at the girls themselves and never be able to tell the times they’ve been through from the way the interact, behave and respond to challenges.

Passages NW ArtThanks to the scholarship program and the diversity of girls who come on the programs, Passages Northwest gives a chance to people who are traditionally under-represented in outdoor pursuits to feel comfortable in the outdoor environment.  The challenges of the outdoor setting, whether it’s rock climbing or the lack of showers, and learning that it’s possible to look after yourself in that challenging setting provides valuable life experience for the girls on the programs.  Erica says that rock climbing is a fantastic activity for girls because there’s a great balance of strength, flexibility and grace as well as trust.  Different people have different struggles, whether it’s simply getting off the ground or climbing the hardest climb on the cliff, and Erica says there’s a lot of value in being confronted by whatever your challenge is and working through it, because then you can take those skills and apply them to other areas of life.

Passages NW Climbing tripThe courses at Passages Northwest, whether they are wilderness expeditions or the Girls Rock programs, all consist of a matrix of three different kinds of courage.  Physical courage is built by doing the elements of the course, such as camping for the first time, backpacking through the mountains or climbing a specific climb at the cliffs.  Creative or expressive courage is developed through a project such as creating an artwork, writing a poem, performing a play or keeping a journal.  Inquisitive courage is being curious, exploring the world, asking questions and developing a community.  So, for example, during a Girls Rock program they might work on a piece of art throughout the ten climbing sessions, or they might identify a need in the community and help out where they can - one group collected over 1000 pairs of socks and gave them to the local homeless youth.  The programs also encourage healthy risk taking and teach the girls how to say no, as well as encouraging the development of communication, leadership and group work skills.  In this way the girls leave the programs with experience functioning as an individual and also as part of a group.

So why all girls, what do girls need in the outdoors and how is this achieved?  Erica is part of the collaborative research project that also involves Priscilla McKenney from GirlVentures, who I visited in San Francisco.  The project is currently submitted for publication and asks the girls themselves why outdoor programming for girls is so important.  Erica, who has experience and knowledge of the structure of both Outward Bound and NOLS, says that working as Passages Northwest is fascinating and different.   She says that she has seen the NOLS “male” model (based on technical skill) and the Outward Bound “female” model (sitting in a group and talking) both work well, but that Passages Northwest programs work so well because they take aspects from both.  She says that the girls do a lot of group building and there is a high value placed on relationships, which is an identified need of girls (and women). 

Erica says that the programs at Passages Northwest work well because they are carefully programmed to meet the needs of girls and because they have a fantastic diversity of girls coming to their programs.  However, the best evidence of this comes from the girls themselves - so watch this fantastic promotional film, created by girls on a Passages Northwest program in 2007 (the link will take you to YouTube).

For more information about Passages Northwest, visit their website.  There is also another promotional film here.

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