GO! Girls Outdoors

A resource for women in Outdoor Education and Recreation

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Gear

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

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

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/Tramping

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/Canoeing

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

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

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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Organisations

Organisations
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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Priscilla McKenney

Patagonia 2003.jpgPriscilla McKenney has been both working and playing in the great outdoors for over 30 years, ever since the age of 16 when her family was fogged in on a sailing trip.   Priscilla went ashore, came across an Outward Bound Priscilla 8 years.jpginstructor, had a chat and immediately realised what she wanted to do with her life - work in the outdoors.  She has been involved in the industry ever since!  Much of Priscilla’s work and study has been to do with outdoor programming for girls and women, and she is now a Program Director for GirlVentures, an all girls non-profit organisation based in San Francisco (you should also read the GirlVentures profile on GO! Girls Outdoors).


Ski race 1975.jpg
Back in the days when Priscilla left school, there wasn’t really a path that you could take to get established in the outdoor industry.  Priscilla took things into her own hands, and as soon as she finished high N face Athabaska.jpgschool she moved to Colorado and Utah, completing a 6 month program in Boulder called Outdoor Leadership Training Seminars.  She was teaching skiing already, so she took up backcountry skiing and took avalanche forecasting courses, which led into winter mountaineering.  After completing her courses, Priscilla wanted to climb in Alaska, go to the USA’s northwest and work for Outward Bound - so off she went!

Mt Rainier 110 year anniversary of women climbers 2000.JPGWhile Priscilla was working for Outward Bound, one of her friends introduced her to a program called Woodswomen, an outdoor organisation that runs trips for women.  She committed herself to setting up a series of programs for women in Seattle (the US northwest), including introductory mountaineering courses and rock climbing weekends.  Priscilla also developed their back country ski program and learnt a lot in the process, particularly about programming Kathy and Priscilla at Joshua Tree.JPGfor women and the different philosophical approach it requires.   It is very important, Priscilla says, that women have choice in their outdoor programs.  Participants need to be able to make choices based on their own feelings of readiness, rather than being pressured by others or by being thrown into challenging situations.  Women also like a focus on intentional community building - that is, community building based on relationships and interest as opposed to crisis community building where people have to bond because they’re thrown into a situation where it is necessary.tn_Kathy Phibbs on Mt Rainier.JPG

At about the time she was working for Woodswomen Priscilla also started guiding in the Himalayas.  She did this along with other guiding work in the US for many years, working as a contractor.  The death of a close friend in a climbing accident in the North Cascades (northwest USA) had a huge effect on Priscilla and she really reconnected with women’s outdoor programming, deciding that she wanted to offer women’s expedition trips to the Himalayas climbing some of the more accessible 21000 foot (6400m) peaks. 

 Island Peak Nepal 96.JPG

In 1992 Priscilla and her friend Rachel Da Silva (editor of a great book about women climbers, go to the Climbing Resources for more information) started up Lois Lane Expeditions, running women’s mountaineering expeditions to the Himalayas.  The idea was that Lois had got over Superman and created a life for herself that was based on adventure and exploration.  She transformed into a spunky, brave and curious woman with a great sense of humour, she was always taking notes and she was always the first one to try new things!

Kala Pattar 1989.jpgPriscilla ran Lois Lane Expeditions while doing graduate work.  Her graduate work introduced her to girls’ outdoor adventure programming, specifically an Outward Bound program called Connecting with Courage on the east coast of the US.  Priscilla launched a program evaluation for the course which was the subject of her graduate work, and while she was doing so she met one of the founders of GirlVentures.

Priscilla visited San Francisco on the way back from guiding in Mexico and decided she liked the weather and the bay area and the city.  More than a little fed up with thAlaska Range 85.JPGe weather up in the northwest, Priscilla applied for a Program Director job at GirlVentures (along with a couple of other jobs) and got it - along with an offer of a place to live, a boat in the nearby seaside town of Sausalito!  This made it very difficult for Priscilla to say no so she moved to San Francisco in 2002 and has been initiating and developing programs for GirlVentures ever since.

Ang tashi (sherpa) with Ama Dablam.jpgPriscilla is not a person who can stick with doing just one thing, and she continues to supervise graduate students, conduct research and write articles on girls' outdoor programming.  Recently she has co-authored a chapter called “Girls’ Outdoor Adventure Programs: History, Theory and Practice”, which has just been published in the 4th edition of The Theory and Practice of Experiential Education.  She has also just written a paper that  summarises what girls think of girls-only outdoor programs, which is about to be published in the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning.

Priscilla says that it has been a great accomplishment publishing and giving girls a voice, for as much as women are invisible in the outdoor field, so are girls and the importance of girls' programming.  Girls' outdoor programs have been around for up to 15 years but there’s been nothing published about the history, theory or best practices until now and Priscilla is thrilled that this has now changed.

 GirlVentures Mt Shinn.jpg

Apparently girls name three things that they value in an all girls program.  One is focus, being able to focus on skill building with other girls around because it helps them to be more open to the experience.  The second is the relationships they develop with other girls and the instructors, which would probably shift in a co-ed environment.  The third is support - girls have said that they like the sense of support between one another, other girls and the instructors.  The girls say that they are more able and more willing to try new things and take risks in a single gender environment.  It’s great to hear this coming from the girls themselves - up until now people have just assumed that what goes for women, also goes for girls.

Sailing in San Francisco.jpgToday Priscilla spends her free time hiking, biking, paddling and travelling.  She loves expeditions and travelling off the beaten track, and enjoys going to places like Patagonia and making her way through the high passes on her own.  She is living proof that you can achieve incredible things and live your passion by setting your mind to it, looking out for opportunities and never giving up!

If you liked this profile, why not join the GO! Girls Outdoors forum and have a discussion?

Have you visited the Outdoor Industry Resources page?  Click on the page name to do so.

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