Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winner: Rebecca Ross


Rebecca Ross is one of our 2019 Guide Like Liz Scholarship winners. She is a determined, kind and strong woman. Those qualities just skim the surface. After completing her master’s degree in public health and epidemiology from Oregon Health and Science University in December 2016, Rebecca realized she needed a break. She needed to get out of the books and off the computer.

“I just didn’t feel healthy. I worked hard in grad school but I was ready to do something else,” Rebecca said.

In 2017, she signed up for the Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) through the Mazamas based in Portland, OR. It was a two-month-long course.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to get out of it when I signed up. Before the course, I was absolutely terrified of heights and told myself this would be a great way to conquer that fear and I should just do it. I was also thinking this could be my nature therapy after all that school work.”

Sitting on the summit of South Sister with views of the Cascades. Rebecca Ross collection.
She got more than just nature therapy. And her fear of heights was diminished or at least she learned to control that fear in a healthy way. She found a new passion. Rebecca was hooked on mountaineering.

She was hooked on the simpler life she found in the outdoors. The people and the community she met along the way were captivating. She discovered mental and physical strengths within herself she didn’t know she had.

“I wanted to know more about it all. I wanted to have more confidence. I gain confidence by practicing and doing, so I sought out other courses to help compliment my new skills. I became AIARE 1 certified, completed an intermediate Alpinism 2 course with AAI, and climbed a number of PNW peaks.”

All smiles for leading her first multi-pitch trad route at Smith Rock. Rebecca Ross collection.
As her alpinism skills and mountaineering confidence increased, Rebecca started focusing on other peaks outside of the Cascades, well...outside of the country. For a year, she worked on writing a grant to fund her climb of North America’s third highest mountain, Pico de Orizaba in Mexico. She received the grant and led a team up the volcano in December 2018.

“Pico de Orizaba was my most memorable climb. It was my first international climb I’ve ever led; we also had an amazing weather window, a wonderful team, a successful summit bid, and an incredible cultural experience.” (For Rebecca’s account on the climb, check out her article Leading the Way Up Pico de Orizaba.)

Now Rebecca is looking to combine her passion for mountaineering and her background in public health. With the Guide Like Liz scholarship, she is going to take our Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part 2 (AMTL 2) course. She is excited about adding to her skill set and having the opportunity to step into a leadership role.

Sunrise during the summit bid on Mt. Hood via Sunshine Route. Rebecca Ross collection.
“I led Pico de Orizaba, which was a great experience, but I find myself either second guessing my abilities or experiencing imposter syndrome--either way it has caused me to shy away from considering myself capable of leading. I look forward to learning to trust my training and to find my ability to take charge.”

Camping on the south side of Mt. Hood prior to the summit push via Sunshine Route. Rebecca Ross collection.
I asked Rebecca if she could give another woman or young aspiring female climber/mountaineer a piece of advice either that you were given or you wish you were given, what would it be?

“It would be to just be patient with yourself. It’s so easy to see extreme athletes doing amazing things and to then beat ourselves up over the fact that we are not to their level or should be doing more or exploring more. Just go at your own pace and if you are not initially good at something just work on it, you’ll get there--enjoy the journey.”

What about a motto or quote you live by?

“Yes, I have two. The first I live by is to just “breathe”. Whether I’m climbing the crux, traversing an exposed area, or traveling over crevasses, I remind myself to just breathe. It’s absolutely insane at how much of a difference it makes and has really gotten me through difficult times when all I wanted to do was freeze up.

My second phrase is to “pay attention to red flags”. I’m not sure who told me this, but ever since I heard it, it has stuck with me. I remember climbing this mountain and I just didn’t feel great about it, there were so many small incidences that kept stacking up. I started to really pay attention to them and decided to stay back. My team continued on, but eventually turned back, nothing happened or at least we didn’t continue far enough to find out. I really live by that saying because it helps me to see things objectively and to remove self-doubt and tunnel vision if I just pay attention to my surroundings.”

We are excited to support your goals and aspirations, Rebecca! Congratulations on being an American Alpine Institute Guide Like Liz Scholarship winner and we look forward to having you on one of the Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part 2 courses!

Rebecca is also a wonderful writer and her article Mountaineering Changed My Perspective on Beauty is definitely worth a read.

Standing on the summit of Glacier Peak. Rebecca Ross collection.
--Sara Umstead, AAI School Certifying Officer

No comments: