LOCAL CLIMBER SELECTED FOR ALPINE LEADERSHIP COURSE
Estelle Blanchette-Stewart has received a lot from climbing, and now she has an opportunity to give something back.
The 35-year-old was recently selected for The North Face Summer Leadership Program. Run through the Alpine Club of Canada, the program helps nurture emerging ACC club leaders to improve their skills for leading groups at the local section level.
Blanchette-Stewart, who has been climbing with the Jasper-Hinton section of the ACC for several years, said she’s excited to develop her skills so she can share her passion for the mountains with others.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’m passionate about Jasper and the mountains. It’s rewarding to take people out and expose them to things they may not have the skills or confidence to do on their own.”
Not so long ago, Blanchette-Stewart was the one being exposed to new adventures. An avid hiker and scrambler, she was keen on getting to the next level in the mountains, but it wasn’t always easy to find reliable partners. A friend suggested she join the local Alpine Club.
“I didn’t know it existed,” she said.
Not long after she joined she was achieving new heights—literally. She remembers the thrill of her first multi-pitch climb on Roche a Perdrix, her first 11,000-foot peak on the summit of Mt. Willingdon and her first Grade 4 ice climb on the Weeping Wall.
“The Alpine Club has given me a lot,” she said.
And now she wants to give something back. She and nine other climbers from across the country will fly into the Northern Selkirk Mountains this July to take part in a seven-day course focusing on mountain skills and leadership development. The course is designed to build longevity into the Alpine Club by giving those who are already active at their local section level the skills and confidence to lead section trips.
“I’ve participated in lots of trips,” she said. “This is an opportunity to increase my skill set so I can increase my leading skills.”
Although she was able to get an introduction to climbing via the Jasper-Hinton section of the ACC, Blanchette-Stewart said her confidence in the mountains took a major step forward after she signed up for ice, rock and glacier travel courses through a private company. She plugged Rockaboo Mountain Adventures for helping her advance her skills exponentially thanks to the ability to work with a certified mountain guide.
Still, it was the ACC which provided her an initial introduction to people with whom she could plan trips in the mountains. For a nominal membership fee, she said, there are amazing opportunities to learn and have fun.
“Not every trip is a big ski tour or climb,” she said. “There are some great scrambles, bike rides and cross-country ski trips.”
Blanchette-Stewart said besides the incredible scenery she expects to see in the Selkirks and the inspiring people she’s confident she’ll meet, she’s most looking forward to working on her mountain skills. Route-finding, in particular, she said, is something she wants to gain more experience in.
As a female climber, Blanchette-Stewart said she recognizes that there are less girls than guys taking part in these types of activities. However, it’s not something that she’s actively thinking about or necessarily concerned about.
“Some of the best climbers and best leaders I know are female,” she said.
When asked what she’d say to people who look at her experience and are curious how they can get on their own path to mountaineering, Blanchette-Stewart didn’t pull any punches.
“Join the club,” she said. “It’s a small investment with big rewards.”
For information on how to join your local ACC section, check out the Alpine Club of Canada's website.