Color the Cascades was born out of a desire to help women of color and non-binary people of color get started and/or grow in mountaineering. There are a number of barriers that have kept and continue to keep members of these historically marginalized communities from getting a foot in the door or gaining traction. Although this scholarship isn’t necessarily tackling the systemic issues that create these barriers, my hope is that it can assist with accessibility to gear and education, as well as foster community and gradually increase representation. As a Filipina-Mexican woman of color, it probably goes without saying that this project and its objectives are very near and dear to my heart.
Last year, unsure of where to begin, I decided to keep things simple and fund the scholarship myself. I bought the gear, created the application, and announced it on my personal Instagram page within a two or three day span. It was all mostly done on a spontaneous whim with very little consideration given to its sustainability in subsequent years. Nonetheless, over 20 people applied and reading through each application not only validated my own struggles and experiences as a woman of color in the mountaineering community, but it also made me feel less alone and see greater potential for building community.
HOW IT STARTED IN 2020
The 2020 Scholarship was awarded to five recipients and included; grivel crampons and a black diamond axe to the top two recipients, a black diamond axe for the runner up, and 3-day mountaineering gear rental certificates from Mountain Shop for two additional recipients.
Seeing the positive impact of the inaugural scholarship, I knew I wanted to make it possible again. This time, rather than putting it together haphazardly in a couple of days, I spent months in advance coordinating with Mountain Shop, Arc’teryx Portland, and SCARPA North America to figure out how they could support the gear kits that were the staple of the scholarship. Thanks to their above and beyond support, this year’s gear kits were far more substantial. (Full disclosure: I am a community ambassador for both Mountain Shop and Arc’teryx Portland, as well as a mentee for SCARPA’s inaugural Athlete Mentorship Initiative. I’m aware that my relationship with each of these businesses is an immense privilege and played a pivotal role in the level of support I received for the scholarship.)
HOW IT GREW IN 2021
In addition, thanks to the generous donation of a friend, I was able to include a guided climb of Mount Baker to the scholarship this year. Halfway through the application period, Melissa Arnot (of Pacific Alpine Guides) agreed to include a SECOND spot for the same guided climb! Between both parts of the scholarship, I received nearly 60 applications, more than doubling the 2020 application pool. It was paradoxically a joy to see how wide reaching the scholarship was this year while also being extremely stressful and downright sad about awarding just a handful of applicants.
WHAT WERE THE 2021 SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS
PART ONE - GEAR KITSTop Recipient: Scarpa Mountaineering Boots, Grivel Crampons and Grivel Ice Axe from Mountain Shop, Arc'teryx Climbing Pack, Two Arc'teryx Jackets (insulating mid-layer and hardshell)
Runner-Up Recipient: Same as the top recipient (minus the Scarpa mountaineering boots)
Two Additional Recipients: 3-Day Mountaineering Gear Rental Certificate courtesy of Mountain Shop
PART TWO - GUIDED CLIMBTwo Recipients: Received scholarships to participate on a guided climb of Mount Baker with Melissa Arnot and Pacific Alpine Guides in 2022
A lot has gone into establishing, growing, and successfully executing this scholarship program. Countless hours spent creating and editing the applications, coordinating and meeting with each of the businesses involved, putting together a scholarship review board and developing standardized scoring criteria, designing social media content for promotion, hundreds of emails with all of the involved parties, reading all of the applications multiple times, contacting and following up with every single applicant, etc.
I won’t pretend that it’s been easy or that I hadn’t considered throwing in the towel more than once when things became overwhelming, but the amount of gratitude and joy that comes from being able to do all of this outweighs the cons. This project has brought so many incredible people into my life: friends, climbing partners, mentees, and supporters. It has also allowed these same folks to connect with each other! The scholarship itself only lasts two weeks out of the entire year, but the relationships formed and connections facilitated as a result continue to be the most significant and rewarding aspects of the entire project.
Although I haven’t formalized a specific plan to ensure its longevity, these past two runs have laid the groundwork and given me a solid foundation to continue building upon. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together (and who it brings together) in 2022.