Guides Day Off at Longs Peak: Women’s Mentoring in the Outdoors

womens mentoring in the outdoors
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Women’s Mentoring in the Outdoors

At the Colorado Mountain School, we not only share our love of the mountains with our guests. We help to facilitate women’s mentoring in the outdoors to create a stronger team of guides. In addition, this gives our newer female guides a chance to develop skills and gain more experience in the mountains.

So we wanted to give you a peek behind the scenes of a ‘guides day off’ adventure where mentorship happens naturally between guides Mia Tucholke and Sarah Janin. Thanks to our friends at Yellow Tent Nomads for capturing the day!

Classic Mountaineering Routes in Colorado: Longs Peak

Longs Peak is one of the toughest 14ers in Colorado and the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition, it is only 9.6 miles southwest of Estes Park, so it draws crowds year-round.

Our guides hike, climb, and ski Longs Peak throughout the year. And, when they have a day off, you may find them right back out here. Testing new gear, trying new routes, or just enjoying a day in the mountains.

That was indeed the case earlier this season as Mia Tucholke and Sarah Janin headed up Longs Peak together to ski Lambs Slide on the East Face.

Starting at trailhead at 9,405 feet, Mia and Sarah set out with Plan A being to ski Lambs Slide, the steep couloir that runs along the base of the lower East Face. Adjacent to “the Diamond”, this intimidating route rises over 1,000 vertical feet from the Mills Glacier to access the upper ramparts of Longs Peak.

womens mentoring in the outdoors
Mia Tucholke, AMGA Rock and Ski Guide.

Women’s Mentoring in the Outdoors Happens Naturally

Along the way up Longs Peak, Mia and Sarah are evaluating the snow conditions, practicing techniques, and making good decisions in the high alpine environment.

Stepping back a bit, Sarah met Mia at a snow orientation course in 1998. A friendship developed, which turned into mentorship and continues to grow each day they venture out together.

Mia, originally from Sweden, has been skiing since age 4. When she was 20 she moved to the U.S. to be a ski bum! She began teaching skiing and knew then that she wanted to become a backcountry ski guide.

Mia naturally takes on the mentorship role for women at the Colorado Mountain School. She has benefited from several mentors throughout her career and finds it fun to learn from other women that know more. Mia also feels fulfilled sharing her knowledge with others. And, she loves to help push women further.

womens mentoring in the outdoors
Sarah Janin, AIARE avalanche instructor, AMGA Assistant Rock Guide, and AMGA certified Single Pitch Rock Climbing instructor.

Sarah’s journey started when she left Orcas Island in Washington. She visited her dad in Colorado, who introduced her to skiing and snowboarding at age 18.

Sarah then moved to Vail, where she lived for 18 years, and began ski guiding. This led her to become an avalanche instructor teaching AIARE courses. In addition, Sarah developed her rock and ice climbing skills here, which became her passion. She guides full-time now.

During this time, Sarah also became an EMT, working part-time on an ambulance. She has since become a Wilderness First Responder Instructor for SOLO Schools. 

womens mentoring in the outdoors
Sarah and Mia at dawn on Longs Peak.

“It’s still challenging for women to get into the outdoor field,” Mia says, “Mentoring women is really fulfilling because you can share your journey in a different light. This is not just coming out here and going skiing and climbing. It’s all the other emotional aspects. There’s just an understanding that’s different and it comes from deep within.”

Sarah is continuing to grow as a mountain guide. She feels it has given her life more purpose and is thankful for Mia’s help in chasing her dreams. “Mia’s encouragement has really helped me in pursuing to become the first certified female splitboard guide in Colorado,” said Sarah. “So that’s a huge goal of mine right now.”

Mia, on the other hand, never imagined she would pursue a career as a guide to go through the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA)’s rigorous coursework.  After 9 years of effort, this summer, she plans on taking her final AMGA Alpine Guide Exam.  If she passes, she gets “the pin.” This means that she will become the 15th woman in the United States to become an internationally certified Mountain Guide.

Stay tuned for more adventures with Mia and Sarah, along with the rest of our guide team, as we help them to pursue their wildest dreams.

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