AWE organizes mountaineering and remote adventures for women, by women.
Why AWExpeditions is Different: Our Values
Here at AWE we are about more than getting to the top. Sure, summits matter – but what’s even more important is how you get there. When you sign up for an AWE-some adventure, expect to feel welcome and supported. At AWE, you don’t have to prove that you belong – we’re all in this together.
AWE provides an environment that is focused on skill-building, sound decision-making and supportive team dynamics. That’s why our teams are on the smaller side (often in the 3-6 climber range, but never larger than 10) and our itineraries balance the desire to cover ground with sufficient time for exploration and acclimatization, as well as skills practice where needed.
Pre-expedition support includes comprehensive gear lists, training recommendations, and of course a detailed description of each trip’s logistics and on-mountain itinerary.
Climbing and adventuring with AWE goes beyond the experience that many traditional guide organizations provide: instead of merely welcoming you during gear check and then focusing exclusively on guiding you on the trail or mountain, AWE provides an end-to-end experience. We put great care into assembling our all-women teams and building community amongst our participants and guides, because big adventure is about so much more than ‘just’ getting to the summit or finishing a trek. That’s why every AWExpeditions adventure begins and ends with a team dinner, and includes a night in town both before and after your time on the mountain or trail. It’s why our teams are small and handpicked, and why we carefully vet our local outfitter & guide partners.
Success in our book: to have you walk away from any AWE climb having made new friends, memories for a lifetime, and feeling one step closer towards self-sufficiency in the mountains.
What our alumnae say
‘Every part of my experience with AWE was incredible. The guides were encouraging, skillful, and are phenomenal people. Sunny does such a fantastic job bringing women from diverse backgrounds together and creating an inclusive, exciting, and supportive environment that only makes you want to get outside in the mountains and climb some more! I joined AWE for the first time as a participant/hiker on Mt Baker in Washington, and was met with open arms by Sunny, the guides, and the other woman who quickly became friends and fellow team members. I never felt nervous around others with AWE or like I had to prove myself to climb mountains. I only ever felt supported by Sunny, her team, and inspired by all of the incredible things every woman was doing in their lives, both on and off the mountains. I’m new to the world of mountaineering, but AWE has totally changed the trajectory of my future endeavors in the mountains and I am itching to get out and climb with some rad women again, with AWE! I cannot recommend AWE enough!!’
The AWExpeditions Model
As you may have gleaned from reading about our values, we think that mountaineering and big adventures are about much more than the stamina, strength, and technical skills that our expeditions require. Adventuring with AWE is as much about community and team dynamics as it is about technical expertise.That’s why there are two distinct roles on our expedition leadership teams: the Head Guide, and the Expedition Leader.
The Expedition Leader
The Expedition Leader is your main point of contact from the moment you start your expedition to when you arrive back home. She is an experienced mountaineer (or, for our Stepping Stone Experiences – an experienced backpacker) and competent backcountry adventurer who acts as your one stop resource for any logistics questions, gear advice, day-to-day expedition flow, and more. She typically has deep knowledge of the local terrain and conditions, or extensive experience on comparable terrain in another destination. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder and trained in AWE’s emergency procedures. Most importantly – the Expedition Leader is the culture carrier for your team; she will host your welcome dinner and final team celebration, and proactively help navigate not just the local environment but likely also the many second-generation gender biases we tend to encounter in the mountains.
The Head Guide
No matter the location of a climb or adventure, AWE always partners with a carefully vetted, top-notch local guide organization to ensure that our team members (you!) benefit from the local guides’ in-depth knowledge of route conditions and seasonal changes. The Head Guide has extensive experience with the local terrain and conditions; she is a permitted and certified guide, and is in charge of technical instruction & skills sessions. Her home field is on the trails and on the slopes – you may not always see her during the town-based days of your expedition itinerary.
AWExpeditions places great value on working with female Head Guides, and selects local partner organizations with an eye towards women guides and staff. That said, certain destinations (like, say, Peru or Kyrgyzstan) still have either no fully certified local female guides or only a very small pool. In those cases, a male Head Guide may be working in conjunction with a female Expedition Leader.
At times, where allowed by AWE staff schedules and permit regulations, the Expedition Leader and Head Guide may be one and the same person.
Both the Expedition Leader and the Head Guide share the same goal: to make your experience an AWE-inspiring one.
AWE started with a simple climb
It started with a solo, unsupported ascent of 22,838ft Aconcagua’s Normal Route. That type of ascent is not a big deal on Aconcagua since the normal route is heavily frequented and not technically difficult; the mountain sees numerous solo ascents each season. But for some reason… this climb was different.
Why? Because the climber was a woman, and that seemed to upset the normal order of things.
Sunny Stroeer was a management consultant and weekend warrior when she decided to climb Aconcagua solo and without support in the austral summer of 2014 – not to make a statement, but because Aconcagua seemed like the perfect (meaning: most approachable and least hazardous) mountain to attempt as a relatively new but very motivated high altitude mountaineer. She wanted to push her personal mountaineering limits in a comparatively safe environment.
Which is why she was taken aback by the common reaction she encountered on the mountain:
“Where is your guide? Or are you here with your husband? Wait – you’re all by yourself?”
Sunny returned home to the US after a successful climb with a newfound appreciation for both high altitude climbing and the gender gap in mountaineering. Having been deeply involved in efforts to address gender bias and women empowerment both in graduate school and throughout her corporate career, Sunny decided to take a step beyond simply lamenting the gender gap in the mountains and instead actively do something about it; the seed for AWE was planted.
Today, AWE runs all-women’s high mountain trips across four continents, with more destinations in the works.
Read more on NBC News
A Woman on a Mission to Integrate the Boy’s Club of Action Sports
Meet AWE’s Founder – Sunny Stroeer
Sunny started leading multi-day backcountry trips in the mid-2000s as a student at Harvard College. She went on to obtain an MBA from Harvard Business School and pursue a career as a management consultant while simultaneously expanding her climbing and mountaineering skill set. At the end of 2015, Sunny decided to leave behind the business world in order to focus full-time on climbing and running mountains. Today, she is a professional mountain athlete with multiple speed records on Aconcagua, the Annapurna Circuit, and in the Colorado Rockies. Sunny is a Wilderness First Responder, an AIARE Level II avalanche professional, and serves on Kane County Search and Rescue. Besides AWExpeditions, she also co-owns Dreamland Safari Tours. You can find out more about her over at www.sunnystroeer.com.