Climbing Komo Kulshan


Martell Hesketh is not just a passionate skier, aspiring mountaineer, Masters of Public Health, and 2021 Summit Scholarship recipient – she is also an indigenous woman with Mohawk and Cree ancestors. We asked Martell what AWE could do to help her prepare for her scholarship climb of Mount Baker in August, and her answer was clear: make space for indigenous identity. But that’s not all that Martell speaks of: beyond grappling with her identity as an indigenous woman in the mountains that are her ancestral homeland, she also reminds us of the non-gendered, simply human vulnerability that comes with outdoor adventure. Here’s what Martell writes:

‘One challenge I faced while adventuring was when I was solo adventuring around the Olympic peninsula looking for day hikes to explore the area. One hike in particular caught my attention but I was nervous because I knew it wasn’t a popular and every other time I had hiked alone it was on popular trails. Pulling up to the trailhead and didn’t see any other cars and my stress levels immediately shot up. About a half a mile of walking and simmering in all these fears I’ve been fed I actually started crying and turned around. I was so mad at myself for turning around and equally as frustrated at all the societal narratives that I know had taught me to feel afraid being “alone” as a woman. Adventuring on this land has always taught me lessons. When I reflect on this experience it reminds me to be a little more gentle with myself and others. Even though I know why I felt scared and could easily argue why I had little to no reason to feel that way I had to honor how I was feeling- I’m not a hiking robot; I’m a full human shaped by all my life experiences. I appreciate how adventuring not only challenges me but also heals me and help me combat these narratives many women have been told over and over to show we are capable of adventuring though this land just as men do.’

“I’m not a hiking robot; I’m a full human shaped by all my life experiences.”

‘There is barely space to be a woman in most mountaineering circles never mind an Indigenous woman. A lot of these outdoor spaces have been outright hostile for Indigenous people- whether that is through the erasure of the Indigenous names, knowledge, and stories of place or straight up racists climbing route names. The history of the land I recreate on is painful for me to reckon with. Many people don’t know about the racist beliefs espoused by John Muir or the murder and displacement of Indigenous people to establish many of our cherished National Parks in the United States. It makes me sad that people don’t know the truth or the stories behind the land that provides them with so much adventure and joy. It’s painful for me to hear myths or attitudes that continue to erase the first people of this land even when they have an Indigenous person standing right next to them but they don’t even know it.’

Martell: we thank you for bringing your whole self to the mountain; we can’t wait to create new memories on this – your – land with you.

Martell is one of three recipients of the 2021 AWE Summit Scholarship, made possible by Nite Ize, LOWA Boots, and The Cairn Project.

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