Alpinist, educator, business owner, award-winning mountain guide, and all-around badass Angela Hawse has every right to rest on her rather luminous laurels. After all, she’s spent the last 35 years introducing others to the wonders of rock, ice, and snow while guiding across five continents, including expeditions to over half of the Seven Summits. She’s also the co-owner of Chicks Climbing & Skiing, an acclaimed mountain sports program that’s been cultivating female adventure stoke for nearly two decades. And she was only the sixth woman ever to earn certification from the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association—the wildly difficult to achieve crème de la crème of guiding accolades.
But of course, resting on anything is not exactly natural to her industrious wheelhouse. In fact, Hawse just carved yet another deep notch in a belt (or should we say harness) studded with them, having been named the next president of the board of directors for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), only the second woman ever selected for that role.
The announcement comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Hawse’s background with the organization. She’s been a member for a quarter century, with extensive experience on the board (in fact, she’ll leave her current post as vice president to assume this new role) and in various other leadership capacities. She was named AMGA Guide of the Year in 2011, and now serves as an AMGA Instructor Team Lead—the first woman to do so, natch—teaching and serving as an examiner in every discipline the organization covers.
We caught up with Hawse right before she hopped on a boat to sail across the Drake Passage and serve as lead guide on a two-week ski mountaineering trip on the Antarctic Peninsula, and she shared a few thoughts on what she hopes to accomplish in her new role.
AJ: In the press release that announced your appointment, AMGA Executive Director Alex Kosseff said that you’re “stepping in at a critical time for our industry.” What does this statement mean to you—how would you characterize the current state of the guiding industry?
Hawse: I believe we will soon see changes in land management that will offer increased opportunities for guides and instructors, and in the near future the public will understand the value of hiring AMGA trained and certified professionals. I also believe it’s a very exciting time for women, people of color, and ethnic diversity to get involved in our profession. We are actively supporting all of these efforts as are many of our industry partners. Old conversations about discrimination and equality will fade out in the near future and newer generations won’t need to address these conversations as they’ll be non-issues. These are exciting times with transitions rapidly approaching. I hope to inspire our less represented populations and to help get them involved in the guiding and instructing profession.
What can the industry do to encourage, develop, and train a new, more diverse and inclusive influx of mountain guides? Is this something you plan to address in your new role with AMGA?
The outdoor industry has provided excellent leadership in moving DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] forward and in a positive light. Camber Outdoors has recruited over 75 major brands, including the AMGA, to take their CEO Pledge to create equitable workplaces and inclusive leadership. The North Face has stepped up as a major supporter to help AMGA’s efforts with advocacy and inclusivity. This industry support that we are seeing on so many levels has a ripple effect that goes well beyond organizations and the people in them. For us at the AMGA, this will trickle all the way down to our clients and help us as guides build stronger, more respectful relationships with less bias and more understanding of the value of our differences. Increasing public awareness of these efforts will help us move forward, and I plan on working with the AMGA and our partners to continue doing so. Increasing scholarship opportunities for less represented populations in our profession and putting more diversity on the faces on guides in media will help support these efforts, as well.
How will your new role as president of the board of directors differ from the previous roles you’ve served with AMGA?
In my new role as president of the AMGA board, I expect to wear whatever hat is needed to support the executive director, staff, and board in carrying our mission and strategy forward. I expect to continue using both leadership and teamwork as I have in other roles, but look forward to working more closely with our executive director, Alex Kosseff, to continue moving AMGA in a positive direction. Much of my role will be supporting and providing input to Alex, with help from the executive committee and the board. In this role, I’ll be at the ready to lead any hard pitch, give an attentive belay, pack the bags, or take on whatever foul weather hits us along the way. Whatever it takes, I’ll step up to the plate to support the AMGA and our community.
What topics, policies, or changes are you most excited to address in this new role?
I’m excited to support our work on advocacy and our educational goals to provide both members and our instructor team with better resources. As an organization, we are looking closely at inclusivity issues and developing solid policies to address harassment and professional compliance, which I plan to put in considerable effort moving forward. Education will be a central theme in my work in this role—[developing] strategies to educate the public on the value of hiring AMGA trained and certified guides, supporting our internationally recognized training and certification programs, increasing support for our guides working abroad, and creating more unity amongst our diverse instructor and guide community across the U.S.
For many people, guiding itself is a major goal—and perhaps their only one. Why have you chosen to go beyond guiding to seek out leadership opportunities within the industry?
The only way to effect positive change is to get involved. I realized this when I first ran for the AMGA board of directors in 2003. There are always things that can be improved. There are complainers and doers. I decided I wanted to be a doer, stop complaining, and put my love of my career and what I care about into the greater good of making a difference. The AMGA leadership is passionate about helping our organization realize its potential to train exceptional guides that provide outstanding experiences for the public. We already do that, but very few people know about our work. I hope to take that awareness to the next level in working with the incredibly talented and devoted individuals that make up the board, staff, instructors, members, and partners of our organization. I love challenges and see this as the next logical step in my career. I could not be more excited for the opportunity.
Photos: Angela Hawse/Marmot