A mountain guide’s life is never dull.
“While you fired e-mail around the office last week, the guide climbed New Hampshire’s Whitehorse Ledge. Twice,” Outside Magazine has said of the profession.
“While you added your four-wheel-drive Subaru to the evening commute, the guide caught a flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, to meet a sailboat bound for Antarctica. The guide is the hard guy (or more often now, gal) who’ll save your ass when things start going down.”
Some do it better than others, and a rare handful do it so well they earn a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) for “contributions of significant value” that have made “a lasting impact” on the mountain-guiding profession.
Ridgway resident Angela Hawse is one of these people: her AMGA award will be formally announced next week. The award itself was created by Ridgway metal artisan Lisa Issenberg (see more at kiitella.com).
Over the past three decades, guiding has taken Hawse to Denali, Aconcagua, and the world’s highest peaks in Nepal and Pakistan, among other places. Her adventures have not only dovetailed with Outside’s tongue-in-cheek description of the guide who catches a sailboat in Ushuaia, they’ve likely eclipsed it (she’s led numerous human-powered, ski-mountaineering expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula).
Throughout her career, Hawse has tried to combine her adventures “with service work, and giving back to causes I believe in.” She’s done cleanups on Mt. Everest and Aconcagua; an unsupported, all-women’s expedition to 22,349-foot Ama Dablam resulted not only in a successful summit, but raised $23,000 for Ridgway’s dZi Foundation, which works in eastern Nepal and used the proceeds to construct a safe-house for girls. (Altogether, Hawse’s forays have raised more than $33,000 for dZi).
Tonight, Hawse will recount recent trips to both ends of the earth and one of the most desolate spots in-between — Svalbard, Norway, 80 degrees north of the Arctic Circle, the Antarctica Peninsula and Outer Mongolia (where she raised money to support Ridgway’s local apiary) — in an evening of “adventure and advocacy” for all ages at the 4H Event Center in Ridgway. Her slideshow will benefit the George Gardner Fund, which provides scholarships for “outdoor-education for middle-school kids” in Ouray County, “and a senior Outward Bound trip every year,” she said. “It’s a gift for youth that keeps giving, providing foundations for lifelong sports,” and building leadership.
“I met George when I was a student at Prescott College taking an avalanche course from Jerry Roberts,” who also resides in Ridgway, Hawse explained. “We hit it off, I learned he was an ice-climber, and he became my partner up here in Ouray,” where the pair climbed most of the classic lines. Hawse and Gardner also worked together in the Tetons for Exum Mountain Guides.
“George was such a passionate, present soul, which has carried on to the way I try to live,” Hawse said. “When you were with him, he was never anywhere else. This was hugely influential to me, as someone who enjoys living in the moment and not being preoccupied.”
“George was always about helping kids achieve their potential, which is one of the Scholarship’s primary missions,” said George Gardner Fund board member Mike Friedman, a former chief guide at Exum who co-founded Telluride HeliTrax.
“Angela inspires us by setting ambitious goals and thoughtfully achieving them,” Friedman added. “She follows her passions, always true to herself and caring towards others and the planet. That’s what makes her such a complete guide and advocate.”
One of Hawse’s greatest passions is protecting the planet (she’s an Athlete Alliance Member of Protect Our Winters, or POW, founded by filmmaker and snowboarder Jeremy Jones). She has seen the effects of global warming firsthand.
“I’ve witnessed the degradation of glaciers and a lot of glacial recession” in the course of her travels, Hawse said. “In Svalbard, we saw glacial melt on top of snow. We never saw any polar bears, which was unusual for that time of year — they were all farther north. In Antarctica, I’ve experienced much larger icebergs,” a sign of glacial calving. “Our ship got stranded when the channel behind us closed up with icebergs. I’ve seen more rockfall everywhere. Seasons are less predictable now: ski seasons seem to be starting later and ending earlier than they did just a decade ago, which effects all of us who live and work in mountain towns,” and the economic welfare of these communities.
“She’s such a force for good — so willing to wield her stories from the mountains in a way that inspires us all to take action,” professional mountaineer (and Piolet d’Or prizewinner) Graham Zimmerman, who works for POW, remarked of Hawse.
“The word I’d use to describe her is ‘Fierce.’ A lot of speaking up for the climate involves really putting yourself out there, and that’s hard. Unfortunately, talking about the climate is quite political right now.”
Hawse, he summed up, “is f—g great.”
An Evening of Adventures and Advocacy with Angela Hawse begins at 6 p.m. tonight at the 4H Event Center. There will be swag and live auctions. The event benefits the George Gardner Scholarship Fund (visit georgefund.org to learn more).