Q & A: Stephanie Schmitt, Scholarship Recipient

Stephanie Schmitt is a part time Jackson local and ski Instructor at JHMR for the past 5 years. Stephanie received a JHBF scholarship to help support her goal of taking part in an all female expedition to the Pika Glacier up in the Alaska Range the spring of 2019.

How did you hear about the JHBF Scholarship Program?

I had been familiar with the Babe Force because I had taught some of the all women’s camps at JHMR and had the opportunity to coach other women who had received scholarships through the JHBF. I was so impressed that there was a scholarship program of this kind!

How did the Expedition come about?

A friend pitched the idea to me and 3 other women. We all knew each other from our summers working for Outward Bound up in Mazama, WA

Had the 4 of you done other expeditions in the past?

Not all together. Christina and I had done quite a few days in the backcountry, but nothing like what we were planning to do in Alaska. We mostly had done day long ski tours in and around the Cascades. We did a tour of Mt. Baker as well which was an overnight trip.

Where did the expedition begin? 

Our team met in Anchorage, AK. We had 2 prep days there and then drove to Talkeetna, AK to catch the ski plane which flew us to the base of the Pika Glacier. 

How long was the trip?

We were on the glacier for 9 days and had a single base camp right near the Landing Zone. From there, we had a loose idea of the terrain we wanted to explore.  

The expedition was less objective based and more exploratory. It was really fun because  we really got to ski and experience some incredible terrain each and every day.

What was your biggest challenge in camp?

Well, we had to melt all of our drinking water each night which took a lot of fuel and time. 

What was the largest animal nuisance?

Surprisingly, ravens. We had to make sure our kitchen and food storage was bomber each day prior to leaving.

What was the most joyful moment of the trip?

Skiing wise, there was one steep gorgeous line that we had been eyeing for a week and we needed stable conditions ski it. We got our conditions and went for it. 

We shared a lot of random uncontrollable moments of laughter within the group. I would say the camaraderie and stoke level was very high.

What was the most difficult aspect of the trip? 

I think because the expedition wasn’t objective based, we struggled with decision making. Decision making was challenging for our group because we all have similar personalities. None of us are the type to want to make decisions for the rest of the group, and there were a lot of decisions to be made! It was great that it was a super collaborative process but at times it felt very dilly dally-y.

What did you learn about yourself on the expedition?

I feel like the biggest change I experienced was the amount of confidence I gained and the belief in my own competence, and realizing I was competent to teach things to others. Previously I would not have put myself in that role or identified myself as an expert in the backcountry.

Did this experience motivate you for other epic adventures?

YES! One is already in the works! We want to explore more of the alaska range, but we are tentatively planning a spring Tetons trip, based on Moran and skiing the skillet and other lines in the area. 

What do you thing the strengths are of an all female expedition?

There are so many!! No egos, none of us we were trying to impress anyone or trying to  or prove anything. It was a highly collaborative experience too… We also had many super goofy and fun moments on the trip. We all had very different skill levels going up and skiing down and everyone was really supportive of one another.