outdoor ladies to follow

Outdoor Ladies To Follow This African American History Month

Historically in the United States, African-Americans have been excluded from outdoor recreation by law and through Jim Crow segregation. It wasn’t until 1945 when Interior Secretary Harold Ickes issued a mandate desegregating National Parks – which took years to fully be acknowledged. Even then, the roads it took to get to National Parks often meant facing racism and sun down towns. These barriers to being in nature contributes to the lack of melanin you see in outdoor spaces today. Yet, we continue on. This article highlights five freedom fighters on a mission to expand the outdoor community through opportunity, guidance, and support. 

In my opinion, community provides a sense of comfort and safety that allows for connecting over shared experiences and other topics alike. A bond unlike any other. As a result, humans are all connected because no matter where you are, we’re all going through a HUMAN experience. 

That being said, soul-cial (spelled this way because when we talk we’re supposed to talk from the heart) justice is embedded in every community because community produces socializing. In terms of justice, everything needs balance. Freedom fighters ensure the masses are being treated fairly and properly. If not, their justice meter sets off and a fire goes ablaze in their hearts to right the justice scale. The unfortunate reality is that the population of people enjoying the outdoors is not reflective of our country as a whole.

Say hello to several modern day freedom fighters paving a way for a more diverse outdoors.

Jump to:
Genevive Walker – AMGA Climbing Guide
Coach Robin Renee – Pilates Instructor, WFR, Hiking Guide
Annette Diggs – Founder of EDGE Outdoors, Certified Ski Instructor, Paraglider, Scientist
Carolyn Stempler – Executive Director of Women of Winter, Certified Ski Instructor
Mackenzie Phillips – Certified Snowboard Instructor, Animal Flow Fitness Trainer, Lawyer

Genevive Walker – AMGA Climbing Guide

Genevive Walker is what happens when passion meets opportunity. As an AMGA rock climbing guide, Genevive has had the opportunity to guide not only in the states but internationally in Africa too. The rock climbing community has saved her life in more ways than one and is what keeps her coming back and wanting to give back. 

What is the Global Climbing Initiative?

The Global Climbing Initiative tries to equip local communities outside of the states with gear, education, help building the infrastructure, or whatever they need to be more independent themselves within the climbing community. What we’re seeing is climbing isn’t just starting to grow in the states, it’s starting to grow internationally and what the Global Climbing Initiative wants to do is help the local community get control of their infrastructure before Europeans or Americans come in and start building businesses and capitalizing from it.

So I went to Malawi, Africa for three weeks. The local community called Climb Malawi reached out to the Global Climbing Initiative and asked them to send some folks out to help them learn how to bolt and give them proper climbing training. I helped develop a three week program that taught them all of that.

What was it like guiding in Kenya?

I got to guide along some Kenyan guides so it was really cool to see how guides in Kenya work. And for them it was also really important for them to see a woman in that role. They welcomed me with open arms. Definitely a different dynamic than in the states. Just culturally it’s different, especially being a woman.

We hiked for two days [on Mt. Kenya] up to 14,000 ft and then we did the climb at 16,000 ft. The best part about it was even though I was in Kenya we encountered a mini blizzard. I hadn’t seen snow all year and the first place was in Kenya.

How do you push past the uncomfortable?

“You’re not really going to grow unless you fail,” is what I keep trying to remind myself. If I try to be a little bit more vulnerable and try to step outside of my box. If I don’t at least try these other things I’m just gonna be in the same spot my entire life and I do want to grow. I try to look at failure in a positive way. Like, ya know, at least I tried. I failed. But at least I gave it a solid effort. I’d rather fail trying than fail by not even trying.

Life Motto: “Keep your expectations low”
Book Recommendations: The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training for Climbers by Arno Ilgner
Organizations Shoutout: Brown Girls Climb, Flash Foxy, The Global Climbing Initiative
Instagram: @walkergenevive
Website: https://genevivewalker.com/

Coach Robin Renee – Pilates Instructor, WFR, Hiking Guide

Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Coach Robin Renee has always lived an active lifestyle and is actively curating safe spaces for women to explore nature and themselves. With a background in psychology, sociology, addiction studies, and naturopathy, Robin has found numerous ways to include health and wellness in the activities she leads. Currently, she has her own business, Mindful Moments, that takes women to urban natural areas and immerses them in nature close to home. She has also been an active member of GirlTrek since 2012. GirlTrek promotes walking teams, health, and sisterhood. Robin currently serves on their adventure squad team which leads adventures in outdoor spaces outside of the city. She is also the hiking coordinator for GirlTrek’s yearly Stress Protest event.

I met Robin at a NOLS Wilderness First Responder (WFR) recertification class in Chicago. In her 6 years of being a WFR she had never had another African-American woman in her class. 

What challenges did you face with GirlTrek bringing African-American women into outdoor spaces?

Our first adventure squad trek was at the Sleeping Bear Dunes in upper Michigan. It was so challenging because we had people who lived in the city, and at sea level, who don’t do a lot of stuff with elevation. So that was rough needless to say. Because we had people who weren’t fit for it, they weren’t prepared for it. And so that’s when we had to really get serious about what the adventure squad was going to do in terms of, one, keeping people safe – that’s first and foremost. And then where will we start in terms of the adventures so that we don’t disappoint people or challenge people to the point where they hate it, and don’t want to come back.

What is the Stress Protest?

Most of the women are first time hikers, the last stress protest we did in 2022 had almost 700 women in Rocky Mountain National Park. The hikes are the highlight of the Stress Protest because they’re in the mountains, they’ve never been to the mountains and they get to see waterfalls, and lakes inside the mountains. We have Tai Chi, Kapoera, T-shirt making marketing for your social media business, the Nap Ministry, sound bowl therapy, reiki workers. And they’re all led by black women. 

Life Motto: Take time to take care of you
Book Recommendations: The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James Edward Mills
Organizations Shoutout: GirlTrek, BlackGirlPilates, Forest Preserve District Cook County
Website: www.coachrobinrenee.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/coachrobinreneeR
Instagram: www.instagram.com/coachrobinrenee/
TikTok: www.tiktok.com/@coachrobinrenee
YouTube: www.youtube.com/@CoachRobinRenee

Annette Diggs – Founder of EDGE Outdoors, Certified Ski Instructor, Paraglider, Scientist

Born with a Memphis heart full of love, Annette has never lost sight of who she is or where she came from. Her mother raised her to believe she could achieve anything – and so that’s what she did! Annette Diggs, the Founder and visionary behind EDGE Outdoors, wears many hats as a certified alpine instructor, scientist, mountaineer, paraglider, and humanitarian. When she moved to Washington State and started exploring nature she always had a piece of melancholy knowing her community back home may never experience such a sight. Annette’s empathy has fueled her mission to make sure she is doing all she can to create experiences for those who may not otherwise find themselves in these spaces. The motto “Be the person you needed when you were younger” is Annette Diggs in a nutshell.

What is EDGE Outdoors?

EDGE Outdoors is a powerful initiative created to address the invisibility of Black, Indigenous, Women of Color in snow sports. Our dynamic initiative tackles the underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color (cis, trans, queer) in snow sports. Our goal is not only to introduce people to snow sports but to also revolutionize the landscape and create opportunities for women of color to recreate, become leaders on the slopes, and even compete professionally in skiing and snowboarding. Through our programming and scholarships, we are dedicated to mending past discriminatory practices at the local, state, and federal levels that were purposely designed to exclude Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color from mountain spaces.

We are a Black woman founded and led organization and the first organization in the nation to offer Athlete Development camps and PSIA/AASI Advanced Instructor Training programs for Black Indigenous Women of Color.

What challenges have you faced in the outdoor non-profit world since starting in 2018?

The biggest barriers have been from decision-makers’ limited understanding of the historical and systemic inequities faced by Black women-founded and led non-profit organizations. It is crucial to recognize that these organizations operate within a framework that has systematically marginalized and disadvantaged them. Despite the global social justice movement triggered by the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020, the stark reality persists: non-Black organizations continue to benefit from this brutality.  Grant funding statistics underscore this issue, with only 1-2% of funding reaching Black-founded and led organizations. This exacerbates philanthropic redlining, perpetuating racist systems and constraining wealth-building opportunities for Black-led organizations. Data reveals a stark reality: out of the $66.9 Billion allocated to women-led non-profits, a mere 0.5% reaches organizations led by Black women. 

Additionally, I have also witnessed predominantly white led and white serving organizations shift their focus to becoming predominantly Black and Brown-led and serving entities to access funding previously out of reach. These inequitable practices contribute to systemic oppression, solidifying existing power dynamics. They impede genuinely Black-founded and led organizations from obtaining the resources and support crucial for effective advocacy and community liberation. To genuinely promote just and equitable practices, grant makers need to explore and understand exactly how organizations were created or established.

How did you get exposed to outdoor recreation?

My desire to connect with the outdoors was ignited in elementary school years when I was bussed across town from my predominantly black school district to a predominantly white one as part of a strategy for racial integration and education equity. 

The students at my new school would share their captivating experiences of the outdoors — like epic road trips to national parks like the Red Rocks or Yellowstone. The closest I could get to these opportunities was going to the library with my mom and brother and looking at outside magazines. I did also recognize that I didn’t see any people who looked like me in those magazines so it was discouraging but my mama said I can do anything! And I said I’m not going to let that stop me and I did what every kid does – I made the childhood pact with myself that when I grow up, I’m gonna do this! 

Do you have any tips for those starting out in outdoor recreation?

Know that there’s an entire community waiting to embrace you outdoors. The natural world is for everyone, regardless of your abilities, size, or appearance. Even if you find yourself entering a space where you might be the only one like you, if you’re Black, Indigenous, or Brown, remember you’re not alone. Your entire community stands united behind you, with trailblazers who paved the way, even if not always visible—they stand as your support.

Embrace the opportunity to explore and shape your own outdoor experience. You don’t need to be standing on Mt. Everest to venture deep into the wilderness; the outdoors could be as simple as sitting on your patio bird watching, exploring your backyard and discovering wildlife, or lying in the grass at your grandma’s house observing the journey of ants. Furthermore, there are various non-profit organizations dedicated to outdoor recreation, like EDGE Outdoors. These organizations are committed to providing opportunities for individuals to engage in a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and snow sports. They strive to make these experiences accessible and welcoming to everyone at minimal to no cost, ensuring that outdoor adventures are within reach for all.

Life Motto: ”Be Kind” because you never know what people are going through
Book Recommendations: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
Organizations Shoutout: Unlikely Riders, The Service Board, The Shred Foundation, Hoods To Woods, Colour The Trails, Brown Girl Outdoor World, Blackpackers
Webpage: https://edgeoutdoors.org/
Instagram EDGE: https://www.instagram.com/edge_pnw/
Venmo EDGE: @EDGE-Outdoors
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EDGEOutdoors.Org
Instagram: @yo_annamae
Venmo Personal: @annette-diggs

Carolyn Stempler – Executive Director of Women of Winter, Certified Ski Instructor

Carolyn is a force to be reckoned with. She brings 10+ years of corporate and non-profit experience to Women of Winter as their new Executive Director. Already in her short time with Women of Winter she has made partnerships with National Brotherhood of Snowsports and Big Sky Ski Resort, and has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

What is Women of Winter?

We provide scholarships for women of color and lgbtq+ individuals to become alpine and snowboard instructors. Our goal is to eliminate as many barriers as we can. We’re establishing this women of winter community so we can support each other. As you can imagine being the only one in a certain situation can be a little intimidating, however, in our scholarship applications a lot of the women who receive the scholarship, or individuals, have similar stories to tell. So we’re trying to create opportunities for them to become leaders in the industry. 

What are you hoping to accomplish with your time at Women of Winter?

I have a metric. My goal is, in the next 10 years, I want to have 10 women of color examiners in PSIA-AASI.

What does the data say about the future of the ski industry?

In the next 20-25 years, the white male, which is the majority of the skiers today, will be the minority. So who’s going to help support these organizations going forward? These large ski resorts are not going to be able to sustain themselves if they can’t figure out a different model to bring people to the mountain that is more inclusive and creates more equity.

Life Motto: Take the equity pause
Book Recommendations: The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee
Organizations Shoutout: National Brotherhood of Snowsports, Share Winter, EDGE Outdoors, BIPOC Mountain Collective, Girl, Get After It, Ski Like A Girl, Rossignol Diversity Initiative
Website: www.womenofwinter.net

Mackenzie Phillips – Certified Snowboard Instructor, Animal Flow Fitness Trainer, Lawyer

Whether she’s strapping into her snowboard bindings or binding a legal contract, Mackenzie strives for greatness in anything she pursues. Aside from being a Level 1 PSIA-AASI certified snowboarder and lawyer at an all-black law firm, Mackenzie is a regional leader in Animal Flow. She started her own health and fitness company Maeve40 Fitness where she coaches high-achieving women to channel their inner warrior.

What is animal flow?

Animal flow has been a joyous way for me to reclaim connection, and resilience to show up for myself in ways I thought I lost. While we do have some positions and movements with animal names, the animal flow language guides us to movements and positions that are going to build a more complete high-functioning body that will be more resilient not only now but as you age. 

What would you tell someone who wants to give up on pursuing physical activity because it hurts?

We’re meant to enjoy and have joy in life, right? The only reason why we have to set aside time to train or be in the gym or go for walks is because our civilization has just completely broken that apart unless you live in a place where that’s celebrated or that’s normal like in Colorado or Utah. It’s just not a part of our everyday lives. And the desk culture, or your car where you’re just hunched over and people are wondering ‘Oh, well this hurts.’ It doesn’t hurt because of the activity. It hurts from how you’ve inhabited your body up until this point. And can we change that? Absolutely. 

How do you keep yourself maintained mentally, physically and spiritually?

I have some non-negotiables. I have a long standing acupuncturist that I’ve been working with for many years. She’s not only my acupuncturist but she’s also my therapist and she does all the things. I also get neuromuscular massages. I have someone who puts me back together.

Life Motto: “Make room for worthiness”
Book Recommendations: Untamed by Glennon Doyle, You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir by Maggie Smith, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
Podcast Recommendations: We Can Do Hard Things
Organizations Shoutout: Women of Winter, Share Winter Foundation
Website: www.maeve40fitness.com
LinkTree: maeve40fitness
Instagram: @maeve40fitness
Facebook: Maeve40 Fitness

And there you have it folks! This article encompasses the spirit of inspiring African-American women currently instilling change within the outdoor community. The community-focused mentality they demonstrate is the mentality we must all take on if we really want to make change in outdoor recreation and, especially, in our society as a whole. Getting involved with a local non-profit is one of the best ways to fight for a cause you believe in. As Coach Robin Renee, N.D., M.H.S., C.A.D.C., C.F.T., C.P.T. mentioned in her interview, “Community provides like-experienced people, not necessarily like-minded people.” In other words, you don’t have to necessarily think alike, but joining an organization can connect you to humans with a common passionate goal. Together we can achieve so much more than as individuals. Now is the time to come together and right all the wrongs of our society. The heart’s work is never tiring, remember that.

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro
Amber Davis
Ski Instructor | Athlete | Field Guide | Traveler | Website
Amber has been a part of the outdoor industry since 2018. Snowboarding is her main hobby but also enjoys backpacking, running, climbing, and hiking. She will try almost any activity twice. Other hobbies include: meditating, gardening, writing, painting, baking, and making music.
Instagram: @_scend_it


  1. Michael Thompson

    An amazing article about amazing women and I’m so glad I came across it


    1. Amber

      Thank you! It’s time we start highlighting more women in the outdoors, eh?!


  2. Vickie Heather

    Fabulous article. Thank you Amber.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *