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How Longtime Marmot Athlete Angela Hawse Keeps Crushing It

9/8/17 by Emma Walker

Ever wished you could travel the world, spending your time exploring remote climbing destinations and meeting new people—and make a living at it? It’s not always easy being an international mountain guide, but after 30 years in the business, Angela Hawse has pretty much nailed it.

"I probably spend six or seven months a year at home in Ridgway [Colorado]," Hawse says. “But not necessarily consecutively!”

Hawse grew up in West Virginia, where her primary climbing goals were trees. When she moved to Arizona to attend Prescott College, it seemed like everyone she knew was a climber. Hawse didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so she signed up for a three-week rock climbing course, where she learned basic climbing skills and systems.

"They started us out on top ropes, then had us leading pretty quickly," she remembers. “I think was leading a 5.8 after about three weeks.” At the time, there were no bolted sport routes in the Prescott area—Hawse and her cohort climbed trad routes, equipped only with hexes, stoppers, and slings—and no camming devices at the time.

After that introduction into the sport, Hawse was hooked. She enrolled in a mountaineering course, and at the same time, decided to take up whitewater kayaking to learn some paddling skills. Her first guiding experience was also a Prescott trip—the school puts on student-led wilderness trips in lieu of a traditional freshman orientation. After finishing her first year, Hawse signed on to guide the three-week orientation.

Hawse, center, poses with her guests on the summit of the Breithorn above Zermatt, Switzerland, guiding the Half Traverse.
    Angela Hawse
Hawse, center, poses with her guests on the summit of the Breithorn above Zermatt, Switzerland, guiding the Half Traverse. Angela Hawse

Mountains and rivers became Hawse’s bread and butter when she finished school and began instructing courses with Outward Bound in the Pacific Northwest and Joshua Tree. From there, her list of employers reads like a who’s who of the most prominent guiding outfits in the country. In 1993, Hawse started working for the American Alpine Institute, where she started expedition-style alpine guiding. She also worked for Exum Mountain Guides for a number of seasons.

Around the same time Hawse started guiding professionally, she began the long process of guide training and certification through the American Mountain Guides Association to become licensed as an IFMGA Mountain Guide with the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association. She finished all three AMGA courses and exams in rock, alpine, and ski mountaineering by 2008 and received her IFMGA pin and license.

In addition to certifications, Hawse has racked up plenty of practical experience along the way, including countless high-altitude expeditions: five Denali expeditions, climbs of Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, Argentina’s Aconcagua, and as-yet unnamed peaks in Pakistan, to name a few. Hawse also led and organized a successful all-women’s expedition to 22,349-foot Ama Dablam, in the Himalayas of eastern Nepal, in 2003.

On top of it all, she’s also been a Marmot athlete for more than 20 years. The relationship’s origins go back to 1993, when Hawse was headed out on an expedition to Pakistan and needed to replace her Alpinist jacket. "I thought that jacket was the bomb," she recalls. “But I needed to replace it before the trip.” So she wrote a letter to Marmot President John Cooley, and Marmot promptly provided her with a new jacket—and a bivy sack. She’s been with the company ever since.

"One of the things that’s really kept me with Marmot is the people," she says. “They really care about what they do, and they put a lot of care into the quality of their materials. They’ve stayed authentic to their brand.”

Marmot has continued to support Hawse’s expeditions, including providing special jackets—dubbed the "Mama Dablam"—for the 2003 all-women’s ascent of Ama Dablam. On that climb, she and her team raised $23,000 for the dZi Foundation, which helps provide housing and educational opportunities and improve quality of life in remote Nepalese communities. (In addition to her philanthropic climb of Ama Dablam, Hawse raised another $9,000 for the dZi Foundation on an all-women’s ski descent of Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia in 2014.)

Hawse, right, and the all-women expedition that she guided pose on the summit of Mt. Elbrus.
    Angela Hawse
Hawse, right, and the all-women expedition that she guided pose on the summit of Mt. Elbrus. Angela Hawse

With a long list of impressive alpine accomplishments, Hawse has plenty to choose from when asked about her proudest ascent. Ironically, the climb she mentions is one where she didn’t summit. In 1998, when Hawse was the deputy leader of the Everest Challenge Expedition, she played a crucial role in the first Everest ascent by a disabled person. Hawse herself was turned around by strong winds at Everest’s south summit—the second-highest point on earth, and just 275 feet from the summit proper—but helped pave the way for amputee Tom Whittaker to top out.

"That was one of my most formative trips," Hawse recalls. “I mean, I actually got to see the curvature of the earth! It really affirmed for me that my passion is the process, not the summit. It was empowering to know that my heart was in it for all the right reasons.”

Hawse’s passion for the process comes in handy, she says, because she’s always working to improve her climbing. "Some of my friends who haven’t climbed in months can go and warm up on a hard 5.10," she says, “but I’m not an off-the-couch super-talented climber. I have to work at it, but I really enjoy it.”

Hawse checks out a curious Gentoo penguin on the 2013 Antarctic Peninsula Ice Axe Expeditions Ski Cruise in 2013.
    Shelly Mercer
Hawse checks out a curious Gentoo penguin on the 2013 Antarctic Peninsula Ice Axe Expeditions Ski Cruise in 2013. Shelly Mercer

These days, Hawse works at it by guiding ski mountaineering trips on the Antarctic Peninsula (she’ll complete her fourth expedition to the continent in 2017; she’s typically the only female guide on the trip—and also the lead guide) and, instead of pushing grades on sport routes, she seeks out long, moderate trad routes off the beaten path.

Hawse also takes joy in the process by continuing her mountain education. As one of just a handful of female trainers for the American Mountain Guides Association and a tiny percentage of IFMGA guides who are women, she’s got more certifications to her names than most. But Hawse makes a point of staying up-to-date on mountain weather and the latest ski and snow technology, the latter of which is particularly important during winter when she works as an avalanche forecaster for a local heli-skiing operation. The sum of all her hard work earned her the AMGA Guide of the Year award in 2011.

"It’s what I can learn from an experience that makes me better the next day," she says. “That’s the beauty of all this.”

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.