An Open Letter to Recent Glacier Climbing Grads

Teresa Hagerty leads new mountaineering mentees into the great white world of glacier climbing every year. In this open letter, read the advice she offers to her recent grads.
Teresa Hagerty Teresa Hagerty
Mountaineer & Founder of Cascade Mountain Adventures
July 11, 2019
An Open Letter to Recent Glacier Climbing Grads
Photo of Koma Kulshan by Sarina Clark.

I have had the honor and privilege of mentoring women in their first steps into glacier mountaineering for the past three years. I take this awesome responsibility very seriously.

I always have feelings upon sending new mountaineering mentees into the world. Are they ready? Did I teach them enough? Are they going to be okay? In an open letter to this year's mountaineering family (and new climbers in general), I strive to offer words of wisdom to take them wherever they go next.

Dear Graduates,

Congratulations on becoming a glacier mountaineer! You worked for this, you trained for this, and you are ready to be a competent member of any rope team. I'm so excited for you!

I'd like to offer the following to take forward on your future adventures. These have been invaluable to me on this journey so far. I hope they are to you as well.

  1. Select Your Partners With Care: There are few relationships more important to a climber than your rope team partners. These are the people that will see you at your best, support you at your worst, and have your life in their hands. These relationships should not be entered into lightly.
  2. There Is No 'Right' Way: There are many ways to accomplish most tasks in glacier mountaineering. There are many variations and different approaches may be required for different conditions. This is great - approaching new challenges with a variety of solutions in your pocket and the ability to think critically makes you a stronger team member! Avoid those who claim their way is the 'only' right way - I guarantee you it isn't.
  3. Constantly Assess: Make it a practice to consistently assess yourself, your team, the current conditions, the expected future condition, and the potential 'what ifs' of a climb. Are things on track? Is everyone good? Are conditions still safe? Are you okay to continue? Awesome - climb on! If not, share your concerns with your team and make a decision based on everyone having the same information.
  4. Summits Are Secondary: The top priority is to come home safe, and, hopefully, come home still friends. Every climb has something to offer. This doesn't have to be a summit to be a success.
  5. Be Humble: Nature is huge and uncaring. This sport is a continual growth process. Every day is a new challenge. Remain open to new learning. Turn around without shame if something doesn't feel right. Accept hard lessons with grace.

There is a lot more to share but you are off to a good start. We are damn proud of you. All the best on your next adventures.

Teresa Hagerty is the founder of Cascade Mountain Adventures, Ambassador for PNW Outdoor Women, and a Mountaineers member. Through these communities, she's proud to share outdoor skills with women in the Pacific Northwest.

Photo of Koma Kulshan by Sarina Clark. 


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KD Dase
KD Dase says:
Jul 11, 2019 10:53 AM

This is great to see, Teresa. I would re-iterate points 1 and 3 for the least even for the trips with Mountaineer leaders. It is a good practice is in general and work as a team. For the very least, you will learn from the leaders through such conversations or make them open and honest to talk on how they make decisions/share stories :)