TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULt
here I am on duty as a climbing ranger on Mount Rainier in 2009. sandwiched between my first time working for the Gates Foundation, an expedition in the Solukhumbu Region of Nepal, and time spent living and conducting research in the Kumaoni Himalayas, I spent the summer working as technical rescue staff on the glaciated slopes of the upper mountain.
I loved this job; every day was different. sometimes I’d be hoisting gas canisters as big as I was off helicopter tethers and into place at Camp Muir, other days I’d be called out to rescue a marooned climber at 12,500’, and others I’d be responsible for cleaning shit bags off the Kautz Glacier - all in my favorite place on the planet.
near the end of the season I was sexually assaulted by a guide who worked on the mountain. this person was a reputable Sagaramatha (Mount Everest) guide and all-around respected dude. I reported the assault to the law enforcement ranger in the park and was fired for disrupting my team. the guide still works in the park and globally for the same employer.
incidents like this are, unfortunately, not isolated.
as I read the Huffington Post article mentioned in the She Explores podcast, I recognized the name of the superintendent in charge of the Grand Canyon when that shitstorm went down: Dave Uberuaga. he's the guy that was instrumental in excusing my assaulter during his time as superintendent at Mount Rainier. coincidence? I think not.
after giving an interview that I thought would bring about closure, I feel more puzzled than ever. how did this corrupt leader get another superintendent job in another prestigious park? why did it take until this year and this violence to get him to leave? why was he allowed to honorably retire?
I can't help but wonder if I would have stayed in the US after the assault and pursued the class action lawsuit proposed by the National Women's Law Center what would have happened. would these women in the Grand Canyon suffered as they did? when will this stop?
we can do better; we must do better. as we all celebrate the centennial of the national parks I hope we take time to pause, reflect, and learn from the past in order to make the parks a safe and welcoming space for all.
today my story and the stories of a variety of park and forest service employees is up on She Explores' podcast. I encourage you to click below and listen to an impressive variety of experiences and jobs women have as stewards of our public lands.
be sure to donate to She Explores. She Explores is a one-woman operation bringing the power of storytelling to the amazing journeys of female creatives, outdoorspeople, and entrepreneurs who love the lands we call home.