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Kalahari Trailblazers

Mallorie Estenson

In our ambassadors’ blog series, we’ll introduce you to the awesome people who taste the adventure every day! Our next trailblazer is Mallorie, a mountain guide who lives in the Pacific Northwest. 

woman in red jacket ice climbing

Tell us about yourself

My name is Mallorie Estenson, I’m 28, I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and I work as a full-time, year-round mountain guide. Currently, I’m putting myself through a series of guide programs with the American Mountain Guide Association to become a better guide and to obtain an international certification that will enable me to work any terrain, anywhere. As a result, I have constant “homework assignments” that require me to climb and ski for resume items to progress through the program.

I discovered my love of climbing when someone brought me outside for my first pitch of outdoor rock climbing when I was 21. I got about 15 feet off the ground and knew it was something that I was going to do for the rest of my life. I then was very fortunate to have an incredible mentor that taught me how to belay, sport climb, trad climb, lead climb and eventually brought me out to alpine climb. The alpine climbing had me hook line and sinker. The mentorship that I was afforded instilled in me a deep desire to help other people experience these incredible places and feelings only found in the mountains. Before I had any qualifications to do so, I knew I wanted to become a guide. And seven years later, here I am!

What does adventure mean to you?

Adventure exists on a spectrum for me. It can be far flung, remote and wild like the intense wilderness and seclusion you’d find in Alaska; or it can be on a trail in your backyard. These days, rather than just for the objective, I’m very much in it for the shared adventure with my partner. I love finding flowstate for myself and others – where you try things at the upper end of your technical skill and exist fully in the present moment. The most memorable days for me are shared experiences in beautiful mountainous places where we navigate an obstacle that we weren’t sure we’d overcome.

smiling woman in red jacket, climbing helmet, with climbing pack in snowy mountains

What is your favorite outdoor activity and what makes it special to you?

The first time I ever went ice climbing was at this beautiful venue in Canada called Marble Canyon. A few friends that I’d met in Squamish while rock climbing had invited myself and a friend up to try it out. My friend Hannah approached the ice, swung her tools in, got a few feet off the ground and turned her head around to shout at us, “I FEEL LIKE A SUPER HERO!” And honestly, I think that feeling persists even now. There’s something incredibly wild and defiant about climbing a frozen waterfall. It’s just the right amount of exciting, scary and secure that I want to keep doing it.

When I’m on the ice, unlike rock climbing, I’m interpreting the medium. There’s a give and take with the ice that’s really unique. It forces you to fully zero in on the moment and find the trust in yourself to carry on up the climb. More than it’s a physical challenge, it’s definitely a mental challenge. At times you have to dive deeply into yourself and find your level-headed cool even when you’re feeling anything but. I love that mental wrestling match.

Tell us about a memory or accomplishment from your adventures that you are proud of.

The very first WI4 that I ever climbed was a pivotal moment for me. I was out with two friends in Hyalite Canyon and it was the last day of our trip together. I had chosen the route because I knew it was something I wanted to climb for one of my AMGA resumes. I remember walking up to the base and feeling a sense of calm, confidence and inspiration. That feeling like, okay, I’ve met my match.

 

My friend climbed the first pitch beautifully, despite the ice being extremely cold and hard due to the early morning temperatures. By the time it was my turn to lead the second pitch, the sun had come out and the ice became softer, more plastic-like. Almost friendly. I remember questing up this climb, creeping along. Egging myself further and further above each ice screw. Each of my picks would get incredibly stuck in the plastic ice, and I had to fight them out for every foot of progress I was able to make. Slowly, securely, I made my way up this climb called The Dribbles. Admittedly, I didn’t strategize my protection very well and placed too many ice screws on the lower section. So as I climbed higher, I had to climb further from each piece of protection eventually getting really run-out (high above my final piece.)

In the midst of the climb, I remember my mind reeling at the exposure and the absurdity of being plastered on the ice a few hundred feet off the ground. As I felt the rush, the fear and the excitement lapping at my mind, there was this moment of clarity when it occurred to me that in that moment, I was exactly where I wanted to be in my life. I lived for this feeling.

And funny enough, a friend just congratulated me on this climb in Bozeman in December and told me, “I remember The Dribbles that year! It was steep!” And that made me feel pretty good.

woman in an ice cave wearing climbing gear

How does food and nutrition play a role in fueling your adventures?

In this world we have herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. I think I’m a omnivore-snackavore. I live for snacks. Snacks are what enable me to do the things that I do. It’s important to me to have a blend of savory and sweet snacks especially for long days in the mountains. As such, the Peri Peri and Garlic Biltongs are my favorite flavors. I also love the quantity of Biltong in the individual packet – it’s exactly the amount of savory that I like for a midday snack on a climb, hike or other longer adventure.

Do you have any intentions or goals this year? What are you hoping to accomplish?

On Monday, I leave for Chamonix for my dream climbing trip with some other guide girls. We’re going to climb rock, ice and everything nice that Chamonix has to offer. And yes, the skis are coming too. When I come home from that, I’ll fly up to Alaska mid-May to guide the West Buttress of Denali. And then after that, I’ll be fully rockin’ my alpine summer guide season here in the North West. I’ve got a great blend of alpine work and hope to spend my days off climbing at our local world-class crag, Index.

This fall, I’m really looking forward to taking a course with one of my friends Lani at The Climbing School to dial in some aid and big wall climbing skills. This will set me up for future endeavors in Yosemite and the mountains.

As always, I’ll be plugging away at my AMGA resumes and programs. I hope to make as much progress as possible towards the next tier of my coursework: Advanced Rock, Ski and Alpine. So far, I’m on the right track.

How do you mentor/educate/inspire those who are looking to Ice Climb at the next level or get into it?

This year I was able to take my AMGA Ice Instructor Course and got to mentor a few women looking to advance their ice climbing skills in Ouray, Colorado. Since I’m a guide by trade, I often try to set up women’s programs to enable them to access mountain skills and have their own adventures under their own power (no boyfriend required!) I’m stoked to say that the women that came out and climbed with me absolutely crushed it and have shared with me plans to return to Ouray on their own to continue to advance their climbing skills. I absolutely live for and love that.

This fall, I’m really looking forward to taking a course with one of my friends Lani at The Climbing School to dial in some aid and big wall climbing skills. This will set me up for future endeavors in Yosemite and the mountains.

As always, I’ll be plugging away at my AMGA resumes and programs. I hope to make as much progress as possible towards the next tier of my coursework: Advanced Rock, Ski and Alpine. So far, I’m on the right track.

This or That: Adventure Edition

Kayaking or Hiking (water scares me!)

Skiing or Snowboarding

Mountains or Beach

Biltong or Crisps

Winter or Summer

Camping or Glamping

Surfing or Paddle Boarding

Mountain Biking or Running

Beer or Wine

Explore Alone or Adventure Buddy 

Cardio or Strength Training

You can follow Mallorie on Instagram @malpinist

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