Moms Outside: Iconic Women of the Outdoors


His­tor­i­cal­ly, many of the great female ath­letes, adven­tur­ers, and out­door indus­try pio­neers were not always able to claim the title of both moth­er and ath­lete. Before the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion a woman had to choose between a life of adven­ture and great ath­let­ic suc­cess, or a life where she would be able to have a family.

Even as our times and tech­nol­o­gy have pro­gressed, and oppor­tu­ni­ties for train­ing and trav­el­ing have become more acces­si­ble for men and women alike, it can still be very dif­fi­cult to raise a child and pur­sue phys­i­cal and geo­graph­ic extremes. This arti­cle high­lights a few amaz­ing women who have been able to be not only moth­ers, but also amaz­ing pio­neers for the outdoors.


Lynn Hill – Rock climber

Indis­putably a liv­ing leg­end, Lynn Hill has been a pio­neer in the sport of rock climb­ing and one of its great­est celebri­ties since the 1980s. She has accom­plished many feats dur­ing her career: she was the first per­son to make a free ascent of The Nose on El Cap­i­tan in the Yosemite Val­ley, and has numer­ous 5.14s under her belt as well as first ascents on sev­er­al continents.

Lynn always want­ed to have a child, but because of the fast-paced and stren­u­ous nature of her career, it took until she was 42 for it to hap­pen. Preg­nan­cy and hav­ing a child changed her rela­tion­ship to her sport; with par­ent­hood, and a pas­sion­ate pur­suit that took her all over the world, she found more of a need for bal­ance and security.

“For me it has been quite a jug­gling act to man­age all the demands on my time in both my per­son­al and pub­lic life. But like climb­ing itself, the most chal­leng­ing expe­ri­ences are usu­al­ly the most sat­is­fy­ing. Moth­er­hood is cer­tain­ly more chal­leng­ing than any climb I’ve done, but there’s noth­ing greater than the sense of love I feel for my child.”


Junko Tabei – First woman to sum­mit Everest

Junko Tabei was the first woman to sum­mit Mount Everest.

“Back in 1970s Japan, it was still wide­ly con­sid­ered that men were the ones to work out­side and women would stay at home…We were told we should be rais­ing chil­dren instead.”

Junko was 35 when she sum­mit­ed Mount Ever­est with a 15-per­son, all-women Japan­ese team. She was able to leave her 3‑year-old child in the hands of her hus­band and fam­i­ly mem­bers in order to accom­plish this feat.

Her ascent was a man­i­fes­ta­tion of her extreme deter­mi­na­tion and was also a sym­bol to many of the great strides for­ward that women of the era were mak­ing towards equal­i­ty and autonomy.


Gert Boyle – Pres­i­dent turned Chair­woman of Colum­bia Sportswear

When her hus­band died in 1970, Gert Boyle found her­self at the helm of Colum­bia Sports­wear, with lit­tle to no busi­ness expe­ri­ence. Gert turned a finan­cial­ly strug­gling sports­wear com­pa­ny into the behe­moth out­door indus­try that it is today. She spent 1970–1998 as Pres­i­dent, enlist­ing the help of her son and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers to help cre­ate her vision for the business.

One of the major turn­ing points for the com­pa­ny was its clever add cam­paigns that fea­tured Gert.

“We start­ed adver­tis­ing in 1984 with the Tough Moth­er cam­paign. In one, I put my son, Tim, through the car wash and said, ‘‘That’s the way we test our gar­ments.’ Sales shot up. Tim took over as CEO in 1989.”

Through grit and tenac­i­ty, Gert chart­ed the course for the suc­cess of her com­pa­ny and the secu­ri­ty of her fam­i­ly. Talk about One Tough Moth­er (which is the title of her book)!