The Women Outside Adventure Forum explores the theme “Journeys”

Journeys are integral to the human experience. They are the stories that shape the framework of our lives, helping us understand how we got here and (hopefully) inform where we are going. In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Women Outside Adventure Forum in Durango, Backcountry Experience is exploring the theme “Journeys.” This three-day event March 24-26 will feature storytelling at its best with authors, athletes and adventurers.

Because no journey is without risk in pursuit of reward, we asked this year’s Women Outside speakers to share some insight.

We wanted to know: in the context of this year’s theme “Journeys,” what does risk and reward mean to you? 
Author Annette McGivney (Pure Land, 2017)
Annette McGivney
Annette McGivney is the Southwest Editor for Backpacker and author of the award-winning book Pure Land.Courtesy of Annette McGivney

“Risk means moving toward what scares me and continuing down that frightening path even when I have no idea of what lies ahead. The reward is growing from this experience regardless of whether the outcome was positive or negative.”

Mountain Biker and Pathologist Nichole Baker
Nicole Baker
Mountain Biker and Pathologist Nichole Baker works in developing nations like Uganda to enhance pathology services and research. She also delivers solar lights to school children without electricity via her bike. Kylie Fly

“Risk has been moving forward with a dream even when the path and destination are unclear.  Listening to your intuition and letting your path change as you learn and grow. The reward is everything you learn along that path and understanding that there is no end destination with dreams.”

Environmental Scientist and Explorer Dr. Heidi Steltzer
Dr. Heidi Steltzer
Environmental Scientist and Explorer Dr. Heidi Steltzer recently made news when she testified before Congress on climate change. She will lead an interactive Jeffersonian Dinner at Women Outside and discuss her research about the impact of climate change on Himalayan snowpack.Courtesy of Dr. Heidi Steltzer

“As a woman stating my concern about climate change, criticism is inevitable. On and off trail adventures, especially long days in the mountains alone, have been what’s most prepared me to speak up and at times to stand alone. I’ve learned to embrace risk.”

Outdoor Mom and Climber Kelly Foutz
Kelly Foutz
While Kelly Foutz didn’t grow up with outdoor recreation, she is making sure her daughter does. Through climbing and skiing, Kelly and her daughter Leah are learning new skills and embarking on their outdoor journey together.Courtesy of Kelly Foutz

“On the topic of ‘Journeys,’ I perceive risks, as new skills that I can acquire by the means of experience.  The reward in these experiences can be from positive and negative instances. We can be proud of ourselves for doing great, but can learn to be better in the future.”

Osprey Ambassador and Adventurer Eliza Sampey
Eliza Sampey
Osprey Ambassador and Adventurer Eliza Sampey has created and executed six expedition-style projects, often merging bikepacking and packrafting. In addition to her presentation about a recent self-propelled trip from Pakistan to Nepal, she will lead a free Adventure 101 workshop at Backcountry Experience.Courtesy of Eliza Sampey

“I’m a believer in calculated risks; mitigating the real dangers of the risk as comprehensively as possible and not letting fear of perceived dangers throttle me. The journey itself is the reward, and every journey has some element of risk. It’s a personal choice how much we’re willing to take.”

Author Tracy Ross (The Source of All Things, 2012)
Tracy Ross
Tracy Ross is the author of “The Source of All Things” and is a regular contributor to Backpacker, Outside, Skiing, and Bicycling.Courtesy of Tracy Ross

“To me, risk was going to Iran on assignment for Skiing magazine without secured sources, a clear story line to follow, or any assurance that the photographer I went with and I would even be safe, based on the prevailing beliefs about the relationship between Iran and America. Reward was, in a 10-day span, settling ourselves into such a place, opening ourselves to all of the apparent dangers, struggles, and surprises, and finding that by doing so, we could connect with people many want us to believe are our ‘enemies,’ and that skiers—who we’d come searching for—are skiers no matter where they live and that by being brave, taking a risk, and allowing ourselves to be open, we can be forever changed for the better.”

MARGARET HEDDERMAN writes essays, screenplays, and the odd bit of fiction. She also produces multiday experiential events like the Women Outside Adventure Forum. Her work is available at