Our Story

2017 Wilderness Medicine Class, Huaraz, Peru. Photo: Louis Arevalo

2017 Wilderness Medicine Class, Huaraz, Peru. Photo: Louis Arevalo

How we got started…

In late 2015, Nikki McGee noticed a donation box at Momentum Climbing Gym in Salt Lake City, Utah. A local member of the gym, Kirk Marshall, was collecting used climbing gear for use at a school in Peru. Having visited the country recently, she offered to return and transport the goods to the school directly.

Upon arrival in Huaraz, Peru, Nikki was introduced to the Instituto Superior Tecnologico Eleazar Guzmán Barrón. The school, similar to a community or technical college in the United States, offers nine degree programs, including one in tourism and outdoor guiding.

While there are two other competing guide schools in the area, their tuition is selective and higher than many Huaracinos can afford. Additionally, women are not allowed to attend. Realistically, this means that the program at the Instituto is one of the only ways locals can receive training to become outdoor guides, one of the few career paths in this mountainous region besides the extractive industries.

Having just begun admitting women to the guiding program at the Instituto, the lead instructor saw the value in having a woman instructor who could teach skills courses and provide a positive female role model for students. He asked if Nikki would be interested in returning to the school to teach, considering her past experience guiding, educating, and coaching in the outdoor industry. Knowing she couldn’t do it alone, she created Elevated Mountain Guides and enlisted others who are also interested in the advancement of indigenous men and women in the outdoor industry.

Since then, we have worked with the Instituto to create course curricula and returned to Peru to provide skills workshops and additional gear. 

How we’ve grown…

In an effort to help our local underserved communities here in Utah gain access to the outdoors, we have also started “Project Climb”. This community collaboration started with The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salt lake in February of 2018. Our pilot program saw over 70 kids from the club in its first year alone!  In this first 3-month pilot program, we offered climbing opportunities every week in the hopes of helping their kids develop skills, healthy habits and self confidence through the sport of rock climbing. This community outreach program took place at Momentum Indoor Climbing, Millcreek, where we are offering scholarships to the two students we feel will benefit the most from on-going Momentum Youth Programs.

The success of this pilot program brought our first grant (from The Clif Bar Family Foundation) to help us reach new heights in the outdoors as well. In the summer of 2018 we were able to bring 8 very deserving kids out into the Uinta Mountains for a day of climbing and adventure.

2019 has begun and our programs have expanded to work with even more underserved youth in our community, including the addition of Liberty Elementary, a title one school here in SLC. At this school alone we had 114 applicants for just 20 spots in our program! The success of these programs is undeniable!

We also launched Embark Outdoors this year. Embark is a program that introduces wilderness skills, rock climbing, and snow sports to young women in Salt Lake and Utah County’s ever-growing refugee community.

These programs are just the beginning and will serve as the models for future projects around the world and here in the United States. In addition to the socio-economic advancement of local communities, we hope that these projects will also inspire environmental stewardship and an appreciation for our natural world.