POWerful Outdoor Women Series - Emily Johnston


“I fell in a crevasse, got pulled out, and remember thinking how cool that was. I was hooked!”
- Emily Johnston

A word on women: For too long we’ve been expected to be silent - to watch and be told how to act. But we want to do. We want to see. We want to be loud! Our desire to explore has finally overcome our desire not to be sidelined. At POINT Gym and Kitchen we encourage women to stop the cycle of self-doubt, to take risks, to fall and get back up… to take up space. Without role models that have come before us, venturing into new territory can be intimidating. It is with great excitement that we bring you our POW (Powerful Outdoor Women) Series. Over the next few months we will feature women in the outdoors who are taking chances, being bold, and blazing paths to show the world we are strong, we are mighty, and we are POWerful!

- Coaches KB and Mel

Meet POWerful Outdoor Woman Emily Johnston.

Q: What is your sport or job of choice in the outdoors?

A: Mountain guide, whitewater guide, ski patroller

Q: How did you learn about/crack into this activity?

A. Mountaineering. I learned mountaineering and rock climbing at a summer camp when I was 12. I got to learn how to use an ice axe, crampons, ropes, etc to climb Glacier Peak in Washington. I fell in a crevasse, got pulled out, and remember thinking how cool that was. I was hooked! I found a small group of friends in high school who were climbers as well, and we went on wild, unsupervised adventures in the North Cascades. In retrospect, it’s amazing that we survived. We brought along a couple of climbing books and were literally reading about knots and rope systems while we were climbing. When I was 26, I got a job working as a guide on Mt. Rainier and it’s just continued from there . . . *Emily now is a Guide on Mt. Everest as of 2015. 

Whitewater guide - I saw a random ad for whitewater guide training on the back page of the Seattle Weekly. I signed up, and trained with Orion Expeditions in Washington, and loved it. I’ve since run rivers/guided in the US, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Turkey, Indonesia, and Peru.

Ski Patroller - I got hired to be a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain, WA when I was 24. I loved all aspects of the job: avalanche control work, first aid, maintenance, and skiing! I realized that I had discovered my tribe and have now have patrolled for almost 30 years.

Q: What have been your greatest challenges to move up or continue with the sport? What made you stick with it?

A: Being female, and small, has definitely been a challenge in mountain guiding. I was one of the first few women to work as a guide on Mt. Rainier, and the culture was definitely testosterone-laden.  Honestly, once the male guides got to know me, and saw that I could do the job, they were great to work with. It’s the clients that tend to be more difficult about it now.

I stuck with it because it’s what I love to do, and I know I have the strength and smarts to do a good job!

I was fortunate in whitewater guiding and ski patrolling. Both companies that I work for have a long tradition of gender equality, and have women in leadership roles. It really wasn’t an issue there.

Q: What advice would you give to another women struggling to start or to find her place in a male dominated arena?

A: Do your job well, and don’t worry about what others think. They will come to respect you. Be careful not to expect, or accept, any special treatment because you’re female. Avoid drama like the plague! Be unflappable, and don’t get offended. Just be quietly competent, have a good sense of humor, and it will all work out.

Q: Who have been your inspirations in the outdoor world?

A: Marty Hoey - She was the first female guide on Mt. Rainier. I knew about her, and met her once. When she died on Everest in 1982, I remember thinking that those would be tough shoes to fill, but I had a feeling that I was going to give it try. Seven years later, I started guiding on Mt. Rainier. Thirty Three Years later I guided on Everest. 

My high school cross country coach, Hugh Tower, truly taught me to “transcend pain . . . into sheer agony”. As a climber, you have to be comfortable with suffering . . . in fact, you need to embrace it! He was very inspirational and supportive.