It’s all in the name of new experiences, scientific study, glacier adventures and introducing the younger generation to the potential of pursuing careers in science.
This week, 10 girls from across Canada participated in the second Girls On Ice Canada (GOIC) program. The girls, aged 16 or 17, have come from Dawson City, Yukon, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and Meadford Ontario, as well as Alberta and B.C.
Over the course of 12 days the girls will camp – some for the first time – at the Illecillewaet campground in Glacier National Park and then spend several nights higher up in the mountains at the Alpine Club of Canada’s Asulkan Hut.
They will hike onto glaciers where they will learn how to travel safely on the ice and become comfortable using their equipment in a new environment. They will learn about the ice and snow and the ecosystem that depends on them. All the while they’ll be developing observational skills, as they begin the process of immersing themselves in science. As they gain those essential skills, they will grow confidence in their abilities. They will even, if the weather cooperates, attempt to climb to the summit of Youngs Peak.
Led by a team of all-female mountain guides, glaciologists, ecologists and artists, some from the Bow Valley, the program is the Canadian branch of one that’s been running in the U.S. since 1999. One key component of the program – which relies on donations – is that it is tuition free, so that girls from all backgrounds can afford to participate.
This year’s instructors include ACMG mountain guides Merrie-Beth Board and Cecelia Mortenson, a GOIC co-founder, ACMG assistant hiking guide Rachel Reimer who is executive director of the Open Mountains Project for youth, and former Canmore resident May Guan, a cold regions hydrologist who works in snowpack and water resources monitoring for water management, drought and flood forecasting.
Having the program run for its second consecutive summer is encouraging and exciting, Mortenson said.
"I'm excited beyond belief because being able to provide this opportunity for 10 more girls helps me hope that this will become an annual reality,” she said. “Our team this year is an incredible group of girls from all over the country who have been working so hard to train and prepare themselves.”
The team also relies on the help of numerous volunteers, including some who act as “gear fairies,” helping to ferry heavy backpacks filled with food and equipment up to the hut.
“We are so lucky and grateful to have these instructors and coordinator dedicating their summer to the program this year,” said Canmore’s Jocelyn Hirose, a GOIC co-founder. who is working behind the scenes to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability while raising a pre-schooler.
As part of the expedition, the girls will conduct scientific field studies and create art pieces that reflect their interactions with glaciers and their perceptions of mountain environments.
During their wrap-up presentations the girls will share the questions, hypothesis and conclusions of their scientific experiments on various glacier-related topics such as glacier dynamics, glacial organisms, geomorphology, and the flora and fauna of a glacial environment.
They will share their presentations on Sunday (Aug. 4) at the Biogeoscience Institute at the Barrier Lake Field Station in Kananaskis. Presentations begin at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
For directions to Barrier Lake station, visit http://wcm.ucalgary.ca/bgs/files/bgs/map-to-bgs.pdf, or learn more about Girls on Ice Canada at www.inspiringgirls.org.