Episode 9: How to Live a Life of Adventure with Sarah Hueniken
Master climber and ACMG Alpine Guide Sarah Hueniken talks about her path to becoming an adventurer, guide and guide examiner. Sarah shares how she got into climbing and you can too. She also reflects on her experiences and reveals some of the key principles to being able to deliver adventure like a pro.
Guided Discovery Approach: It is important to step back and let people learn from themselves.
Balancing being aware while appreciating the moment – When you are delivering adventure, you need to be switched on all of the time while balancing the need to appreciate the experience in the moment.
Balance Honest feedback versus Positive Reinforcement: – Sometimes when people ask for feedback, they are just hoping for some praise.
Look after yourself first: 5 priorities, first 3 are me, me, me, and then the clients and then others. Safety to self before service for others. Your needs always come first, because it is hard to make other people happy if you are not happy.
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[00:00:00] Sarah Hueniken: They want that adventure and they want, they want a bit of that risk. I mean, because going into the mountains is risky, there’s just no doubt. Like there’s just a lot of things you can’t control with weather and um, terrain. And I don’t think anyone fully goes in there and says, you know, I want like a zero-risk experience, because that’s just not.
[00:00:28] Chris Kaipio: This is Delivering Adventure. Welcome to the podcast that explores what it really takes to share adventure like a pro with your friends, your family, and as a profession. My name is Chris Kio, and I’m coming to you from Whistler, British Columbia. And I’m Jordy Shepard,
[00:00:49] Jordy Shepherd: recording from Canmore, Alberta. After a lifetime of working extensively in different parts of the adventure guiding industry, Chris and I have teamed up to launch this podcast.
In each episode, you’ll hear top adventure guides, managers, marketers, and athletes share their best stories, advice, and trade secrets. The goal of this podcast is to share how you can take yourself and others farther from the mountains to the office and beyond.
[00:01:17] Chris Kaipio: In this episode, we are joined by Sarah Hueniken. Sarah is a certified ACMG Alpine guide and a pro athlete. She is also a guide trainer and examiner with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.
Her achievements include first ascent of Niagara Falls, with Will Gad, and many other first ascents of new ice and mixed roots in Japan, China, Iceland, Africa, and North America, and rock roots in Newfoundland and Baffin Island. Sarah was the first North American woman to climb an M 11, 12, 13, and 14. She was also the World Cup North American Ice Champion for 2013, 2014 and 2015, and this is just a few of her many accomplishments.
Today, Sarah’s going to share some of her insights on adventure from the perspective of being an elite climber, my words not hers, and an experienced guide. What we really wanted to explore with Sarah is what it takes to deliver a life of adventure to yourself and others. Sarah’s had a long career so far and we wanted to see what some of her key insights were so that hopefully our listeners can do the same.
Jordy, you know Sarah pretty well. Before you tell us a little bit more about Sarah. Can you give us some context to some of her accomplishments? For example, for someone who doesn’t know, what does an M 14 even look?
[00:02:44] Jordy Shepherd: So, Chris, just to describe, uh, Sarah, when you meet her physically, uh, she’s quite, quite an intimidating looking person because she is so strong looking.
She has muscles on muscles and, uh, Just, just incredible, uh, incredibly strong person. Uh, and then you get to know her and you realize just how caring and incredibly strong she is on the inside. And yeah, she’s just like the perfect mix of, of all of that. Um, yeah, just incredible person, uh, and. To speak to the M 14, so mixed, mixed climbing grades, uh, which I don’t climb to that level, uh, anywhere near that.
Um, and I, I don’t think I aspire to, even though I’m a mountain guide. Check out the climbing documentary, The Alpinist with Mark Andre LeClair. Go to the scene where he’s mixed climbing on the Stanley Headwall. And this will give you a great feel for what hard mixed climbing looks like. And yes, Mark Andre is soloing there.
He doesn’t have a rope, but it’s, uh, Taking things to another level, um, in terms of mental head space. But uh, really like, it’s the kind of thing where even if you are not a climber, you should get sweaty palms over that.
[00:04:02] Chris Kaipio: Okay, That’s great, Jordy. Thanks for that. Well, let’s bring in Sarah into the DA Studio.
And by the way, Sarah has warned us that she is being joined by her dog. So, if you hear any moaning or other strange sounds, her dog is likely the cul.
[00:04:21] Jordy Shepherd: Hi Sarah, welcome to the show.
[00:04:24] Sarah Hueniken: Hey Jordy. Thanks for having me.
[00:04:27] Jordy Shepherd: So where are you calling in from right now?
[00:04:31] Sarah Hueniken: I am calling in from Canmore, Alberta, um, after a lot of rain looking outside.
Hoping to get out there again while it’s still sunny.
[00:04:43] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah, I heard it was stormy in town there.
[00:04:44] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah, some really good storms, but it’s nice. We need it. We keep ’em coming.
[00:04:51] Jordy Shepherd: I’m down in Inver Me right now and it’s, it’s been windy, but pretty nice day overall. So, we’ll start with asking you how you define adventure.
[00:05:02] Sarah Hueniken: I guess to define adventure would be something you don’t know. The end result of. I guess it starts with the curiosity and. Um, has an element of unknown. I guess the combination of unknown and curiosity would be an adventure of any sort really.
[00:05:25] Jordy Shepherd: You’re a pro athlete, uh, you’re sponsored, um, you’re a guide and a guide trainer.
You train alpine guides and rock guides. What do you think it means to live a life of delivering adventure?
[00:05:38] Sarah Hueniken: Well, I guess it’s a fine balance because if you enjoy adventure yourself, you’re seeking it for yourself often, and, um, but to deliver it for others, you really have to be focused on what that person wants to experience as, as adventure for themselves, right?
It’s not about you that day when you’re out guiding or taking someone else out. So, um, I think it’s trying to get yourself in someone else’s, um, not in their mind, but in, in their. Once and, and finding that almost the see the world in the way they’re seeing it, right? Like sometimes you can climb the same route over and over again, but it’s new for them.
And, um, to be able to just sort of be in that moment with them is, is I think, the best way to deliver that adventure. So, um, yeah, I don’t, I guess what I’m just trying to, I, I’m not sure I’m answering the question, but what I’m trying to say, to to be a good guide or to be the A guide that I would consider.
What I would want to be is really about focusing on what that person really wants to get out of the day and trying my best to see it through their eyes so that I’m providing the right adventure for them and not worried about the adventure for me at that moment.
[00:07:05] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. That can be difficult for us as guides to.
You know, you’re climbing the route, you’re doing what you do, and you’ve been there before maybe, or maybe you haven’t. And, but you’re having to constantly think of what’s the perspective that they have and are they, are they scared? Are they wondering if they can do it? Or, and, and when you’re, you’re climbing, you’re often not right beside each other too.
Right? As you get further away, you climb away from them and then you bring them up on the rope and, uh, you might not have great communications with them and. It takes a, takes a lot to foresight to give them some information, but not too much information before you leave them at Alay and then, uh, they’re kind of almost on their own at that point, uh, for a little bit as they climb up to you.
[00:07:54] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah, it’s definitely a fine balance between how much information you provide for that person, for that experience, for what they want out. Some people love the unknown and, and lots of challenges, and other people just want to be outside and enjoying a day of slight discomfort, not, tons of discomfort like sometimes we enjoy and in our own personal endeavors.
So yeah, really trying to, to find that, that perfect match. I think I used to always be so afraid of, of, um, not challenging someone adequate. I really thought that was almost what I had to like to find the perfect match for. And, and then I, I’ve realized over time that it’s really not so much about meeting that perfect challenge as much as it is the whole experience of the day for them.
And you can create excitement and adventure in the smallest things, you know, in what you see on your way to the climb or, um, As the sky is changing or whatever. I’m not trying to get all, um, mystical here, but you know, it, it doesn’t have to be just about the difficulty of the climb, that’s for sure.
[00:09:11] Jordy Shepherd: Or the longest day ever either.
No, please, no short, shorter days and, uh, and still be a great experience. Yeah.
[00:09:21] Chris Kaipio: It, it is funny. I’ve talked to a lot of, uh, guides and instructors who do feel that pressure to deliver that 10 out of 10 experience or what they rate, it would rate it as for themselves when really often a three out of 10 is, is more than adequate for their guests, and in trying to deliver that 10 out of 10, they can go too far and wear people out, and it just, it just ends up kind of backfiring sometimes.
[00:09:47] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah, that’s a good point, Chris, for. It’s funny, like there’s so much to stress about as a guide, , there’s, I mean, the whole day is a full stress of, of all sorts of hazards and awareness of the weather and the environment around you. And then you’re, you’re also adding this stress of like really wanting to please your guest throughout your whole day.
You know, it’s a lot, it’s a lot to manage and really, we only control so much of it, so it’s just kind of funny how much energy we put towards things that we don’t entirely control. I guess that’s because we love our job and we’re trying to do our best with it. I mean, I haven’t really met a guide who, who I haven’t thought, yeah, that’s like, that’s part of the tribe I want to be part of because I see the amount of passion they put into the job.
I think that’s why I always really was proud to be a guide and proud to be one amongst my peers because I just really admire and respect all the other guides I’ve worked.
[00:10:49] Jordy Shepherd: You’re a world class climber, known to be quite a strong climber. Uh, and yeah, I know you’re quite humble, but you are an incredible climber.
And, uh, tell, tell our, tell our audience a bit about, uh, the types, the different types of climbing that you do, uh, what that involves and, uh, yeah. And what inspires you to, to climb what you do.
[00:11:17] Sarah Hueniken: Well, I definitely love all types of climbing. I remember when I was, I don’t know, fresh, my dog has some great size
Uh, um, I remember when I just got out of university and I, I was so in love with climbing that that’s just, I had to be climbing all the time, or I wasn’t, I wasn’t happy. I was really miserable actually, to be around if I couldn’t get my fix. I’m sure we all had that stage. Climbing in us. Well, those of us who have climbed or who like climbing.
Um, so it started off as just a total passion for rock climbing and any type of rock climbing. I didn’t care what I was doing as long. I just wanted to be like, kind of pushing myself and trying new movement and failing a lot. I something, I somehow got, was driven by failure in some weird way. Like, I love success, but you know, you, you fail a lot when you climb.
So, that was a motivating force. Um, and then, yeah, I moved to Canmore and I became a rock guide, which was my dream. And I soon realized that you can only live that dream for like three months of the year here. So, you better find another career. Um, and dog walking wasn’t super lucrative, so, uh, yeah, I learned how to ice climb and.
I hated it at first. I really did. I thought, what’s the point of this? Like it didn’t involve the same type of movement as rock climbing. It was cold. I was miserable a lot of the time, but for some reason I persevered with it , and then I, I fell in love with that and I started to understand its intricacies and the beauty and, and all the different places it could take you and the, it was true adventure to go ice climbing it.
Yeah. I started to really find, you know, find a love in, um, the whole experience of it. Um, so that I, you know, there’s maybe not as many women ice climbing. I think that’s changing a lot. But I guess, um, I guess because I loved ice climbing. I did it a bunch and it moved into kind of mix climbing, which, when you try to get to a hanging icicle that the only way to get to that hanging little icicle, like the ones that hang off of your house at Christmas time, um, is to climb the rock behind it.
And so, it’s kind of a weird sport, but you climb this rock with your tools and crampons that by the time you get to the ice you can climb that as well. Um, and that was kind of like, I think I really drew to mix climbing because it felt safe for safe fur than ice climbing. You’d really only push yourself so hard on ice climbing and um, you know, if you are above your abilities, ice climbing, it could be, you know, super high consequence and there’s a lot more unknowns.
But when you’re climbing a steep rock face with bolts on it to get to a little hanging dagger, that there’s a lot more safety involved. You’re also under a big roof for a lot of it, so there’s less overhead hazard. Um, so I think I just like that idea of, of being able to push myself in the winter and, um, and, and try hard and have a goal in what I felt was a pretty safe environment.
Um, so yeah, those are all kind of the types of climbing. That I love to do. Um, but I also just love, you know, big days in the mountains where you just ramble up something mellow and easy and you transition between rock and glacier and a snow face. That’s pretty sweet day as well. So, I like fighting gravity for some weird reason.
[00:15:11] Jordy Shepherd: And what brought you into climbing? How did you, when did you first start climbing and why? Like what, what brought you into.
[00:15:19] Sarah Hueniken: My very first experience climbing was, um, when I was 14 or 15 on an Outward-Bound course, um, which I, a guidance counselor in, in high school kind of suggested this Outward Bound course and I just ate up the idea.
I was like, this is what I have to do. So, I saved up the money and my parents agreed that I could go, and I flew to Thunder Bay and. Did a three week, yeah. Wilderness canoe trip. Mostly outward-bound course, but it had a couple days of rock climbing where we got to, you know, just climbing with our sneakers and on some of the steep cliffs around north of Thunder Bay,
And I remember being completely terrified. Like, I mean, as you should be when you’re. First hanging off a rope over a cliff. Right. Especially with hip blaze or whatever we were doing, we were laying from above. And yeah. Anyway, um, maybe it wasn’t hip blaze. I’m not that old, but I mean, it felt pretty old school if I look back at pictures.
Um, yeah. But I remember trying it and all the kids, all the girls were pretty nervous, but. I, I somehow really liked the challenge of it and the wonderment if I could continue on. And, um, yeah. So, after that, when I went to university and there was a climbing gym and, uh, other friends who were climbing, I just sort of naturally gravitated towards it.
[00:16:53] Jordy Shepherd: And which brought, what brought you out to the west where the bigger mountains are?
[00:16:59] Sarah Hueniken: Um, I actually came to the west with my, kind of like my, uh, university friend at the time. Um, she had a job out here and kind of invited me to come and, and, uh, I came in the winter and worked as a dog SL guide and, uh, You know, I’m sure we all know how it is when you first come to Canmore, you just work your ass off like you do whatever you can to make enough money to kind of live here and survive.
I still remember using my biology textbook as a cutting board for that winter. I was really gross, but um, yeah, it was laminated just enough to work as a cutting board. Um, but we survived the winter. I didn’t get into ice climbing that winter at all, but I did love the mountains and I was like, Okay, yeah, I’ve got to come back out here when I know how to make a living out here.
Um, so I end up going back to upstate New York and worked as a, um, assistant director for the outdoor program for St. Lawrence University. Started a climbing program. And, um, eventually applied for my assistant rock so that I could come back out here and try to make a go of it. And I, when, once I came for that, I just never, never looked back.
[00:18:27] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. And you’ve worked full-time as a guide instructor, sponsored climber ever since?
[00:18:35] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah. I mean, when I was an assistant rock guide, I still worked for NOLS in the States for a while. Um, just to kind of keep building experience and, and I loved working for them. Um, but yeah, I guess pretty much ever since I’ve been guiding.
Yeah. And that’s like, I was trying to do the math. It’s, it’s over 20 years anyway. I don’t know. Exactly.
[00:18:59] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. What do you like doing in your downtime when you’re not guiding, climbing, instructing.
[00:19:08] Sarah Hueniken: Um, well, I love doing stuff with our kids. Rose loves mountain biking, and Marie loves climbing, which I guess is still climbing, but we also like going hiking and I absolutely adore my dog and so I walk her a lot.
It’s probably one of my favorite things to do. Um,
[00:19:29] Jordy Shepherd: Your dog was imported.
[00:19:31] Sarah Hueniken: Yes. She’s an import. She’s very fancy. She’s from Mexico.
[00:19:36] Jordy Shepherd: What, what’s her story?
[00:19:38] Sarah Hueniken: We’re not really sure, but apparently we’ve saved her, but you never know what these things. Um, but she’s 17 pounds and so she was able to fly as a carryon, um, from Cosmo, which is where she came from, and she’s definitely, we did the little, uh, DNA test and it, it actually came back with the highest, um, amount for the breed of Mexican Street dog, which I didn’t know was a breed, but there you go. She’s a Mexican Street dog.
[00:20:14] Jordy Shepherd: Almost pure bred.
[00:20:15] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah. Almost purebred.
[00:20:19] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. So, So she’s what? Um, I have this thing.
Dog rescue dogs. So I, I would call her a rescued dog because I’ve worked with a lot of rescue dogs who they, they’re the ones who go out and find people under the snow and, you know, deal with, you know, Earthquakes and finding people in collapsed buildings that, that’s what I call a rescue dog. True. So, I would call, I would classify her as a rescued dog,
[00:20:44] Sarah Hueniken: She may feel differently, she might call herself a rescue dog because she truly has rescued my like, uh, mood in the last three years. She’s been
[00:20:57] Jordy Shepherd: awesome. Well, there you go. Yeah. Yeah. She’s got a purpose.
[00:21:00] Sarah Hueniken: Oh, she does? Yes.
[00:21:04] Jordy Shepherd: Being based in the Canadian Rockies. Now our listeners are from all over the world.
Paint a bit of a picture about what’s so special about the Rockies. What keeps you there? Obviously, you go other places, but why do you, out of all the places you could choose to be, why are you
[00:21:19] Sarah Hueniken: there?
Well, I mean, I’m looking outside my window right now and there’s a beautiful peak right there, and I’ve hiked up it a million times, this lady Mac, and but it never ceases to like bore me to look at or to venture on every time. It’s a different experience, even if it’s just a hike. So, then you add all the different climbs that are around here in the winter.
They’re always changing and there’s a million of them. It’s the mecca to come to for ice climbing. I don’t know. I just look out the door and I just see so much potential and opportunity. And even if I’m not the one venturing onto that new rock face to put up root, I, I still find it pretty magical. Like, see, I wonder if anyone’s been on that before and what would that be like and what’s the work involved and is it doable?
And I guess it’s just that I, I probably will come back to that a lot, but the curiosity. Kind of endless curiosity here of, of what’s possible and where you could go and if you had a million lives where you’d spend them in the hills here. Yeah. Sarah, why
[00:22:33] Chris Kaipio: do you think we often associate the idea of climbing with adventure?
[00:22:38] Sarah Hueniken: It’s that curiosity and the unknown, and often when you are climbing, unless you’re climbing something that you know, You’re curious about where, what you’re reaching for and where you’re going and you don’t know, and so the combination of those is, it’s like this constant puzzle all the way up a climb or up a mountain.
It’s, it’s this constant new information coming in that you’re figuring out and working with. And, um, yeah, it’s, I guess that’s the definition of adventure. Climbing fits, it pretty damn well.
[00:23:19] Chris Kaipio: No, I, I agree. My first job and as a summer guide was working at an outdoor climbing wall, and it was pretty amazing to see all the, well, not just kids, but adults too, come out and, and get an opportunity to do something that they.
If you asked them, most of them didn’t think that they would ever be able to, to climb up a wall, and they certainly didn’t see themselves as being able to go out on a, on a rope in an outdoor setting. What’s your best advice to people who want to get into climbing, to give it a try?
[00:23:55] Sarah Hueniken: Oh, well, I mean, nowadays climbing is, It’s a bit mainstream, really. I mean, anyone can try climbing in their hometown. There’s a climbing gym everywhere, and that’s great. Like there’s bouldering, there’s rope climbing. I would say give it a try indoors first and know that it’s a very different experience than the outdoors, but at least you’ll kind of get that feeling of if you enjoy that movement and that curiosity and the unknowns of what you’re getting yourself into.
And then, yeah. And then if you like it, definitely seek, seek either good friends who really know what they’re doing, or a guide who can show you the ropes and you know, just. Like anything? Well, I’m one to talk because I, I totally jumped into it. But I’d say, you know, just tiptoe into it and see what you, see, how much you like it, and be careful.
It’s very, very addictive. So, you might just fall in love and before you know it, you’re buying a van and going on a road trip again.
[00:25:03] Chris Kaipio: when you’re teaching people to climb, what type of teaching process do you find works best?
[00:25:11] Sarah Hueniken: Um, you know, I really don’t like to, uh, I don’t like to over teach. I don’t like to over explain because I, I don’t like it when people, I mean, I like getting information that I need that’s important. So, like, a bit of an explanation on how to maybe find a foothold or a handhold is nice. But then, I don’t know, half the joy in it is figuring it out yourself.
So, I like. I guess I really like people to learn by experience as much as possible, and then I’m there if they have questions or they want the next step or they want my opinion or my perspective. But otherwise, I really like the idea of people learning from themselves as much as possible.
[00:26:04] Chris Kaipio: Yeah, there’s nothing like guided discovery to, to give people an opportunity to, to figure out things for themselves.
And it can be hard too, I find with some sports where it is feeling based, uh, you know, you can try to give people analytical things to think about, but at some point they really have to go out and figure it out for themselves. And, and climbing can, can definitely be one of those things unless they can’t see where to put, put their hand.
For sure. I noticed that when I was at the outdoor climbing wall. It’s like you, you got to grab the red one, you got to grab the red one. The red one! No, the other red one! You know, like Yeah. So, you’re a very accomplished guide and guide examiner, and that didn’t happen overnight.
What did the the process look like to you to get where you are now?
[00:26:54] Sarah Hueniken: Hmm. I don’t, you know, sometimes you look back, you’re like, you’re like, where am I, Really? All that time’s passed by. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s, it’s kind of mind boggling. Um, I still feel like I’m, I feel like I’m just 100% all the time in a learning role.
So even if I’m acting as the instructor or an examiner in a course, I don’t feel like I’m the expert by any stretch. No one’s an expert in guiding, that’s for sure. No one’s an expert in climbing can only offer my years of experience and welcome. Other people’s experiences as well. And together we usually learn together.
Um, how did I get here? I guess, I guess I really, really loved guiding. I really loved it. I, I guided a lot. Like when I first became an assistant alpine guide, maybe everyone does this, but I didn’t say no. I just accepted anything I could, and I wanted to be working all the time, climbing all the. and I just soaking in as much as I could, like get as much experience and learning as I could get.
And, um, yeah, I guess that just, you, you’re always trying to be better at it and every day is a new, a new day was a new challenge and a new, um, new problems to solve. And now I, I, I’m, I just feel really fortunate that I get to kind of share that passion with people who want to become a guide and, and also kind of take that journey
Um, but I also, after, you know, that many years of guiding and some pretty har well, some very, very, very hard experiences, I, I can also share just the other side to them as well. And I. I think that’s important too because it’s not always all roses out there. It can be dangerous and it can be sad, and it can be scary.
It can be those things too.
[00:29:07] Chris Kaipio: Do you have any advice for people who want to follow your footsteps and get into adventure guiding and instruction?
[00:29:13] Sarah Hueniken: Well, it’s definitely a lifestyle. Like you make pretty big choices to be a guide. Affects, you know, it, it could affect your relationship, your family. It’s a lot of time and investment.
It’s a lot of time away. Even if you’re not a ski guide, even as an alpine guide, you can be away a lot. Um, and sorry, my dog is really snoring here. I’m just trying wake her up. It’s okay for you. Um, uh, other advice I would give to guides, well, just to, uh, to recognize that it’s a huge responsibility, I guess, and I don’t think you ever can fully appreciate that, um, un until you really, really are faced with it.
But, um, I think just trying to have people recognize. All moments of their day, even though it’s a great day and they’re having a good time, they’re, that’s all good. They should just still, always be thinking about, um, everything that’s around them. That’s the number one. I, I mean, in my career of guiding, I was always like, um, a major stress case, like I could enjoy myself, but I mean, it, it’s a stressful job and I’m always thinking of what’s the worst thing that can happen?
In any situation. So, I feel somewhat prepared. Um, but even then, you can’t fully prepare for, for those things. So, I guess, yeah, having people enjoy the moment, but also be hyper aware of what’s going on around them. That would be probably the biggest, the biggest, uh, feedback I’d give a new.
[00:31:05] Chris Kaipio: So, when your clients come with you and, and you see clients, you know, hiring guys, what do you think that they expect?
Like, what are they looking for?
[00:31:18] Sarah Hueniken: Hmm. Well, I guess at this stage of the game, I mostly have return clients, so I, I, I think they’re honestly looking for. Um, the fact that I know them well and I know what kind of day they’re looking for and how to hopefully challenge them appropriately. And, um, that we enjoy each other’s company, you know, like that’s spending all day with someone.
So, it’s a big part of the job. That’s not like the job per se, but you, you enjoy being out there with these people, right? They’re your clients, but they’re your friends. And, um, So I, I think most of my clients come back because they’re sight to catch up and go for a climb and, and, uh, know that I understand them as pretty well at this point and they understand me pretty well and that usually makes the day a lot smoother when you know your partner that well,
[00:32:20] Chris Kaipio: Do you get an opportunity to guide and instruct many women?
[00:32:25] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah, a lot. I mean, primarily that’s kind of what I focused my career on for a long time. I mean, I, I have a lot of awesome male guests as well, but, uh, yeah, I think women are often drawn to another female, um, mentor or someone to, you know, you see, I know for myself, when I wanted to learn to surf or try a new sport, I, I sought out a female as well.
It’s just see them doing it and I’m like, That’s possible for me too, just in some sort of way like that. Yeah.
[00:33:02] Chris Kaipio: Yeah. You see a lot of, of women’s only types of courses, you know. What is it that you think makes that appealing, you know, for women to be able to, to participate in that space?
[00:33:16] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah, I mean, I know that, that there can be a lot of differing opinions on the women’s only, uh, courses.
Um, some people feel like it, it adds more of a. Barrier than if it was a co-ed course. But honestly for me, I ran a lot of them and I, the reason I ran them is because I found myself in that situation when I was 15 and that Outward Bound course, I thought I was going to be in a co-ed course and. Meet like the boy of my dreams and we were going to go camping together for three weeks and it was going to be great.
And then all of a sudden, I’m like, Oh my God, I’m with all girls. This is going to suck. And it ended up being like the best experience of my life because. We just had to do everything. You know, there were no gender roles, there was no, the guys will start the fire and the women will, the girls will boil the water.
It was just, okay, how do we get this really heavy old canoe over this portage and go back and get the other ones and, and do all that? So, for me it was, it was huge. I think for all the girls on that course, it was huge. Um, and so I really recognized, um, in, in offering these camps that it just allows space for women to step forward.
You know, sometimes if there’s a co-ed group and who wants to do something, you know, it, it takes, it takes confidence, or it takes maybe habit or whatever to step out front and be like, Yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll try it. And it, um, it’s often not the women, you know, And so on a women’s course, it’s a lot easier to step out front and, and make some mistakes and, and and, um, yeah, and just try and, and take on a leadership role that maybe. What they didn’t want it take on.
[00:35:16] Chris Kaipio: What is your, what does your dog got to say about this subject?
[00:35:21] Sarah Hueniken: Well, not a lot right now. Now she’s, she was itching her ears, but now, oh, there you go. See? Raya. She’s getting up. Okay. Raya, stop moving around.
Ugh, funny. Hell, the guy.
[00:35:39] Chris Kaipio: Do you find that there’s some teaching strategies that work better for, for women that they can relate to a little bit more than say, say men do? Yeah.
[00:35:48] Sarah Hueniken: So, two things, what I was saying earlier about, um, getting more of a, um, group decision making, you know, getting more involvement, which can be a slow process, right?
It’s uh, um, when you’re trying to get everyone’s, uh, feelings or opinions about how you’re going to proceed forward, but the reward in that can be a lot greater when everyone feels invested in, in what they, um, are doing. And then the other one I would say is just in terms of feedback, how one gives. Women feedback versus men feedback, um, I think is quite different.
And you probably can appreciate that if you have a female partner at home that, um, often, you know, we really, we really can kind of dwell on the negative, uh, piece of feedback and. Um, because we’re often, you know, it’s total generalizations here. I mean, I I it’s, it’s horrible to generalize all the women and all the men, but in general I would say women need a bit more positive reinforcement to, uh, that goes a lot further than saying, well, you could do this a little better and not a little better.
And, and often the men really enjoy that. They want to know, Hey, how do I get better at this? And the women want to know is, Should I really keep doing this? Is this, am I doing, okay? Like, yeah. So, I’d say those were two of the, two of the main things I think are unique or maybe different.
[00:37:25] Chris Kaipio: Have you found some strategies that that work, you found that work better for giving that type of feedback, that positive feedback?
[00:37:34] Sarah Hueniken: I think just checking in with myself. I give the feedback, like, what am I trying to really provide for this person? Yeah. I guess just really thinking in advance, like what I’m hoping that they will hear from me with that feedback. You know, if, if the feedback is really to, to help someone improve on something, then great.
But if someone is already struggling with not feeling like they’re doing a good job. And being critical at that point just is, there’s no point to doing that. That’s not going to help. So, I guess trying to, Focusing on what’s, what’s going well, and then giving just a small thing of what one can still work on.
[00:38:24] Chris Kaipio: Funny, some people want constant feedback all the time, and then some people will ask for feedback, but really the, what they just want is exactly what you’re saying. They just want to hear that. Yeah. You act, you actually, that was pretty good. Right. Exactly! You got it, Chris. Yeah. Right. And, and it, yeah. You know, sometimes I’ll, I’ll see people and, and.
I won’t give them feedback. I’ll, I’ll first, I’ll just say, so how was that for you? And they’ll say, Good. And it’s like, Great. Just keep doing that then. Yeah. Right. And then if they say, well actually it wasn’t very good. Then it’s like, Okay, well, to make it even better, try. And, and there you go. But it, but it is really easy for, for instructors and guides to constantly want to try to push it to be, to be better.
And we think we’re helpful. And it’s not even just us, it’s, it’s partners, spouses. You’re doing it with your kids. Right. And we, especially if you have a lot to share, and that can be, that can be kind of, um, can really destroy people’s morale and self confide.
[00:39:38] Sarah Hueniken: Yeah. When I even think of like, of myself, if I’m asking someone for feedback or if I’m asking, let’s say will for feedback, I, uh, or how am I doing with something?
I’m generally seeking a positive affirmation, right? Like, if I really want to be doing better at something, then I’ll ask specifically, hey, you know, what can, what can I do to be better at this? But if you’re just saying, oh, how am I doing with this? I don’t know. Sometimes those open-ended questions just, um, yeah, figuring out what the person really wants to hear is
[00:40:14] Chris Kaipio: maybe more helpful.
Totally. You know, often, often I find that women. Women tend to be a little bit more risk averse than men. Men tend to be, you know, hey, let’s just like push through this and, and tend to have a lot more bravado. How does that affect how you guide and, and teach? Do, do you, well, first of all, do you find that yourself, and if so, what do you do to manage that?
[00:40:43] Sarah Hueniken: Well, I mean, I would agree with you that there’s a difference often with men and women’s risk, um, adversity, but at the same time, I’ve definitely encountered women guests who have a higher risk threshold than than men. So, um, I think it’s, it really comes down to educating what the real risk is. and the probability of that consequence.
Again, that’s the kind of equation of risk and having that discussion with them. Um, I find in general, like the riskiest thing often is letting people lead for their first time. So, um, trying to minimize the consequence there as much as possible. By just taking it really small steps and, and, uh, making it very attainable and building confidence slowly.
Like there’s no point in rushing anyone into something that’s over their head for sure. Um, just trying to think more about that question. You know, I think people going to the mountains and. They’re, see, they want that adventure and they want, they want a bit of that risk. I mean, because going into the mountains is risky, there’s just no doubt.
Like there’s just a lot of things you can’t control with weather and um, terrain. And I don’t think anyone fully goes in there and says, you know, I want like a zero risk experience, because that’s just not possible. Um, and often I find my, my clients or guests have more risk tolerance than I do. You know, maybe because I’m more aware of all of those things and I’m, they’re juggling them in my head and they’re like, oh, yay, we get to repel down.
I’m like, ugh, we have to repel down. Like, I’d much rather we walk off, you know, the classic kind of thing where you’re, where you know that something has a lot more hazard than, than they do, and. Yeah, so I guess it’s trying to take on those, mitigate those hazards and those risks all day without it totally deflating their experience, , you know, but having the honest conversation with them at the same time, saying You’re, you’re doing your best to keep this day as safe as you can.
[00:43:29] Jordy Shepherd: Sarah, you’ve done a lot of stuff in your guiding and instructing career and and working as an athlete. Where do you see yourself going from here? What, uh, what are some of your goals, aspirations? Do you want to keep, you know, building up the business that you’re doing? Do you want to. Travel more and and do more recreationally for yourself.
Do you want to gain more sponsorship and, and, uh, be, be, uh, be, uh, you know, a role model for, for, uh, other climbers, other, other women? Yeah. We’re, where do you want to go with this?
[00:44:07] Sarah Hueniken: I’m going to open a dog rescue house. No, uh, I wouldn’t mind another dog. But anyway, o other than that, um, honestly, Jordy, it’s a, it’s a good question.
It’s one I ask myself all the time. I don’t have like a five-year vision right now. I think I always did and I don’t, and part of that is kind of exciting and part of that’s a bit scary. But honestly, in the last three years, I’ve really just followed where my kind of heart has driven me to, to go with this path that I’m on.
And you know, honestly, a couple years ago had you asked me if I would be guiding, I, I might not have given you, I might not have known the answer. And now I, I know I still love guiding and I, I definitely love climbing for myself. and I love the opportunities I have with sponsorship and with my partner and with my career.
I’m super fortunate and, um, I think I have found some other avenues, like I’ve really enjoyed the work I’m doing with Avalanche Canda and just trying to create.
A b bigger knowledge base on things that I’ve always been curious about. And, uh, hopefully that helps, you know, future generations make better decisions. Um, and I’m, I’m really, really passionate about the Mountain Musk GOs program that I’ve, I’ve helped create and I’d really like to invest more time and energy into that.
And, uh, I still feel like driven towards my own climbing for sure. And you know, I’ve, I’ve had some injuries in the last couple years and some, some, um, yeah, some, some hard, dark times. But I, I, I’m kind of hopeful that this winter is going to be a good one and I’m going to embrace some goals that I’ve had and.
Try some, some, some more things that, Yeah, I’m still just curious. I’m like, hmm, well what else can I still do? You know, I’m still, I’m always curious about that. Um, yeah, so we’ll see, I guess.
[00:46:34] Jordy Shepherd: Awesome. There’s a lot of stuff there. Oh, go ahead.
[00:46:35] Sarah Hueniken: Well, I was just going to say, and also just help the, help our daughters like focus on their dreams too.
You know? It’s cool to see. That happening and put some energy in that direction as well, instead of just always like, Oh, what do I want to do? Yeah. It’s
[00:46:54] Jordy Shepherd: important and it’s, it’s what ends up being the thing that fulfills us in the end. We can, we can chase, you know, personal success, but uh, it’s how we affect the others around us.
That’s often our legacy. Yeah. Thanks very much for this, Sarah. If you’d like to find out more about Sarah’s accomplishment, her work, or if you’d like to find out how you can contact her about her guiding services, which I highly recommend that you do, you can learn more at her website, uh, Sarah henigan.com.
And we have added this link to the show notes because her last name is a little hard to spell. So, Chris, uh, when it comes to delivering a life adventure, what are some of your key takeaways from what Sarah or said, or maybe things that might have come to mind for you during the discussion?
[00:47:45] Chris Kaipio: Yeah, thanks, Jordy.
There’s a couple of, uh, key ones that she mentioned. Um, she mentioned that she likes the idea of people learning from themselves, sort of the guided discovery approach, and I think that that’s really, uh, helpful from a coaching perspective. Sometimes we can get caught trying to over coach and overtalk, uh, people through situations when really, we just need to let them go.
Have, uh, a chance to do things on their own and let them learn from their successes and, and their, you know, and their mistakes. Um, so that was super, uh, helpful point that I think she, she highlighted there. The second one for me was the idea of always being switched on, and she mentioned how. Some of these hazardous environments, risky environments that, that sometimes we find us in.
And, and to be honest with you, it’s sometimes in situations that aren’t that risky. Uh, things can change very quickly and we really need to be aware of our surroundings at all times, especially when we are, uh, have that responsibility, uh, for other, uh, people and looking after them. However, she did highlight too.
Sort of that hyper vigilance shouldn’t come at the expense of, uh, not appreciating the moment. And that’s something that I think if we’re not carefully, uh, that can happen. And so, uh, I guess the, the takeaway for me there is to be mindful, uh, of the moment, live in the moment. Be vigilant, but also to be able to take time to look around, uh, to appreciate what, where you are and, and why you’re there, so that when you go away you have positive memories as opposed to not remembering anything about the experience at all.
[00:49:42] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah, absolutely Chris. And that would be, uh, you know, in your guided day, your instructional day, uh, things like talk, taking breaks in safe places so you can actually have a little bit of a, a break. So, Sarah talked about, uh, the idea of honest feedback versus positive reinforcement. And you know, sometimes, like often people if they’re saying, how did I do, uh, you know, say with a, a certain piece of climbing or, or when you’re out skiing or surfing, they’re, they’re often looking for like, at least a little bit of.
Positive reinforcement, um, not just criticism kind of right out of the gate. So, consider, consider saying, Well, that, you know, that worked well or that was better than your last try at it. Uh, and then, and then roll into your, uh, discussion on, you know, and, you know, maybe if you put your foot a little higher here or you balance this way, um, you know, start to give some, some tips and tricks.
Um, but do that, uh, after a little bit of positive reinforc. And, and it probably, uh, will get you, get people a little bit fur, uh, farther faster. Um, the other idea is looking after yourself first. So, when we’re out there, we’re, uh, we’re guiding, we’re instructing, we’re seen to be in a position of a, of authority there.
Um, and, and knowledge and, and we have to kind of show that confidence there. And so, the, the way I like to describe this in emergency management, uh, in my role doing that, but also in guiding, is that basically you have five priorities. And the first three. Me, me and me. It’s actually that important that you are looking after yourself.
Um, so safety yourself before service to others. And then number four and five on your hand. And it’s easy to do because most of us have five fingers, not all of us. Uh, five priorities are Mimi, me and then the clients and then others that are in the area, bystanders or other. Or kind of our top five priorities.
[00:51:53] Chris Kaipio: Jordy, I’m really glad you highlighted that point because I think that that’s something that, uh, guides, parents, leaders, friends, can make a mistake with because it is so easy to want to prioritize, uh, the needs of others, especially when we’re trying to share these amazing experiences.
[00:52:10] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. And, and to bring it back to, uh, what Sarah was talking about there with that, uh, client who wanted to stop for lunch, uh, instead of getting past it to a less hazardous area.
That’s kind of another example of that. Um, it sort of highlights what you were talking about, um, you know, that mind mindfulness, uh, versus being, uh, vi vigilant side of things. Um, and then, uh, just, you know, basically saying, uh, I’m, I need to get through this myself. And get, then get you through it and then we’ll take a break.
[00:52:43] Chris Kaipio: That’s great, Jordy. Now let’s turn it over to you, the listener. What were your takeaways? You can share your thoughts, stories, or insights with us via our social media feeds. Or by emailing us, you can find our contact information at deliveringadventure.com. We have also posted our contact information in the show notes as well as links to how you can find Sarah Huenekin.
Also, before you go, please don’t forget to follow or subscribe to this podcast through your favorite streaming. This is how you can help us to keep this podcast going so that Jordy and I can keep bringing you more content. If you really enjoyed the show, please recommend it to your friends. Adventure is more enjoyable when you share it.
We aren’t quite done yet, though, as we have one last funny story from Sarah to share with you. Thanks for listening.
[00:53:46] Sarah Hueniken: I was like, I’m going to show this client the best day today. We’re going to climb. All these roots, there’s three roots in a row. And you know, they’re all kind of two, three pitches. And so, I’m like going to be really efficient with my rope techniques and, uh, we’ll get up one, we’ll move over, we’ll wrap that one and then we’ll do that one.
And there’s another party there too. Um, and I knew them and. And, uh, they were also past kind of clients of mine. They were, they were coming to climb one of the route. So, I was like, don’t worry, we’ll be out of your way pretty quick. We’ll climb this route and then we’ll move over and we’ll do the next route.
And so, yeah, we make pretty quick work of that route. And we get up there and I’m. Getting the ropes already. And he gets up and I’m like, Okay, you know, you just, um, shoot me some best noises. Um, and so he gets up to my belay and I have all the ropes ready to go and I’m like, Okay, yep, you just untie and toss your ropes.
And he kinda looks at me and he is like, yeah. And I’m like, Yep, just toss them you toss. And I had, I don’t know what I was thinking. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking. Correctly. I, I thought I had my ends through the anchor, but I had already put my ends down and I was going to take his ends and tie them to the anchor.
So I threw my ropes off of the climb and I watched them go down and he kinda looks at me and I look at him and of he asked the obvious question like, So is there a walk off? I’m like, not that I’m aware of. No, there is not a walk off. So, yep. Then we heard some yelling from below and I called my friends slash um, past clients, uh, who are below starting up the other route and I.
Do you mind, uh, bringing my ropes up at the, while you’re coming up, I, I, I gifted them very well that next night, and I’ve always called them my, like, you know, my angels after that because yeah, that was not just embarrassing. That would’ve been really bad had they not been there, but I, I don’t think I would’ve done it too had they not been there.
You know, it’s one of those things where you. You kind of know you have this backup and so you rush through some things. Anyway, we went through our phone apps and games that we had downloaded up there for a little while and had a good long lunch, and we still got two climbs in that day. But, um, yep, that’s probably my most embarrassing guiding moment, and I’m not sure I’m going to let you use that, but we’ll see.
[00:56:35] Jordy Shepherd: Well, you’re, you’re not the only one that’s happened to you. Uh, there’s a story, I dunno if you’ve heard about during a guide exam, uh, an Alpine Guide exam where, uh, it was actually the examiner that they, they were, there was, it was started snowing hard on a alpine rock route, and they got out of exam mode and just were bailing off into a gully up at Lake O’Hara.
And, uh, the, the ropes got tossed off by the guide examiner. Who I will not mention. And, uh, and one of the candidates watches this happen there, there’s three candidates in the examiner and one of the candidates says, I’m the best climber here. I’ll down climb and get them. And he down, climbed in the snowstorm, gets the ropes in the gully, brings it back up, and then they wrapped off.
Ouch. Yeah. Down, down solo, Solo down climbs. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So it, it, it happens.