Liselle Pires and Quena Batres met on a summer hiking trip to Mount St. Helens with a mutual friend. They immediately bonded with their love of outdoor sports and, more specifically, their skin color. Pires is Indian and Batres is Guatemalan. The two outdoor enthusiasts, both based in Seattle, rarely saw someone else who looked like them outside.
While chatting, they shared similar stories about the challenges of pursuing and excelling in adventure sports without mentors, especially as women of color. In groups or teams, they often stood out as the only women of color, felt isolated and noticed the lack of representation of people who looked like them in brand marketing.
“I was so excited there was another woman of color on the track,” Batres said. “We immediately connected during these inclusivity and exclusivity conversations and I felt that connection that I never really had with anyone else in the conversation.”
Many more conversations later, the two decided to do something to encourage women of color to date, feel more welcome, and increase accessibility to adventure sports.
In December 2020, just a few months after they met, Pires and Batres launched the Trail Mixed Collective. Their mission is to increase access to outdoor sports for women of color by creating safe community spaces, to match mentors with less experienced people to teach skills and build confidence in sport, and to provide equitable access to equipment and education.
“We have found that there are many barriers to entry, including the cost of equipment [and] lack of confidence, and we hope to overcome these obstacles in one framework, ”said Pires.
Trail Mixed is for anyone who identifies as a woman of color, including cis women, trans women, and non-binary people.
“We welcome anyone who decides they want to be a part of it,” says Pires. “Usually when someone is not sure they should and probably can come. We want to be this space for all those who have even wondered if they are part of this community. We would rather include someone who is not sure than to exclude someone who is not sure.
As soon as they launched the site, they saw instant interest from women across the country.
Since launching, Trail Mixed has hosted a number of events including a series of hikes with HOKA, local running clubs, introductory skiing days at Crystal Mountain, a surf camp and a bike clinic at mountain in Utah.
The founders attribute much of the rapid growth to the appetites of people in outdoor communities, as well as to big brands like Black Diamond and HOKA who impressed Pires and Batres by delivering on their pledges to be more inclusive. .
To gain momentum, Trail Mixed has partnered with existing organizations such as Climbers of Color, a Washington-based nonprofit that co-hosted a multi-day mountaineering course on Mount Baker in last july.
Janet Henkai, an environmental specialist in Oakland, California, was born 11,000 feet in the Himalayas, and her family immigrated to Washington, DC when she was a baby. She knew she was literally born to climb mountains, but felt disheartened by the cost.
“I saw all these white men climbing up where my family is from and being led by people who looked like my uncles and cousins,” she said. “So I looked and saw that it was really expensive.”
When she saw the Mount Baker mountaineering course listing on Instagram, she applied and was accepted.
“Being on the course with women of color was validation,” she said. “We talked about all the things we had to go through to get to where we are today. There is so much impostor syndrome and being able to share it with the people who take this course was so liberating. “
Pires and Batres do not receive any compensation for their work at Trail Mixed and have no intention of doing so. Both work full time and they want to see all the money that goes directly into building the community. Many leaders and educators volunteer their time.
Through the Local Leaders Program, women can register as ambassadors to organize events in their community. Trail Mixed provides the tools to host meetings, actively contacting brands and outfitters to act as partners, providing equipment, expertise and financial assistance. Many events are heavily subsidized or free.
“We are really excited to be training more leaders in various regions,” said Pires. “It’s also important to go to places like Savannah [Georgia] and New Jersey, where there aren’t really those communities already in existence.
Pires and Batres have big plans for Trail Mixed and hope to host more clinics, start a skills-sharing program, and run camps. Information about the event is best found on the Trail Mixed Instagram page.
“I am grateful that we were able to foster this community,” said Batres. “Even though we’re small, the impact we’ve had is such fuel already, because I know there is so much more potential for connection and safe spaces for people to learn.”