Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pearls Lend Panache to Powder Days and Training Trips | The Vertical Woman: The Magazine for the Woman Alpinist

From Vertical Woman Magazine

Lately, in the backcountry, I’ve been wearing pearls. Every day.

They’re a slender string of freshwater, cultured pearls given out as part of a goodie bag at the Salt Lake City Lupus Walk. You heard that right: the Lupus Walk gave out free pearl necklaces. Real pearls.

Confused? I, too, thought it was a little ridiculous, and in equal jest began to wear them constantly. This was in May, right before the start of my 2009 Outward Bound season.

I forgot to take them off before a training trip, and found myself trudging through snow, ice axe in hand… and pearls swinging from my neck. That evening I sat in my snow shelter cooking curried quinoa over a whisperlite, pearls peeking out of my down jacket. The juxtaposition was remarkable.

I felt that I had finally found my particular place as a woman in this world. It was reconciliation between my sparkly dresses and my Gore-Tex, my time spent in dance clubs and in crampons.

This first trip in those pearls was so entertaining to me that I had to make it into a consistent statement. I have since spent over 150 days in the field wearing my pearls. I wear them when I instruct as well as on my personal climbing and skiing trips.

I call them my “send hard” pearls, and treat them with as much care as I treat my skis (That is to say, I use them hard). One night this summer they broke in my mega-mid and shiny pearls danced in the folds of my sleeping bag. Terrified, I spent hours picking out each pearl by headlamp and threading them back on the line. I tied a bowline on the clasp and haven’t had any problems since.

Julie Weis and friend with pearls and peaks

Pearls and Peaks: Julie Weis and a friend in the North Cascades

Julie Weis is a skier and climber who has instructed for the Outward Bound School in Mazama, Wasington since 2008. In her years as an instructor, Julie has found the way to keep it classy in the backcountry. This story is about a small necklace that reminds her of her femininity and grace, even when she hasn’t showered in two weeks. Julie currently lives in Seattle and spends her time exploring the Cascades.

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