Juliana García has just become the first female in Latin America to become an UIAGM/IFMGA Mountain Guide. The certification allows her to guide anywhere in the world. Here she talks about changing paradigms and how she got here.
I started climbing when I was 15 year old. I went to a Montessori school and we practiced a lot of sport — we did many bike trips around Ecuador and South America.
I wanted to learn more, so I could go to the mountains by myself or with friends. I was so passionate about the mountains, about being outside. Day by day I started walking this path towards being Latin America's first female Mountain Guide. I now really like to share this with my clients, I like to share the idea of that feeling.
I started completing mountaineering courses when I was 17. I worked as an assistant chef, then as a trekking assistant on summer camps and adventure trips. Then I started doing some specific courses more related to the mountains in Peru, Ecuador, Canada and Bolivia.
I became qualified by ASEGUIM (the Ecuadorian Mountain Guides Association) years ago, but now I have also graduated in the UIAGM/IFMGA Mountain Guide system, the one that is recognised globally.
I started with ASEGUIM training in 2006, and it has taken me around 10 years to reach this point. Some people manage to do it in four years, but I was also studying graphic design at university.
The process to become an IFMGA Mountain Guide is a little bit different in every country, but all of them are looking for the best standard. I had to pass through 110 days of training, divided into rock, snow and alpine terrain.
It takes 15 days for each discipline I also needed to have Wilderness First Responder certification, and completed a rescue course. After that, I became an aspirant guide, then I had to fill up a book with routes and climbs before I could join the guide course.
I'm also President of the Ecuadorian Mountain Guide Association. We have an election every three years now. My colleagues Joshua Jarrin and José luis Peralvo asked me if I would like to stand for the role, then we had an assembly and I was voted in.
I enjoy all styles of climbing, but I really like alpine style. For me, it's a lifestyle. I enjoy the nature, the freedom, but the most important thing is that I enjoy the company — my friends, and the people that I work with.
I think that Latin America having its first female Mountain Guide means a lot for the society, for the future of the next generation. It's important to have people who believe that different things can be done, personally it's the process of my passion.
What's it like being in a male-dominated world? Most of my friends, they always support me. I think that the word is 'different'. It's not hard, it's just different for us. With different barriers to pass, the difficult part is to find yourself in that world and try to be and to take the best way. You need to be more intelligent to be a female Mountain Guide, I think!
I think women can bring much more conscience, much more tolerance and much more awareness to the job of the mountain guide in Latin America. There is always something that we can add. I think balance is the key!
It's hard to say whether I've experienced any particular sexism in my job, because in Latin-America we are used to that. We accept many things as a part of our culture, but there is some sexism around definitely. It's not easy to explain, but you can feel it. Every day it's a step, it's going to get better.
To other women considering becoming a Mountain Guide, I would say, just do it, following you heart! If you love this, you must go for it!
Mmmm, I am proud of many of my achievements in the mountains. There is something different in each one. Gasherbrum II in Pakistan was a very important mountain for me. We didn’t reach the top, but the expedition was really important because it was my first expedition up a 8000m peak. I'm proud to have climbed new routes in Huandoy, east Peru, and Tiquimani in Bolivia, too, but I'm most proud to have friends who trust me in live, for climbing, for running, for living together.
Ecuador is great for mountaineering. Ilinizas, Ruco Pichincha — every place its special. It’s a great place, we do have everything: rock, big mountains, spring weather all year around, The only thing that we are missing is winter!
At the moment I'm working for Mountain Madness. My plan is to keep exploring the world!
Want to climb with Juliana? Visit her website to find out more.
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