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Mt. Everest is expensive and hard to get to, let alone a beast to climb. It’s become known as an experience only for the wealthy. And frankly, Suzanne “Sunny” Stroeer thinks not enough women are climbing high-altitude peaks. But today, Stroeer through her guiding business, Aurora Women’s Expeditions (AWE), opened a new scholarship to take one women on a three-week adventure in the Himalayas this October.
Originally from Germany, Stroeer left her corporate job after a decade seeking something more fulfilling in an industry with less of a gender gap. But she noticed early on that women also weren’t treated as equals in the outdoor industry. She’d get funny looks when she’d be alone on mountain trips and get asked where her guide or husband was. So she decided to do something about it by starting AWE in January.
“First and foremost, I myself would like to have more female adventure partners,” Stroeer said. “There are many of us out there now. It’s much better than it used to be. But it still seems like we’re a far cry from anywhere near equal participation.”
AWE and Nite Ize, with support from LOWA Boots, are offering the $5,000 Summit Scholarship for a trip to Everest Basecamp and Island Peak. It covers the $3,190 expedition fee, a $500 stipend for flights to and from Kathmandu, and $1,300 worth of expedition gear from Nite Ize and LOWA.
The 21-day trip—from Oct. 5 to 26—will begin in Kathmandu and will include a guided trek up the Khumbu Valley to Everest Basecamp and a steep ascent of a glacier to the 20,305-foot summit of Island Peak. Up to eight other women will accompany Stroeer, her husband, and an accomplished Sherpa. Because of the difficulty, qualified applicants must be “enthusiastic about challenging themselves physically and mentally,” but prior mountaineering experience is not mandatory.
“Because big mountain expeditions tend to carry a pretty hefty price tag, it’s a self-selecting crowd of women who get to go on a trip like that,” Stroeer said. “The scholarship tries to level that playing field a little bit.”
Women can apply to the scholarship between now and May 1 at awexpeditions.org/summit-scholarship. The recipient will be announced by May 15.