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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

First Ascent: An Awareness Piece To the Mountains Within Your Soul

First Ascent: An Awareness Piece To the Mountains Within Your Soul


Mis Chicxs,


I sit here on the back deck de la Casita de Manuel. The birds continue to sing while the sun sends its final saludos past the ridgeline. This is the Perú I have known. The one I have been very excited to share with you all. I try to breathe in and out… remembering all the incredible moments we have shared over the past 48 days. I know this feeling: when the descent comes sooner than expected, when the summit is not in the cards.


I want to write you all in deep gratitude for being a part of the first ascent team on the Andes Leadership Semester. As we carry the landscapes of the Andes in our hearts I am certain we will also carry this historic team. To remember the mountains, but also to remember the people that had you on belay throughout it all. As a leader of this journey I think it’s important for you all to know that I don’t share a rope with just anyone.  Beyond the inherent trust in climbing, I also need to know that there will be joy and that the joy will extend beyond the climb. I have been shaken to embrace this first attempt with JOY because of each of you. Whether that is nightly giggles that get me in trouble with the i-team or letting our inner warriors out or asking the big question: What Are Mountains?


Amidst a mundo loco I have hope in each of you. I am beyond emocionada to see the mountains that await each and every one of you. Pachamama is ready for you to continue living close to her tierra, agua, montañas. May you continue to carry the ability to source joy amongst challenge and shut down. May your pack be loaded with manjar. May you challenge your perceptions of the world, always.


And when the world has you in moments like this, when you need to turn around I want you to know that my hope and love for you all will be sent via the condors soaring above, whether visible or not. Please please please remember that the condors are floating in the clouds del cielo carrying un montón of magic. You just gotta go into the mountains to find it 🙂