Outing Club stages “Women in the Outdoors” week

Aligned with Women’s History Month, O.C. leaders say the first-time event drew great enthusiasm


Students enjoy a screening of the No Man’s Land Film Festival in the Center for Global Learning. Photo courtesy of Mary Helen Powell, ‘19

Maggie Barker, Arts & Life Writer

Washington and Lee’s Outing Club hosted its first “Women in the Outdoors Week” during the first week of March in an effort to highlight female participation and leadership.

“The point is to motivate and inspire our college females,” said James Dick, the Director of Outdoor Education.

This week of events dually celebrated Women’s History Month.

“A lot of people who have encouraged me and inspired me in outdoor endeavors have been women,” said Bowen Spottswood, ‘18, a key staff member for the Outing Club.

“Part of why they’ve been such role models for me is because they are women but also super powerful, unafraid, and very bold in the outdoors.”

Spottswood said that planning the inaugural event required a trial and error approach.

“We scheduled a lot of events and wanted to get our hands in a lot of different places and see what was working and what was not working,” Spottswood said.

The event kicked off on Friday, March 2, with a Climbing 101 course and a bouldering competition in the nearby Outing Club Barn.

The weekend continued with a mountain biking trip on the local Chessie Trail and a camp skills series in the Washington Street quad where passersby learned how to start a fire, tie various knots, pitch a tent, pack a backpack, cook while camping and more.

On Monday, Dick led outdoor yoga and a starlight ascents of W&L’s alpine tower, a high ropes course near the tennis center at the back of campus.

On Tuesday, the Outing Club hosted a lunchtime discussion with public lands employees from the US Forest Service rangers and the National Park Service, which Dick said resulted in an engaged turnout.

Later that evening, Spottswood hosted a sunset trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which included a picnic spread for dinner.

Spottswood said that as a key staff member for the Outing Club, she tries to make many of her trips and activities very accessible and requiring minimal planning.

“Something I am really passionate about is that you don’t have to have some high level of skill or be big and bad to enjoy, appreciate, and participate in the outdoors,” she said.

Many who participated in the week of the events said the highlight was a screening of the No Man’s Land Film Festival, which was co-sponsored by Student Activities.

W&L alum Amy Balfour speaks to students about her work as a freelance travel writer. Photo courtesy of Mary Helen Powell, ‘19

The No Man’s Land Film Festival is an all-female adventure film festival, based out of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, featuring wild, driven and inspiring female adventurers.

On Thursday night, travel writer and W&L alum Amy Balfour ‘89, ‘93L, hosted a Q&A regarding her freelance work for Lonely Planet.

A journalism and English major at W&L, as well as a law graduate, Balfour has hiked, biked and paddled across America, but she still calls Lexington her homebase.

The Outing Club rounded out Women in the Outdoors on March 11 by offering a skydiving trip over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“There is absolutely no difference in someone who goes outside to do outdoor recreation. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. Who cares?” Dick said. “You’re out there because you want to be there, and you love it, and you’re stoked.”