How I Fell in Love with the Outdoors

RATE THIS STORY:

7 votes so far

Four Arc’teryx athletes share their stories and favorite gear.

Editor’s note: This article is a part of the Joy of Resilience content series, sponsored by Arc’teryx.


If you want to ski, climb, mountain bike or hike like a girl, look no further. These four Arc’teryx athletes have wisdom to share and a whole lotta accolades to boot.

 

Shelma Jun

Shelma Jun

  • Home base: New York City
  • Athletic pursuits: Climbing, backcountry skiing, hunting
  • Key Arc’teryx pieces: Squamish Hoody, Proton LT Hoody

“Being outside has always been meaningful to me,” says Shelma Jun, a professional climber and founder of women’s climbing community Flash Foxy. She is speaking from her apartment in New York City, where exposed brick gives way to bookshelves and low-maintenance succulents. She wears her hair short, her face framed by colorful dangly earrings and round wire-frame glasses, and speaks quickly and thoughtfully.

Shelma grew up in California, where her parents immigrated to from Korea when she was 4. When her parents took time off from their seven-day-a-week jobs running a dry-cleaning business, they took her camping in nearby national parks. “Koreans have a history of loving the outdoors, and it was a really affordable way for us to go on family vacations,” she says.

But both despite her heritage and because of it, Shelma never felt like she fully belonged in America’s outdoor culture. “My parents didn’t speak English very well, and we didn’t have technical gear—we brought our blankets and pillows from home. It felt like we were separate from the advertisements we would see in the catalogs.”

Shelma found her niche a couple decades later 600 feet above the ground on a red sandstone wall, muscles shivering, thinking only about reaching for a hold she couldn’t see. Suddenly, she was no longer just an observer or an admirer of the landscape. She was an active participant in it—conscious of belonging to a much bigger world than the one we have created. “When I’m on a wall that has been here for thousands of years, I’m now a part of that wall’s story,” she says. “I’m a tiny blip in a huge time span. Humans adapt to our environment by creating our own, so it’s easy to feel like there’s us, and then there’s nature. But it’s all connected. And no one should feel unwelcome in that space.”

“We are all part of the same earth, and we affect each other.”

 

Emilie Pellerin

Emilie Pellerin

  • Home base: Everywhere there are rocks
  • Athletic pursuits: Climbing, biking, running, skiing
  • Key Arc’teryx pieces: C-Quence Harness, Squamish Hoody

The elements that make up human beings are the stuff from stars—as in supernovas that exploded long ago. If you don’t believe this to be true, you have never met professional climber Emilie Pellerin.

First, there is her energy, which seems to rival that of our own sun. Next, there is her warmth, which enables her to create a vibrant community of friends everywhere she goes. Then there is her natural habitat, which is either hanging far above the ground or sleeping under the giant sky. “I’ve been on the road for the past 12 years, camping most of the time,” she says in a thick Quebecois accent. The cliffs and lush mountains of Squamish, British Columbia, where she’s getting her guiding certification, rise in the background.

“I feel like my love for nature has always been in me,” Emilie says, which may have stemmed from frequent trips to her family cabin in the woods outside Montreal. She discovered climbing at the age of 17 and experienced a feeling of freedom that immediately drew her to the sport. “I felt like a little bird up there,” she says. “It was such a magical moment. I moved through that terrain so naturally—there’s nothing that I was actually thinking about, nothing else but me and that piece of rock.”

Using her body to propel her upward is a meditative state for her—and suspended above the earth is where she belongs. “I love hanging on to tiny little crystals, looking out over everything,” Emilie says. “We need more people to do what they love because life is so much nicer and easier if you have something to live for.”

“I am home wherever I am.”

 

Lucy Sackbauer

Lucy Sackbauer

Lucy Sackbauer’s days can be long. She works as a nurse in the ER in Ketchum, Idaho, which was a hotbed for COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic, and as a professional skier, constantly training and pushing her limits on the hill. Yet when she’s stressed or tired, it’s not rest that restores her.

“My friends and family will say, ‘Lucy, you need to get outside,’” she says, “and as soon as I do, it completely recharges me. I’m there in the present, seeing the sparkly powder and hearing the snow fall off the tree branches. When I’m skiing, I’m in tune with everything, and I’m only focusing on that here and now. It’s so healing.”

When Lucy talks about her childhood—she grew up in Vail, Colorado—the mountain was as integral in her development as her parents. Her folks both worked for the resort, and she and her younger sister and brother skied nearly every day. “Every aspect of what we did as a family was oriented around the outdoors,” she says.

Her sister went on to be an All-American racer at Middlebury, and then followed Lucy to Alta before she moved to Ketchum. “She and I have the same connection in the mountains—it’s just total freedom. That’s how we connect as sisters. We feed off each other.”

The mountains also provided her brother, who has Down syndrome, a place he could participate at the same level as his sisters. “He’s an incredible skier,” Lucy says. “With his helmet and goggles on, you have no idea that he’s different. It’s the one time he’s not separate, and that’s why it’s so special.”

“The mountain was what raised us.”

 

Alannah Yip

Alannah Yip

  • Home base: Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Athletic pursuits: Climbing, hiking
  • Key Arc’teryx pieces: Nuclei FL Jacket, C-Quence Harness

Professional climber Alannah Yip wears a tiny pendant of a tree around her neck. It’s a necklace that her aunt gave her to remind her of home, and she touches it religiously before she competes.

Trees are what make the outdoors special for her—as a child growing up on the north shore of Vancouver, she spent hours every day exploring the forest behind her house. “Just walking into the trees is so calming,” she says while taking a break from training at her climbing gym. “I feel so small and peaceful.” She wears her long, black hair in a ponytail that spills over one muscular shoulder.

As a sport climber, she spends most of her time training indoors, so she likens being outdoors in any endeavor to stress-relieving therapy. When she climbs outside, she has two distinct experiences: One is an enjoyable easy day, when she finds her flow; the other is what she calls a “projecting” day, when she pushes her limits. “I end up taking some scary falls, but those days can be much more rewarding in the end,” she says. “It’s about problem-solving.” And problem-solving is exactly the mental aspect of the sport that her brain craves (she has a degree in engineering).

For Alannah, persisting on climbs after she falls is perhaps the most important part—a lesson that is transferable to every aspect of life. To attempt climbs she feels might be beyond her limits, she gets further than she ever thought was possible. “If we gave up the first time we tried anything, we would never accomplish anything.”

In 2021, Yip is headed to compete in the summer games in Tokyo. She may fail or succeed there, but one thing is certain: She will be wearing that pendant of a tree around her neck.

“Learning to persevere through initial failure is the most important lesson we have as human beings.”