Girl Power: Summit Hunnies helping women conquer the outdoors
Justeen Ferguson has always loved the outdoors. And she’s sharing that passion with local women.
The South Lake Tahoe native founded Summit Hunnies to help ladies connect with the outdoors — and each other. Less than a year after its first event, the all-female group has flourished while conquering local peaks, trails and waters.
“To be able to share that with someone and watch them get excited and lit up about it is the best thing in the world,” Ferguson said. “It’s so cool to see it grow and grow and grow — we have women of all ages, shapes and sizes coming out with us.”
While coaching the U-10 alpine team at Squaw Valley in early 2014, Ferguson took a group of ski moms snowshoeing and the response was positive. It was then that she saw the need for an all-female outdoors group, and came up with the idea with her friend Austyn Harrington.
“Growing up here, every time I wanted to go skiing, mountain biking, hiking or rock climbing, it’s always with a bunch of guys,” said Ferguson, a 2007 South Tahoe High alum. “But for a woman that’s never done it, it’s so intimidating to want to try it and then have to keep up with boys.
“To have a group of women that you know you can count on and are at the same ability with you and have the same mindset, it makes it easier and less intimidating.”
The group officially got its start last October with the Summit Hunnies 100, which issued the challenge of completing 100 miles of activity before Halloween. In the end, 117 women participated by logging their miles, sharing their activities and sending pictures.
“After that I realized people want something like this and they want to do it, we just have to put it together for them — that’s pretty much where it’s come from,” Ferguson said. “Once I could tell people were interested, it got me even more excited about wanting to give people more to do.”
This summer, Summit Hunnies has taken off while continuing to offer free programming. Its main event has been the Peak 2 Peak Challenge, a weekly trek to the top of a mountain in the Tahoe Basin — the group has conquered four peaks so far, and the list is growing.
“It’s the coolest feeling when they get to the top and achieve something they thought they couldn’t do,” Ferguson said. “They’re just hugging and so stoked about it — they want to do it again and that giving feeling is amazing.
“People have lived here their whole lives and never hiked these peaks. It just gives them a whole new perspective.”
Peak 2 Peak started with seven women hiking to the summit of Mt. Rose on July 12, and has since led ladies the top of Rubicon Peak, on a 14-mile hike to Star Lake and back, and to the summit of Mt. Tallac. Twenty girls embarked on the full moon hike to the top of Tallac earlier this month, which Ferguson said has been her favorite part of the entire experience so far.
“I was at the top of Tallac looking out and I thought, ‘This is so cool,’” Ferguson said. “We’re all there together, we’re getting to the top of a mountain together and we’re helping each other — it’s getting everybody there and accomplishing the goal.”
Summit Hunnies plans to hike to the top of Freel Peak on Saturday morning, and Ferguson said the group aims to conquer a few more into the fall. And while the weekly hikes have helped women achieve serious goals, the mood is not always that serious on the trails and atop the peaks.
“It’s fun because it is all girls. There are a lot of selfies and we have people playing music — it’s fun the whole way up and it’s not a treacherous hike,” Ferguson said. “We’re still girly and it’s a girly thing — it’s feminine, but you’re still outside doing things and getting into it.”
Even when smoke prevented the Summit Hunnies from conquering a peak last weekend, the girls still got out on the water. A paddle from Tahoe Keys Marina to Lakeside Beach culminated with a restorative yoga class atop The Landing Resort and Spa — just one of the many ways the group plans to take advantage of what the region has to offer.
“We live in the perfect place for it, which is the cool thing,” Ferguson said. “It’s just giving women a group they can go with, which is rad.”
Last Wednesday, Summit Hunnies held its first Ladies Bike Night in conjunction with local bike shop Over the Edge Sports. The ride from the Cold Creek trailhead through the Powerline Trail and back to the shop was the first in the series of bike rides, and discounted demos were offered for riders.
“We want to have more events and get more women out — just have women dominating the trails in Tahoe around the whole lake,” Ferguson said.
In addition to its current endeavors, Ferguson said the long-term mission of Summit Hunnies is to fund young female athletes participating in non-traditional sports. It’s just another summit for the group to reach.
“It’s been an absolute blast, and seeing it evolve has been huge,” Ferguson said. “There’s really no other women’s outdoor group like us — for the most part, there’s nothing to just get women outside.”
Summit Hunnies is online at facebook.com/summithunnies and on Instagram @summithunnies.