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Excerpt: Leading the Way


By Lynn Martel

It’s the ultimate question for many women, yet not all spend their working hours hanging off mountains and helicopter slings. How does motherhood fit in the picture for a mountain guide?

Left-hand illustration by Taylor Odynski.

At the start of the 2012 heli-skiing season, Lilla Molnar arrived at Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH)’s Bugaboo Lodge for guides’ training, just as she had for six winters. But this time was different. Earlier that year, Molnar had done something no other ACMG/IFMGA mountain guide ever had: she’d given birth. Now, nine-month-old Ella was joining her at CMH.

“I remember one or two of the other guides saying, ‘What are you doing [here]?’” Molnar recalled. “And I said, ‘Same thing as you!’”

With CMH’s full support, Ella’s grandmothers took turns living at the remote lodge while Molnar was out guiding. Embracing a “we’ll make it work” attitude, Molnar adapted to motherhood on the job. “We’d be out heli-skiing and at lunch I’d excuse myself and go sit in the heli and pump,” she said. “On multi-pitch ice climbs and rock climbs… I’d find a place on the route [where] I could sneak away from the anchor and have a few minutes ‘to myself’ so Ella would have milk the next day.”

With a laugh, Molnar added, “There were some logistics involved.” 

Parenting Pioneers

When the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides was formed in 1963, all of Canada’s – and nearly all the world’s – professional mountain guides were men. Today, the ACMG boasts some 1,400 members: hiking, skiing, climbing and apprentice guides, as well as 202 internationally certified (IFMGA) mountain guides. In 1992, Diny Harrison became the first female ACMG/IFMGA mountain guide, and ten women have followed. Of these, just four are mothers. All Rockies residents, these women are pioneers. 

“Every one of us, we’re quite unique among the women who are mountain guides,” says the newest mother, Erica Roles. “We each have our own story.”

→ Keep reading this piece in Volume 4 of the Canadian Rockies Annual.

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Author of two books of adventure and ten mountain biographies, Lynn Martel explores the Canadian Rockies backcountry by skis, boots, camera and the written word.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles on are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editor, the editorial team or the publishers.

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