PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group that started in the Pacific Northwest is hoping to make outdoor sports more accessible for women of color across the country. 

Whether it’s climbing, surfing, skiing or mountaineering, chances are Trail Mixed Collective is into it. 

Co-founders of the group Liselle Pires and Quena Batres met while backpacking around Mount St. Helens (or Loowit, the name indigenous people use for the volcano). 

The two bonded over the fact that so often they were the only women of color in all the outdoor groups they were involved in. Together, they wanted to change that. 

“Both of us do a ton of different outdoor sports and we’re so used to kind of just internalizing that and thinking that was normal and realized that it wasn’t, and that there were so many other women like us who wanted that community,” Pires said. 

The two women decided they wanted to provide mentorship to help more women of color learn the skills needed to participate in outdoor sports. That’s how Trail Mixed Collective was born in 2020. 

A Trail Mixed Collective group takes a break while climbing Mount Baker on July 10, 2021. Photo courtesy Cherlyn @alpine_explorer https://www.cherlynelizaphoto.com/

Pires said in the past year, the group has gained followers from across the U.S. They’ve also reached out to outdoor brands like Black Diamond and Hoka to help sponsor the trips and courses they put on. 

Recently, a group of women went on a four-day mountaineering course on Mount Baker (Koma Kulshan). 

“It was a really special experience I think for everyone to feel empowered to do this thing that they might have never had financial access to or emotional access to in the past, and to see everyone kind of have that unique growth experience,” Pires said. 

She said within an hour of starting the hike up the mountain, the group of women, most of whom were strangers, were already bonding, joking, and getting along. 

“It was a really magical weekend I think for everyone,” Pires said. 

She said it’s not uncommon for people of color to experience racism from other hikers on trails and that’s something most people in the group could connect over. 

“Whether it’s blatantly rude or not, people will, you know, ask where we’re from, how early we got up, they’ll be kind of surprised we’re at the top of a hike, regardless of the fact that we got there before them,” Pires said. 

A Trail Mixed Collective group climbs Mount Baker on July 11, 2021. Photo courtesy Cherlyn @alpine_explorer https://www.cherlynelizaphoto.com/

She said it’s comments like that that really emphasize how important it is to create a safety net for people of color pursuing outdoor sports. 

Over the next six months, Trail Mixed Collective is hoping to establish hubs in cities across the U.S., including one in Portland. They want to have local leaders in a variety of places and have a community across the nation. 

This summer, the group is partnering with Hoka for a hiking series and Pires said the best way to keep up on upcoming activities is to follow Trail Mixed Collective on Instagram. She said even if trips aren’t taking place around the Portland area, people from Oregon and Southwest Washington are always welcome to apply and attend. 

Anyone interested in donating to Trail Mixed Collective to help cover the cost of courses or gear can do so at TrailMixedCollective.com