Outessa is a new outdoor adventure for women. Ladies, this isn’t a festival, it’s an outdoors retreat catering to women who love to recreate in nature.

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Founded in 2016 by Julia Stamps Mallon and Bart Davis, Outessa is finally here. Rachael Minucciani with REI, the presenting sponsor, described their vision that began with the REI Outdoors School in 2015, and how they took that concept further to create an intimate gathering of like-minded women in a beautiful mountain setting. The goal was to create a network of women who want to learn new skills or hone the ones they have, with women instructors, taking away the intimidation factor that often comes with stepping out of our comfort zone, essentially creating a launching pad for women to enjoy the outdoors fully and independently. And, the scenic Kirkwood venue was a match made in heaven for this event held this year from Aug. 19 to 21.

“Ages varied from the mid-20s on up; women looking for a change,
an adventure, something different, a new perspective or to just get outside.”

Ages varied from the mid-20s on up; women looking for a change, an adventure, something different, a new perspective or to just get outside. I met Rosie who drove from Seattle, Wash., by herself to have a solo adventure doing things she loved. I met Tamara Weinstein from San Francisco who wanted a weekend adventure away along with her longtime friend, Dawn, with the goal of learning to rock climb.

Outessa_5_Rosie from Seatle
Rosie drove from Seattle, Wash., to have a solo adventure.

Geared toward newbies, beginners and intermediates (and that doesn’t mean if you have more experience that they don’t have something for you) classes included instruction in mountain biking, SUP, rock climbing, hiking, wilderness survival, self-care and camp cooking … and that’s just the beginning. And, don’t forget checking out all the new gear and women-specific gear and products to figure out what you may need for your outdoor adventure. Who doesn’t love gear right?

Building an emergency shelter.
Building an emergency shelter.
Collecting kindling during the Wilderness Survival class.
Enjoying classes with women from a variety of backgrounds (author Alyssa Ganong is in the middle).

The event is limited to 500 women with a low instructor to student ratio. In the morning, I attended a Wilderness Survival course with instructor Hope Oldman to brush up on my skills and learn new ones, as well. After our hike back to Kirkwood Village, I opted to drop into a foot care clinic with Rinse and try out their all-natural products, smoothing out my rough, Tahoe summer feet.

The Wilderness Survival class learns about water filtration.
Collecting kindling during the Wilderness Survival class.
The Wilderness Survival class learns about water filtration.
The Wilderness Survival class learns about water filtration.

In the afternoon, myself and Karla Amador joined instructor Nicole Belle Isle for the intermediate/advanced climbing clinic, while about six other women attended the beginner clinic. Petzl hosted the climbing and supplied all the gear. With a quick hike up Kirkwood ski area to the Rainbow Crags, we climbed, received instruction and discussed belay techniques.

A group of beginner and more advanced climbers head out to learn new skills.
A group of beginner and more advanced climbers head out to learn new skills.
Author Alyssa Ganong during the intermediate/advanced climbing clinic at Rainbow Crags at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
Author Alyssa Ganong during the intermediate/advanced climbing clinic at Rainbow Crags at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. 

Followed by happy hour and music in the Village, it was nice to sit and connect more with the women I had met. Even in the short day I spent with these amazing women, I feel more connected with the outdoors, with other women in general, and definitely walked away with a few more friends that I’ll keep in touch with.

Outdoor cooking class.
Outdoor cooking class.

Motivational speaker Kristine Carlson, co-author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” summed up the weekend perfectly with her message of how we need to live every moment passionately, even the day to day.

Join Outessa for their next event at Powder Mountain, Utah, from Sept. 9 to 11, 2106. | Outessa.com