We are excited to welcome Suzanne (Sunny) Stroeer to the Nite Ize Field Team! Sunny is a nomadic high-altitude endurance athlete and mountain adventurer with a penchant for pushing the limits of human endurance in unconventional terrain. She recently founded an organization built upon her passion for mountaineering and female empowerment, and she has some big news to share.
Q: Hello Sunny! First off, tell us a little about yourself and how you got into adventuring and mountaineering.
I actually didn’t find my way to the mountains until I was in my late twenties. I was mostly a couch potato as a kid, studied politics and business at Harvard University, and eventually worked long hours in finance and strategy consulting. I started to dabble in climbing and mountain running while getting my MBA but it wasn’t until a seven-month backpacking trip after grad school that I learned about and fell in love with mountaineering and ultra-running.
Q: What has been your favorite place you’ve visited? Is there one place you would like to revisit the most?
That’s a tough question - there are so many amazing places! I really love Nepal which is why I keep returning year after year - but I’m equally in love with the deserts of the American Southwest, and the Alps, and the Rockies, and…
Q:You recently founded an organization called AWE (Aurora Women’s Expeditions). Tell us a little bit about the program and why you started it.
I started AWE because I didn’t like the gender dynamics that I encountered on many of my personal expeditions. Just like the professional domains that I got to know in my twenties, mountaineering (and particularly high-altitude mountaineering) is heavily male-dominated and not always a welcoming environment for women - which is a shame, because there is something incredibly empowering about testing your limits in the mountain environment that carries over into everyday life.
I had already spent a lot of time in my education and my business career grappling with questions of gender bias and women empowerment, and finally decided that I shouldn’t just gripe about mountaineering not being inclusive to women but instead do my part to change things up. That’s how AWE was born.
Q: Tell us about your next expedition with AWE.
I just wrapped up an AWE expedition to 22,838ft Aconcagua in Argentina a little while ago, and am now preparing to take a team to Nepal where we’ll first trek to Everest Basecamp and then climb 20,305ft Island Peak. It’s going to be an amazing trip with a full 14 days on trail, as well as a bit of time to explore Kathmandu on either end.
Q: Nite Ize is sponsoring one women to be a part of your next AWE expedition and you are currently taking applications for that spot. What do women who are interested in applying need to know?
I am so excited that we’ve been able to create this opportunity in the form of the AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship! I think the most important thing for prospective applicants to know is that you don’t need to be a seasoned high altitude mountaineer or pro athlete to apply. On the contrary, we created the scholarship to try and reach women who wouldn’t typically think they could participate in an expedition like this. That said, you do need to be in great cardio shape and/or willing to put in the work to get there prior to the expedition (to put that in more concrete terms, completing a 10k should not sound daunting to you).
Applications are open until May 1st, 2019; the scholarship recipient will be announced during the second week of May. You can find the link to the scholarship page at the bottom of this blog post.
Q: What has been your most surprising experience from your adventure travels?
What’s been most surprising to me is how easy it generally is to get around on a budget and figure things out. I specifically remember a time when I was backpacking in Fiji and needed to get from where I was staying to the airport that was two hours away, but I couldn’t afford a private car and there was no regular public transport. I ended up putting my thumb out by the side of the road and got picked up by a school bus that was stuffed to the brim with Fijian second graders in school uniform, who were all very excited to give a Westerner with a massive backpack a ride to the airport before having to report to class.
Q: What’s your favorite trail food or snack to bring along?
I always have an assortment of freeze dried meals from Backpacker’s Pantry - they’re easy, nutritious and taste great - and I also like to bring Wasabi peas for snacks as they’re quite high in calories and a fun treat.
Q: What Nite Ize products do you bring on these types of expeditions and why?
I always carry the INOVA STS PowerSwitch Headlamp - I love that it’s powerful, adjustable, and USB rechargeable. I also bring with me an assortment of Gear Ties and S-Biners as they’re handy for so many things, and I love the new RunOff bags to keep my passport, money and climbing permits safe from snow, water and tearing; and when I’m in particularly wet environments I use them to protect my phone, too.
Q: How do people find you online to follow your adventures?