Emilie Drinkwater learned to ski when her parents unknowingly signed her up for a race team as she was growing up in New Hampshire. It all worked out, and she went on to ski competitively at St. Lawrence University—one of the flattest, coldest places in the far reaches of Northern New York State. While there, Emilie learned to rock climb … under a bridge by a river where a smattering of smooth, round river rocks were glued to the cold, concrete abutment. She recalls thinking, “So this is rock climbing?! Count me in!”
20+ years later, Emilie has successfully (though not without determination, persistence, and financial compromise), made climbing and skiing her profession, both as an athlete and an IFMGA Mountain Guide. While cragging in the sun and skiing powder are enjoyable, Emilie finds cold, remote and unpredictable environments the most engaging—which is a good trait for traveling to far-away places and big mountains. After eight years of off-grid yurt living, Emilie is now based in Salt Lake City, which has everything she could ask for: rock, ice, snow, mountains, cold, sun, an airport and actual climbing gyms.
Emilie is involved with Ascend Athletics, a US based not-for-profit working in Afghanistan with young Afghan women who are learning to mountain climb as a way to develop independence and leadership skills. Emilie has traveled to Afghanistan on two separate expeditions, working with the girls as their guide and instructor.
Emilie has climbed and skied all over the world succeeding and some things and not at others. The difficult, scary attempts of climbs that were ultimately aborted, are where she has learned the most. Coming back alive, on good terms with her partners, and having gained new insight is her most proud send.
In 2018 Emilie led an expedition which saw the first Afghan woman climb to Mt Noshaq, the country’s highest peak at 7500m, an unprecedented feat.