It all started with a simple climb
It started with a solo, unsupported ascent of 22,838ft Aconcagua’s Normal Route. That type of ascent is not a big deal on Aconcagua since the normal route is heavily frequented and not technically difficult; the mountain sees numerous solo ascents each season. But for some reason… this climb was different.
Why? Because the climber was a woman, and that seemed to upset the normal order of things.
Sunny Stroeer was a management consultant and weekend warrior when she decided to climb Aconcagua solo and without support in the austral summer of 2014 - not to make a statement, but because Aconcagua seemed like the perfect (meaning: most approachable and least hazardous) mountain to attempt as a relatively new but motivated high altitude mountaineer. She wanted to push her personal mountaineering limits in a comparatively safe environment.
Which is why she was taken aback by the common reaction she encountered on the mountain:
“Where is your guide? Or are you here with your husband? Wait - you’re all by yourself?”
Sunny returned home to the US after a successful climb with a newfound appreciation for both high altitude climbing and the gender gap in mountaineering. Having been deeply involved in efforts to address gender bias and women empowerment both in graduate school and throughout her corporate career, Sunny decided to take a step beyond simply lamenting the gender gap in the mountains and instead actively do something about it; the seed for AWE was planted.
Five years later, AWE runs all-women’s (and a few co-ed but predominantly-female) high mountain trips across three continents, with more destinations in the works.