Vancouver Outdoor Community Spotlight: Ally Gandy of Mountain Mentors

Ally Gandy of Mountain Mentors skiing near Pemberton

Ally Gandy backcountry skiing near Pemberton with her former mentor Kate Inch.

Are you looking to deepen your outdoor skills, but aren’t sure how to start? Mountain Mentors is a local non-profit organization that pairs mentors and mentees to help women and people of marginalized genders gain confidence in sports like backcountry skiing, rock climbing, and hiking. We chatted with Vice President Ally Gandy about the program and the outdoor community they are building.


While today Ally sits on Mountain Mentors Board of Directors and has participated in their program as a mentor, she started her outdoor journey as a mentee, looking to get better at backcountry skiing. She stumbled across a Facebook post about an outdoors mentorship program for women and says “I had one of those ‘oh my god’ moments. This is what the mountain community is missing.”

Ally Gandy and Rosie Langford climbing Mount Habrich in Squamish.

Ally climbing Mount Habrich in Squamish with Mountain Mentors President and fellow mentor Rosie Langford

The team behind Mountain Mentors recognizes that it can be tough for women, non-binary people, and people of marginalized genders to get into outdoor sports, a traditionally male space. “We need to be putting more work into making women represented in the mountains,” Ally explains. “We need to find a way to fill that gap and see more women and non-binary people in these sports because without representation and being able to see somebody that kind of reminds you of yourself in a sport, it’s kind of hard to picture yourself being successful in it.”

Each season, Mountain Mentors matches more experienced mentors with mentees. “I am of the mentality that there is always something you have to offer to somebody else from a teaching perspective and you always have something that you can learn, no matter how junior you are in your learning development,” Ally explains. She laments that their program attracts far more mentees than mentors because many people think they need to be an expert or a pro to be a mentor. But Mountain Mentors welcomes junior mentors who have gained a few seasons of experience but still remember what it’s like to be a beginner. Ally became a mentor two years after joining the program as a mentee.

Mountain Mentors ski day on the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

Ally and her 2020/21 mentor Cassandra Mah skiing on the Howe Sound Crest Trail in West Vancouver. Cassandra is now a junior mentor. Photo: Jesse Robson

Matching compatible pairs is a high priority for Mountain Mentors. “Sometimes you read two applications side by side and you just know that is the perfect pair.” Ally says. “You can feel that these two people want the same things out of their time in the program. We try to pair people together on personality, goals, and availability.” The program has a limited cohort each season to ensure  a community feel. “When we keep the group smaller, there is more opportunity for meaningful connection, gear sharing, pairing people up on trips to go out and try things together,” Ally explained.

Ally’s first season as a mentee “showed me what is possible when you are connected with people that really care about your growth and your success… My mentor was there for me to help with trip planning, how to select the right goals, and make sure I’m thinking about the right things. We formed a life-long friendship.” After several years with Mountain Mentors, Ally says “The most rewarding thing is the community… watching how impactful our program is on people’s lives is the coolest piece for me.”

Ally Gandy climbing Mount Tricouni in Squamish

Ally belays fellow mentor Veronique Nell as they climb the north ridge of Mount Tricouni in Squamish. Photo: Rosie Langford


How to Get Involved with Mountain Mentors

If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, applications for the summer season of hiking and rock climbing programs open in April or May. Applications for winter backcountry skiing, split boarding, and backcountry snowshoeing programs open in October. Participation fees are billed on a sliding scale and go towards insurance and program offerings. Learn more on the Mountain Mentors website.

Mountain Mentors is also interested in partnering with organizations to sponsor events, help with fundraising, donate gear, or provide course instruction. You can also help their work by donating.


Ally’s Vancouver Favourites

We also asked Ally to give us her recommendations for outdoor adventures around Vancouver.

Ally’s Favourite Vancouver Area Park: “Lighthouse Park because it’s very quintessentially BC to me. I love that you can rock climb, you can hike around the trails, you can go swimming. That’s where I take a lot of people to go climbing for the first time or people from out of town to go for a walk.”

Ally’s Favourite Spot for Apres: “For food, Ingrain. They are famous for their pasta. It’s fantastic after a big day in the mountains when you want some carbs. For drinks, I would go to Beere Brewing.”

Ally’s Outdoor Advice for Beginners: “I have something that I call the 5 o’clock news test. If I ended up on the 5 o’clock news for what happened, would I be ok with how I went about my day? It ties back into making sure you have the 10 essentials, have filed a trip plan with somebody, that you’d done all the research. Things can still go wrong: maybe you slipped and twisted your ankle and need some help to get out of there. That happens. But if it happened because I wore crocs on a trail, would I be ok with that being publicized or would I be embarrassed that I didn’t prepare?”


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