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Summit Sisters

Summit Sisters: Create Your Own Path is a programme developed by Mountaineering Ireland informed by teenage girls.

The theme is adventure, the location is the hills but the goal is not about getting to the peak. Summit Sisters is an immersive programme which involves bringing teenage girls’ individuality and creativity to the hills. The girls choose their own challenge be it to develop their interest in photography, science, music, art, nature, the environment or to learn something new. 

The programme can run over a number of weeks either as part of a Transition Year activity during school hours or as an after-school program. Alternatively, the programme can be run over a summer weekend either as an overnight adventure or as two daytrips. To ensure there is no fitness or skills barrier, the first few days will incorporate short introductory trail walks where a guide/mentor will provide useful information on gear and safety tips. These days could also include a short fun orienteering exercise to bond the group.

Each day brings a different location and different theme, where an expert joins the group and shares their knowledge and imparts skills in art, photography, geology, upland nature, wellbeing, navigation, bouldering, or music (this can be tailored based on the group’s main interest). The girls will then choose which interest they want to base their own challenge on and at the end of the programme they can reach the summit with the photo they took, the song they wrote, the flower they found, by navigating with the guide, or with the scientific discovery they made. When they have completed the programme, they will have learned some informal skills around map reading and navigation, but the main emphasis will be on their own achievement and sharing that with the group. Having young women who are completing their Mountain Leader qualification and who have the experience to bring groups out will help provide role models for the girls. Depending on the location an experienced guide may be required at times. Linking in people who hike that teenage girls find interesting as ambassadors would help appeal to the younger audience.

Why will this idea resonate with teenage girls?

  • It provides adventure where they can explore both the great outdoors and their own interests while being themselves.
  • It creates a sense of belonging and an opportunity to have a unique experience together that bonds them, where they can share their stories and work as a team.
  • It involves social interaction where they can just enjoy the company of those they are with.
  • It is an experience that they can capture and share online afterwards. The hills can also be a relief, a quiet safe space, no reception, no FOMO, a form of escapism.
  • It’s something they can do with their friends (no set rules as to who can do it, they can build their fitness together). Learning things about their friends that they didn’t know before and giving them a chance to reconnect.
  • It is an opportunity to reach new goals with new friends.
  • It will promote positivity around body image: no requirement to wear anything specific or fashionable but something that works on the hills. Not about how you look but how you feel and how it will make your day more enjoyable.
  • There will be no pressure or competition associated with being active but they will still have a sense of achievement and challenge.
  • Seeing the female guides and young mountain leaders offers role models to encourage them to continue with the activity.

The immersive element of bringing each individual interest to the hills where it is not just about reaching the summit but the overall involvement in the adventure and experience is unique. Summit Sisters is a programme that allows girls who may have missed out on joining other sports with predetermined skills to be included. This programme focuses on personalising activities and building on existing interests whilst continuing to build a bond and trust between the girls involved. The Irish hills provides a unique landscape which offers girls who may not naturally gravitate towards traditional sports an opportunity to engage in physical activity. Not only this but it could help develop young spirits and engage their own personal interest with physical activity.

If you have a Transition Year school group or a group that you think will benefit from this programme please email your interest to

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