Girls on Ice: Young women on a gla­cier expe­dition

At the end of August, an extraordinary expedition to the glaciated mountains of Tyrol took place led by glaciologist Lindsey Nicholson from the Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences and the “Girls on Ice”-team. Nine women aged between 15 and 17 were able to gain insights into natural sciences and mountaineering for the first time.
The Girls on Ice Expedition took place in the Ötztal Alps.
Image: The Girls on Ice Expedition took place in the Ötztal Alps. (Credit: Anna Maria Trofaier, Magdalena Habernig, Marie Schmidt)

Research and mountaineering are both fields in which women are still underrepresented. To counteract this, an expedition to an Ötztal glacier took place from 20 to 29 August 2021: Nine young women aged 15 to 17 were thus given the opportunity to gain insights into areas that were still unknown to them, without prior knowledge and free of charge. The expedition was offered for the first time in Austria, and women from Austria, Germany and Italy were among the applicants. The organisers considered it important to offer women with different personal backgrounds the opportunity to participate: from a 17-year-old woman with migration experience to a participant from Tyrol; from women with a lot of climbing experience to those who had never been to the mountains before.

Understanding and discovering ice

(Credit: Anna Maria Trofaier, Magdalena Habernig, Marie Schmidt)

Dr Lindsey Nicholson was part of the expedition team, along with two other scientists, an actress and a mountain guide. The team spent a week together in the mountains of Tyrol, with the participants themselves sharing responsibility for the smooth running of the expedition. The participants learned about glaciers, alpine landscapes, weather, climate and climate change through various activities. Despite sometimes extreme weather conditions, the young women were able to explore the glacier moraine and rivers and carry out scientific experiments. A highlight was the joint hike on the glacier including abseiling into a crevasse.

Broadening horizons

In the base camp, the daily experiences on the glacier and the results of the experiments were discussed, cooked together and sung. In the evening, the participants dealt with various topics focusing on the equality of women in science, technology, economy and society. "The aim of this project is to lure young women out of their comfort zone, to give them self-confidence and to take away the shyness of supposedly male professions. 'Girls on Ice' gives young women the opportunity to explore the glaciers of Tyrol, gain insights into glaciology and broaden their own horizons. This aims to arouse curiosity and interest in the natural sciences, while art and science combine. The relaxed environment boosts confidence in the young women's physical and mental abilities," explains Lindsey Nicholson.
The expedition is run by Girls on Ice Austria (e.V.) and co-financed by the University of Innsbruck and its Förderkreis 1669.
Votes for the project can be submitted until 31 December 2021 as part of the initiative FrauTIROLER.

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