Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides stands with the #blacklivesmatter movement and is committed to racial equity in the spaces we occupy in the outdoor industry and beyond. We recognize the barriers that BIPOC (black, indigenious and people of color) confront that are not the same for all travellers and adventure seekers. We also recognize that this isn’t an area of expertise, so we enter in to conversations and dialogues with humility and the intent to listen more than speak. Many of the guides and staff at SYMG have not had to face these barriers during our personal adventures and careers in the outdoors. We realize that the outdoor industry has a long way to go to make outdoor adventures accessible to everyone.

We also recognize that just making a statement on our blog isn’t enough. As a staff we are committed to working through these issues and challenges so that we develop a deeper awareness and empathy of them. Every summer we have the opportunity to work with groups such as Adventure Risk Challenge and our local Chukchansi-Picayune Tribal Group that promote opportunities for youth that are under-resourced and do not have the same access to the outdoors. We look to expand these partnerships in the future.

We have compiled a reading list of ten articles we are encouraging all of our guides and staff to work through this summer. We hope these resources will raise our awareness of these important issues. We also hope they may be helpful to our subscribers and followers as well. If you have an article or resource that you would like to share, please comment below (or email “info@symg.com) so we can add it to this list. 

  1. The Melanin Base Camp Guide to Outdoor Allyship by Danielle Williams
  2. Environmentalism’s Racist History by Jedidiah Purdy
  3. Tracing Native American Roots of Natural Icons in the Outdoors by Jayme Moye
  4. Why aren’t more black Americans going into the outdoors? Q&A with author Carolyn Finney
  5. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: 26 Ways (& More) to be an Ally in the Outdoor Industry by Marinel M de Jesus
  6. Why we must teach the ugly side of public lands history and a tool to help by Paul Sanford
  7. The Unbearable Whiteness of Hiking and How to Solve It by Lornett Vestal
  8. A Black Traveler Confronts Racism at a Montana Resort by Prince Shakur
  9. Racial Complexities of Outdoor Spaces: An Analysis of African American’s Lived Experiences in Outdoor Recreation by Matthew Goodrid
  10. How to Be An Ally in the Outdoors by Danielle Williams

Graham Ottley
Born and raised in the Midwest (Iowa & Illinois), I always held a fascination for the outdoors and mountain landscapes as some “distant place” on maps. That fascination continues today but I am fortunate to have now lived and worked in the mountains for 15+ years. My first job as a guide was leading sea-kayak trips in coastal Ketchikan Alaska. After that season, I attended undergrad in the Southeast (Montreat College) studying Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies and went on to pursue my MBA. I first visited the Yosemite area during a spring break climbing trip with some buddies. I can vividly recall driving in and being completely awestruck by the beauty of The Valley, ...as well as all the great climbing : ) After college I worked as a Guide with Summit Adventure in Yosemite as well as internationally in the Ecuadorian Andes and mountains of Mexico. I enjoyed teaching outdoor education in Santa Cruz and Yosemite Valley during my off-seasons. I also worked with Outward Bound California leading youth trips and eventually worked as Program Director at their Midpines and Joshua Tree locations. In 2016, I transitioned to SYMG and appreciated the thoughtful approach to the work of guiding. I enjoy spending time with the great crew of guides that come here to work, live and play. Beyond work in the outdoors, I am a proud father of two children, Owen & Eleanor. I enjoy adventures with them and my wife Sarah not quite as far afield. While we still return regularly to visit family in the midwest, we are happy to call Southern Yosemite home.