As a Coloradan growing up in the shadow of spectacular mountains, mesas and forests, the great outdoors was always going to be a big part of Emily Powis’ life. Being the child of adventurous parents only fueled her daredevil sensibility, with every family trip a camping and hiking trek into the wilderness.
“Our vacations were not really relaxing — they were just us doing something really cool and going to crazy places. It was something that I didn’t realize was abnormal until I spoke to friends about their vacations on the beach,” Powis laughed.
Now, as she graduates from USC Viterbi as a biomedical engineer specializing in 3D ultrasound research, Powis has maintained her sense of adventure. Not only does she lead outdoor expeditions through SC Outfitters, but she’s also co-captain and co-president of the SC climbing team, spending her spare time at California’s climbing hotspots, scaling intimidating rock formations.
It was in high school when Powis was first bitten by the climbing bug. Her parents were lifelong skiers and backpackers, but when they were first dating, Powis said her mom and dad used to go on climbing dates together. So one summer she snuck into the basement and unearthed her parents’ climbing equipment from when they were in college. These ropes, shoes and harnesses would soon become the new tools of her trade.
“I got really into it, and I just ended up going climbing every single day all that summer. I immediately joined the climbing team at my high school, and through that I became much more involved in training and climbing outside,” Powis said.
At school, Powis felt her smaller stature at 5 feet 2 inches made team sports less fun. However, climbing was a natural fit; her physique and flexibility allowed her to mold herself into the impossible shapes needed to reach narrow nooks and holds.
“The great thing about climbing is that every body type and every person has a different style they can use to get up the wall. Even if you are really short, like me — I can do like crazy flexible stuff or scrunch up into a really tight little ball and that’ll help me do the same climb that maybe someone who’s much taller can’t do,” Powis said.
Her initial introduction to the adrenalin rush of climbing was through rope climbing – scaling an overhanging surface all the way to the top with the help of ropes and harnesses. She and her brother would spend their weekends throughout high school at the gym, mastering the art.
“Rope climbing takes a long time but it’s a lot more approachable to a beginner because you can take …….