Aisha Weinhold – Creating No Man’s Land
24-year-old Aisha Weinhold is living many adventurers’ dreams. She runs a women’s film festival and co-owns an outdoor store. But that’s not why we like her. We’re big fans of her drive, passion for doing what she loves and, of course, her Ke$ha tattoo.
“Initially, what really attracted me to the outdoors was the freedom to play outside without social or physical constructs. It’s just mountains and creeks that you have to work with,” Aisha shared.
The Carbondale, Colorado native believes being near the mountains and anywhere outdoors fosters a pioneering and adventurous spirit. She cultivates these attitudes while alpine climbing and running in the summer and ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing in the winter.
In early July 2016, Aisha experienced her worst injury to date – a sprained ankle. Despite the swelling and pain, Aisha had to have a little fun.
“My brother and his friends came over last night and they are all into Pokemon Go. I ended up hobbling all over the place trying to catch Pokemon. I definitely made it worse,” she admitted while laughing.
The rather extreme sports that she is involved in are often skewed greatly toward male participants. At any given time, Aisha may be the only woman on a rock wall, trail or competing in a race.
She’s had many experiences where people underestimated her because of her gender. Once even her best friend let it get in the way. Aisha was climbing with her husband Steve and their male friend at a City of Rocks in Idaho. The friend wanted to try a 5′ 3 solo and he invited Steve but ignored Aisha. She became so frustrated and angry that she took the groups beers and ran off into the woods to cry.
“I was like, ‘You guys fucking suck.’ I wish I would have said, ‘Hey guys, I can solo. At least give me a chance.”
After the men descended, Steve told Aisha that the friend had been terrified on the wall. “It only comes from insecurity,” Aisha realized. She’s thankful her main climbing partner is her husband who fully believes in her skills and always encourages her to try.
No Man’s Land Film Festival
Aisha created the No Man’s Land Film Festival after the idea struck her while manning a sailboat. She has a similar mentality about No Man’s Land as we do about Whoa. That is, we believe there isn’t enough media coverage about women doing badass outdoor activities and physical pursuits. Her goal with the festival is to empower women and show that there doesn’t have to be so much competition and negativity.
“It’s so funny, you’ll go to an adventure film festival today and there’s not a single woman in the program. They’re not calling it an all male film festival but it is,” Aisha exclaimed.
The festival founder sorts through several submissions a week for NML. She’s looking for quality but mostly concentrates on the story behind each film.
“I really believe that women have this intrinsic way of relating to other people, nature and activities that is different than men because women can access vulnerability a little easier. I really try to look for a story because I feel like that is something that is lacking in many adventure films,” Aisha shared.
Besides featuring an awesome story, she wants the other 50 percent of the festival films to be straight adventure porn, or, “something to be like OMG these girls are capable of everything!”
You’ll get your fair share of chasing powder, traversing big rocks and gnarly moves at a No Man’s Land event, but it will come with a healthy dose of more in-depth content too. Aisha likes to move the audience through story and make them want to get out and have their own adventures.
Learning the business aspects of No Man’s Land was a breeze. Aisha says she just has an innate understanding of marketing and advertising. She’s a bit of a perfectionist and often sees tiny mistakes as major mess ups.
“The only way I’ve made it is by being authentic and readily aware. Being very clear about where I want to go has been important, and people receive that well,” Aisha noted. “No Man’s Land really is a grassroots organization that is reliant on the community. That’s one of our most powerful tools.”
The idea for NML came to Aisha because it’s an event she’d want to attend. After being a part of the 5Point Film Festival she fell in love with the idea of creating a lady-centric event. At 5Point, Aisha loved the many activities, speakers and films. One year she went on a run with a group in the morning and then headed to a taping of the Dirtbag Diaries podcast before heading to watch ski films and meeting others in the industry.
“I want that for women so badly,” she exclaimed. “I feel like I fit at Five Point but I would love to have something that is just for women. I got a taste of that at the 2015 Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop, California. It was so good. It just felt like we were moving mountains. I felt like I could do anything. When you have those kinds of experiences they fundamentally change you and empower you to get out and do something. I really want other women to have that experience.”
A major part of No Man’s Land is the organization’s ambassadors. Aisha sites the creation of the program as a way to connect women. She grew up a ballet dancer, dancing from age 2 through 14, and says she learned how judgemental and scary women can be, especially to one another.
All NML ambassadors must submit a video of a girl crush they admire and respect. These pieces go live on the festival website where they encourage women to get out and talk to one another.
Stop and think for a second. When was the last time you approached a lady you admired?
Maybe you could have complimented a woman’s outfit in the coffee shop but you didn’t speak up. Or, perhaps you were at the climbing gym and really wanted to say how much you admire a woman’s skill but just didn’t muster the gumption to do it. Aisha says go for it.
“Asking the ambassadors to make these videos is a great way to relieve the pressure of meeting new people. The ambassadors can say, ‘Hey! I’m doing this for a film festival, can I ask you some questions?’ It’s a great way to connect with people you admire,” she noted.
Aisha shared that NML is self-funded. The event makes enough money in ticket sales to pay off whatever expenses she takes on up front. For the first festival, held in 2015, the food, liquor, sound and space were all donated.
“You’d be amazed at how many people would like to host you and you don’t even need to pay. We’re funded on fun and hopefully will make more money in the future through partnerships,” Aisha shared.
She has big plans for the NML 2016-2017 tour including stops in Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; California and several Colorado cities. She hopes to branch into Canada in the near future as well.
Women, the wild and media
If you’ve been involved in social media in any way for the last few years, you may have noticed a trend: There appears to be a constantly-growing number of ladies who are hitting the trails and slopes and adventuring everywhere in between. While it may be true that there really are more women who are interested in the outdoors, it’s also likely that you’re finally seeing publications realize they’ve been missing something crucial: women.
All those glossy magazines full of climbing porn and sick technical gear are making an effort to include more ladies. You may see women on the covers, in the features and making up photo spreads because of their impressive athleticism and outdoor feats, not just due to their hot bods.
Aisha believes that many women who adventure feel the pressure to post beautiful pictures of their travels and pursuits on social media. “Everyone is entitled to play – men don’t go out and play and feel like they have to come back with this product,” she noted.
She shared that there are two things the mainstream media can do to better cover women: “First and foremost, there needs to be equal coverage. Beyond that, we need to remove the stigma that women are underrepresented and that is why we’re showing them. I was talking to Alison Dennis of the climbing blog Weigh My Rack the other day about Lynn Hill. She had the first female free ascent of the Nose. People were saying it was the first female ascent but really it was the first free climbing ascent ever!”
It’s not just important to give badass ladies credit for their amazing outdoor accomplishments. Encouraging women to get outside is a big part of creating a gateway to bringing children into the wild too.
“Parents play a huge role in getting kids outside. When you have a 7-year-old kid, they’re not going out and buying an iPad or cable, that’s 100 percent parents,” Aisha shared. Her parents fostered an appreciation for the outdoors, even banning her and her brother from watching Seinfeld and Sesame Street.
She added, “Wanting to explore is what fundamentally gets you outside. Screentime can take that away from kids. It makes me so sad that that’s lost.”
Aisha mentioned ART, also known as attention restoration theory. This is the idea that the colors of being outside stimulate your brain and soothe proteins and hormones that are released when you’re stressed. “Your body needs that,” Aisha proclaimed.
Asking Aisha about her favorite adventure film is like asking someone who works at a record store about their favorite bands. She took a while to think, exclaiming, “I’m trying!” Eventually, she landed on the following:
- “Dear and Yonder“ – A surf film about women and their relationship with the sea. It features Aisha’s idol, Captain Liz Clark. Aisha says this film was an inspiration that helped her create No Man’s Land.
- “Hot dog“: A soft porn ski movie from the 80’s. “It is thee best movie on the planet,” Aisha noted.
- “Gnarly in pink“: This film is about three 6-year-old girls who love to skateboard. It’s as inspiring as you’d imagine. “I could watch it over and over. It reminds me what playing outside should be,” Aisha gushed.
- “180 Degrees South“: Jeff Johnson recreates Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins’ iconic van trip from Ventura, California to Patagonia, Chile. But instead of taking the land route, he travels by sea. Catch this film on Netflix.
Keep in mind these are her all-time favorites. Ask Aisha about what she’s in love with this month and she’ll share different answers – likely including films that have been submitted to NML recently and feature awe-inspiring stories she can’t get out of her head.
Her own adventures
When we talked with Aisha in mid-summer 2016, her ideal trip would be to climb in Patagonia. She would love to live there to run around, play in the lakes and climb. She admits she’s not ready to tackle climbing there yet, but would definitely like to train and work toward the level where she’d have a ton of fun there one day.
If Aisha could go on a trip tomorrow, she’d like to run on Mount Sopris at 13,000 feet, but only if her ankle was healed. If not, she’d have someone pull her around in a little bob trailer to play Pokemon Go all day and make a movie.
It’s no wonder Aisha has mad love for the mountains. Since she grew up in Carbondale, she says many of the people running “Rock and Ice Magazine” are individuals she’s known since she was little. Around age 9, Aisha met Lynn Hill, one of America’s most prolific climbers, at a party. She made Aisha feel like anything was possible.
“Lynn Hill’s autobiography, ‘Climbing free: My life in the vertical world‘ is the best book I’ve ever read. Her approach to climbing is beautiful. I love that she’s tiny, she’s 5 foot 2 inches tall, and makes no excuses. She has to do some things differently. She’s such a crusher,” Aisha gushed. “She goes about things like, ‘I’m having my own climb.’ Everyone is so obsessed right now with getting the perfect beta and projecting and whatnot. She just climbs.”
Like a certain breed of U.S. climbers, Aisha owns a sprinter van. It’s not her first foray into a four-wheeled home. In college, she refused to pay rent and instead lived in her parent’s minivan and a Tacoma. Today, she and her husband Steve frequently take their sprinter on trips throughout the Colorado area. They call it their adventure mobile.
“We do our best to keep it fresh and go play. It’s hard running ragged, it’s so easy to stay and work all the time so we really try to do a bit less,” She noted.
Aisha met Steve at Ragged Mountain Sports, a store which the duo now owns together. In 2015, after a month of knowing each other, Steve suggested they take a 10-day climbing trip together. The couple got engaged five months later and were married on their 6-month anniversary at the top of a 6-pitch chimney rock on Thanksgiving. They’ll redo their vows in front of friends and family this year.
Whether it’s running No Man’s Land, tackling an ultramarathon or planning a pitch, Aisha is a big believer in living life while you have it.
“You always learn something every time you go out, whether that’s climbing or skiing or walking or swimming,” Aisha shared. “There are so many reasons to get hung up and not go but if you ever have that desire to just get up and go, do it – just do it.”