Meet Alpinehikers Guide: Abby Strauss-Malcolm

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We understand that it’s nice to know who you will be exploring the trails with during your Alpinehikers adventure. My name is Eryka Thorley and I work in the Alpinehikers office as well as a guide in the Alps. Each month we will be introducing you to another member of our fantastic Alpinehikers guide staff in Europe and the Southwest. Enjoy and we look forward to hitting the trails with you soon.  

Many of you will recognize Abby from her friendly voice when you call the Alpinehikers office.  Others will recognize her from the trails as this is her 5th season guiding for Alpinehikers.  Wherever your first encounter, her confidence, contagious laughter and smiling soul are sure to leave a memorable impression.

Yoga break on the South Kaibab trail below Tipoff Point, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Me: How long have you been guiding and where did you get your start?

Abby: The call of the outdoors has always been strong for me. I did my first backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail at age 13 with my Dad and couldn’t wait for more. After high school, I took a year off, before starting college, so I could thru-hike the whole Appalachian Trail. At the trail’s terminus on Mount Katahdin in Maine, I found myself wondering what was next. My interests eventually brought me out to Arizona to a small liberal arts college which specializes in outdoor/adventure education.  In Arizona, I began exploring slot canyons, the high desert, and sheer rock faces. After college, I dove into the world of teaching outdoor education for schools in both California and Arizona. There’s something truly rewarding about bringing groups of youth out into the wild to disconnect from technology and reconnect with themselves. A few more of life’s twists and turns brought me to guiding tours for Alpinehikers.  I now spend my summers guiding in the Alps and work behind the scenes for Alpinehikers the remainder of the year, with the occasional stint guiding in the southwest for our sister company Rubicon Outdoors.  This upcoming summer will mark my fifth season guiding for Alpinehikers and over 10 years in the outdoor industry.

Early morning above Obersteinberg at the back of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Phot0 credit: Kerrick James

Me: Tell us about your childhood years…

Abby: I grew up in southern Maine, in the fun coastal city of Portland. Summers were spent on the water, zipping around in our family Boston Whaler, exploring islands, rocky beaches, and island trails. Fall brought us into the woods with crunchy leaves under foot. Winters included more gear: giant snow suits, ice skates, and sleds were our tools for adventuring around the neighborhood. Skating on local ponds, sledding down monster hills – monster in my memory, in reality they were pretty small – and digging snow caves and forts. Spring was again back to our neighborhood with games and admiration for all of the growing tree buds. I have two older brothers, whom I was constantly trying to keep up with. We made up countless games. When my brothers took care of me we’d play my favorite game Don’t touch the ground where the only rule was ‘don’t let Mom and Dad see you’. The goal was to travel from the front door to the back door of the house without touching the ground. This might be where my love of climbing first began. I can still remember being so small that I could stand on the door handle without my head touching the ceiling and swing myself and the door open. Those poor hinges!

Me: When you’re not guiding in the Alps, where can we find you?

Abby: Right now I’m daydreaming about snowboarding and cross-country skiing. Alpinehikers’ sister company Rubicon Outdoors offers trips in Tahoe, California. I’d love to spend a week or two playing in the snow, something that’s not very abundant in Prescott, Arizona where I live. Tahoe is also gorgeous in the summer time. The lake is perfect for a swim and there are miles and miles of trails where you can hike, run and mountain bike. 

Rock-climbing in Cochise Stronghold, Arizona on a ladies trip

Me: What’s your favorite part about guiding in the Alps?

Abby: My favorite part of guiding in the Alps is getting to match faces to all the people I’ve been writing and speaking with throughout the year. It’s extremely rewarding to help someone choose the right trip for them and then share the trail and all my favorite places in the Alps with them. I also love breaking from the office for a couple of months. For most of my life I’ve pursued jobs that kept me away from the desk, so getting a solid break is well appreciated.

Me: What’s your go-to training activity to prepare for the Alps?

Abby: Truthfully, I have a hard time sitting still. I like to trail-run, swim, hike, snowboard, cross-country ski, rock-climb, lift-weights and do yoga when I’ve got free time. If there’s a local trail-running race in the spring, I like to use that as a training goal to prepare for the summer guiding season. There’s a lot of ascent and descent in the Alps that’s hard to re-create. So I enjoy it as much as I can while I’m there in the summer. There’s nothing worse than huffing and puffing on long uphills and not being able to enjoy the views through the sweat dripping off your brow. Keeping a steady base level of fitness is a high priority for me, so I can be the most present and helpful guide possible.

Summit picture at the top of Croda del Becco on the Alta Via 1 in Italy.

Me: What’s one maybe frivolous thing that you always carry with you on a tour through the Alps?

Abby: There’s plenty of time to read when I’m in the Alps. Mostly on trains while traveling between tour locations. In the past I’d carry over a variety of books, but a couple years ago my husband, Zach Dahlmer who also guides for Alpinehikers, got us each a Kindle. They’re great for travel! Each summer I download ten or more books and plow through them during the long flight, train rides, or while relaxing in the evenings after a long day out on the trail. I never travel without it now.

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