At 19, Morgan McGlashon became the youngest female to climb and ski the Grand Teton. She first learned to ski at the age of 2, and then took up ski racing, which transitioned into big mountain competitions during college. Now 24, McGlashon is a formidable mountain athlete focused on ski mountaineering.
“I’ve skied the Grand five more times, and every time was a totally different experience,” she says. “There’s something so cool about being on top of the Grand in the winter. It’s been a test piece for me. Each time I’m able to see my personal progress.”
When taking on challenges in the Tetons, McGlashon always expects fluctuation in weather, snow conditions, or other variables.
“Someone once told me ‘never expect to summit the Grand Teton—just feel lucky when you do,’” she says. “A lot goes into a successful day in the mountains. Avalanche conditions, weather, fitness, partners, and motivation all have to align just so, which makes it really special when they do.”
In addition to her mountaineering feats on skis, McGlashon is also a geologist for the United States Geological Survey. She is currently working on a research project in Utah studying the San Juan watershed and Lake Powell, and she would ultimately like to attain a graduate degree in geology.
“I’ve always had an innate interest in my surroundings and the topography,” she says. “I like snow science. It is similar to geology.” In particular, her interest lies in geochronology and glacier research, which involves using geochemistry to examine ice core samples and understand past climatic conditions.
“Ice is an incredible proxy for past climate and environments—it holds a story of the past,” she says.
When she’s not exploring or working in the mountains near home, McGlashon likes to venture into new territory in far-flung locations. Recently, she went to the Westfjords region of northwestern Iceland to sail and ski under the midnight sun. It was so remote she and her traveling companions didn’t see anyone else during the week they were there. She also recently spent time skiing and conducting research near Bariloche, Argentina.
The combination of research and mountaineering suits McGlashon perfectly. “I really like Arctic and Alpine environments, and doing research in those places is fun and exciting,” she says. “It’s a way to combine my interest in being in the mountains with a better understanding of them.”