Alum Profile: Amy Bannon

October 23, 2018 - By Sara Reveile

Outdoor Achievement: Climbing Zoroaster Temple with Neha Khurana

Amy and Neha

Originally from South Kingstown, Rhode Island, Amy Bannon (18’) decided to make the trip across the country to attend @prescottcollege because of the College’s emphasis on experiential education. She valued, “the opportunity to become completely immersed in the field with my peers and professors.” Her greatest memory of Prescott College was the “caring, passionate and fascinating” professors she got to work with. The professors were responsible for sparking Amy’s enthusiasm and drive for learning. She is grateful for the “doors they opened” in her academic and professional career.

Amy earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education enriched with emphases in Adventure Education and Outdoor Program Administration. She used her academic and hands-on learning to start a volunteer program at Northern Arizona Adaptive Sports Association for her senior project.

Amy attributes finding her voice and confidence from her time spent at Prescott College. She emphasizes that she is “a confident educator, teacher and contributor to the White Mountain School.” She coaches students enrolled in the rock climbing program. Every week, Amy has the opportunity to take out “a jazzed group” of eight female students with varied climbing experience. This opportunity is the most satisfying aspect of Amy’s career as she says,“their energy is contagious when they are all together. I get to watch and influence the changing demographic of the school climbing program before my eyes!” Her ultimate goal is to, “ensure the field of outdoor education becomes a more inclusive space to all, where people with all abilities have more accessibility.” It is her dream to start her own adaptive program and coach paralympians.

Amy’s most notable and recent ambitious outdoor climbing achievement was Zoroaster Temple, a 600 foot sandstone temple, that required a 32-mile hiking and climbing experience that started from the floor of the Grand Canyon. Amy’s experience was shared by Neha Khurana, a current fellow Prescott College student. Amy and Neha are the first women to climb Zoroaster Temple and complete an objective to this scale in a single push, all within 25 hours. Despite getting little sleep prior to their departure, they began this massive test of endurance at 2:30 am, running eight miles down to the Colorado River. Amy remembers, “Within the bubble of my headlamp, I could not see, but only sense, the vastness of the land I had just entered.” This was the easiest part of their undertaking.

The next section of the approach was “rugged and steep” of which they climbed and scrambled over layers of rock and buttes to reach the base of Zoroaster Temple. As the sun was rising and the canyon walls were glowing, “an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and wonder fell over us - what an unimaginable place we are moving through.” There was no clear way up this new route which is why it was crucial that they followed their notes closely. Amy and Neha moved very methodically up the “chimneys, off-widths, and delicate faces” of the Northeast Arete route with the knowledge if anything should place them in harm’s way, the nearest help could be found sixteen miles away.

When the team finally made it to the summit of the temple, they could retrace every step they made on the South Kaibab trail down to the Grand Canyon floor. They celebrated with a “quick summit dance, high five and cliff bar toast” but could not stay for long as their expedition was not over yet. They began to worry that they were not going to meet the 24 hour mark as they made their descent down the temple, and trekked back up and out of the canyon. Amy recalls, “Moving forward through anticipated failure is hard. Not meeting your expectations or the expectations others have for you is defeating. Doing it anyway, and putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow that movement may be, is strength.”

Amy and Neha’s ambitious undertaking serves as a major inspiration to women all over the world. “The canyon taught me a lot about partnership, patience, and persistence on this journey.” As a proud alum, Amy encourages current and future students to not be afraid to, “DO IT ALL! GO on a semester course. GO GO GO!” At Prescott College opportunities are endless and she wishes she could do it all over again and do more of it. #igotoprescottcollege