Always Expecting Adventure: Interview with Teresa DelfÍn

I can’t quite remember how I first heard about Mountain Mama, the maternity apparel for outdoorsy mamas, but shortly thereafter I became a brand ambassador for the company, and met its founder, Teresa DelfÍn. Though our relationship has been purely digital, the more I have gotten to know Teresa, the more she has inspired me, surprised me, and just plain ‘wowed’ me.

Joshua Tree bouldering. Photo by Eileen Ringwald. http://photography.eileenringwald.com/

Teresa Delfin, Joshua Tree bouldering. Photo by Eileen Ringwald. http://photography.eileenringwald.com/

In addition to starting not one, but two apparel companies, this 38-year-old entrepreneur is also the mother of two boys (Fausto, who will be six in a few weeks, and Enrique (E.E.), who is two). And as if all that isn’t enough, Teresa’s other “hat” will make you wonder if this woman wears a superhero cape beneath her climbing gear. Read on for more about this multi-talented mountain mama!

MW: Where do you live?

TD: Southern California at the foot of Mt. Baldy.

What do you like about living there?

I live at the base of a mountain, at the intersection of two national forests. I’m 20 minutes away from the closest skiing, 90 minutes from rock climbing in Joshua Tree, and 45 minutes from the ocean. I don’t have much in common with the Southern California stereotype, which made it a little hard to make friends at first, but after a few years it’s starting to feel like home.

What are your favourite ways to get outdoors with your family? 

I have never been a devotee of just one outdoor sport. Whether it’s pedaling or paddling, climbing rock or ice, I adapt pretty well to seasons and conditions. This flexibility has served me well as a parent! We’re up for whatever the conditions call for — everything from backyard camping to backpacking, skiing, and rock climbing. The activities that are so far “just for mama” are multi-pitch rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and stand-up paddling. But that will change soon! Fausto is begging to learn to ice climb and my dad just gave him his vintage ice axe!

What was the motivation behind starting Mountain Mama? How has this company evolved since the beginning?

The idea for Mountain Mama, the company I started that makes outdoor apparel and gear for maternity and nursing, came to me when I was pregnant with Fausto. When he was one year old I started serious R & D and by the time he was two we were exhibiting at Outdoor Retailer and picking up awards for innovation and inspiration (Apex Award and OIA Award)! The newest addition to our lineup is the world’s first maternity climbing harness, which we partnered with Mad Rock to make. Mountain Mama and Mad Rock came together to co-design it, resulting in some hilarious R&D sessions, and they manufacture it. It’s called the Mountain Mama by Mad Rock.

2,000' of vertical backpacking and they're still not tired! Photo by Danielle Kaiser. http://milesofmemories.zenfolio.com/

2,000′ of vertical backpacking and they’re still not tired! Photo by Danielle Kaiser. http://milesofmemories.zenfolio.com/

Is My Outdoor Alphabet also your brainchild? Where did this company come from?

My Outdoor Alphabet began with illustrator and graphic designer, Seth Neilson. The first product he created was the Alpininst’s Alphabet poster. As soon as I saw it we got together and collaborated on kids’ apparel based on his illustration. My Outdoor Alphabet, the brand, soon followed, offering onesies and tees like “C is for Carabiner” and “S is for S’mores.”

Meanwhile, you wear another, rather extraordinary hat. Tell me about your educational background, and what you are doing with it today.

Haha! Yes. Apparently there aren’t a lot of Stanford Ph.D.s running around the outdoor industry! Mountain Mama is still a start-up and a labor of love. My “real” job is as an anthropologist. I’m a professor at Whittier College, a four-year-liberal arts college, where I specialize in cultural anthropology of Latin America. My education is pretty eclectic, too. I dropped out of high school and moved to the mountains to ski and climb. My undergrad degree is from the incredible and non-traditional (no grades!) The Evergreen State College. I then got an M.A. at U.C. Berkeley and a Ph.D. at Stanford.

Just recently you decided to launch your very own webspace, Expect Adventure. Blogging can be a ton of work. Why dive in?

I love writing, but in academia writing has to be painstakingly researched and sometimes footnoted to the point of illegibility. Blogging is how I unwind in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. Short form writing is my craft and my guilty pleasure. Also, having spent years as an outdoor educator before I became a professor, I’m trained to translate experiences into teachable moments, hence the theme of the blog.

What are your favourite articles you’ve written so far?

I love Smile! You’ll hike better! which was inspired by my son on a recent backpacking trip. He had lost steam and confidence until I taught him about the science of smiling.

I also like doing “tips” articles that tap into my outdoor education background. 5 Tips: Transition to Outdoor Climbing – With Kids! has proven to be useful to a lot of indoor climbers who have never ventured out of the gym but might be ready to take the leap.

Joshua Tree exploring with baby Enrique. Photo by Eileen Ringwald. http://photography.eileenringwald.com/

Joshua Tree exploring with baby Enrique. Photo by Eileen Ringwald. http://photography.eileenringwald.com/

Every outdoorsy parent seems to have a funny story about things gone wrong during an outdoor excursion with their kids. What’s yours?

This isn’t a gone wrong story, but on a trip to Sri Lanka with the boys I climbed Sigiriya mountain, a pilgrimage site, with E.E. who had just turned one and was curled up on my chest in a Boba Air. I speak five languages so I understood many of the people descending remark on the “lady climbing a mountain with a BABY!” My parenting choices are often perceived as a bit extreme, so I figured someone would say something mean or judgmental. To my delight, no one did! Eventually a Frenchman muttered chapeau – hats off – as he walked by, and got a good laugh when the climber with the baby called back, merci!

What are your best tips for parents wanting to get outdoors with their kids?

Get out in whatever way you feel comfortable and confident. Time outdoors as a family can lead to some of the best and most enduring memories, but not if it’s stressful. It’s great to explore new things together as a family, but the stakes are often pretty high on outdoor adventures. If you’re a car camper, the first backpacking trip is probably best experienced on your own. If you climb at the gym, get a guide for that first time at the crags.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Little known fact: My family is from Mexico and Spanish is not only my first language, but also my boys’. We spend about ten weeks a year in Latin America so they grow up solidly bilingual and bicultural.

Follow Teresa on TwitterFacebook and Instagram!

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