The Sherpettes: Schlepping So You Don’t Have To

| July 1, 2011 | 0 Comments
Sherpettes in Desolation Wilderness

Sherpettes founder Jeni Lammerding (right) and Heather Kenison offering their porter services at Desolation's Lake Aloha in 2009.

Jeni Lammerding is overloaded. She’s halfway into the 7.5-mile trek to Desolation Wilderness’s Lake Schmidell, and the 40-pound, worn canvas backpack she’s carrying is downright cumbersome, its contents bulging and dangling from jerry-rigged bungee cords. They’re an unlikely pair—the externalframe pack having been manufactured before she was born—but Lammerding isn’t shouldering this load for herself. She’s a Sherpette, and the pack belongs to a 75-yearold client, one severely in need of a gear upgrade.

With long, golden hair and a tan straight out of Baywatch, the 31-yearold Lammerding is a far cry from the Nepalese guides that inspired her company’s name. Born and raised in Sacramento, she grew up vacationing at her family’s West Shore cabin, backpacking deep into the Sierra with her father. Hiking has always been a passion: She circled the Tahoe Rim Trail in a summer, completed 100 miles of the John Muir trail and explored countless routes while living in Tahoe for four years. She and Truckee psychologist Kate Spurry Parkhill cofounded the Sherpettes in 2008, and Lammerding’s hobby quickly gained a higher purpose.

They conceived the Sherpettes quite simply: women helping women access the backcountry. It’s a no-frills service; they carry in your gear, then pack it out. Lammerding carries a first-aid kit, is CPR certified and will obtain any necessary wilderness permits, but clients are essentially on their own. Sherpettes have ranged in age from 23 to 31, and their clients from 52 to 75.

“It’s a good way to go deeper in the backcountry, to really feel the effects of being out in nature by spending the night,” Lammerding says. “The relationships we’ve built with other women have been beautiful.”

Though the business remains for and by women at its core, Lammerding is open to helping families and people with disabilities reach their destinations. Desolation Wilderness, primarily accessed from South Shore’s Emerald Bay, is the Sherpettes’ main territory, yet Lammerding, a high school Spanish teacher now living in Auburn, will expand into other Northern California reaches if there is demand. TQ


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