As kids in Vail, Colorado, fraternal twins Alexa and Lauren Flower rode horses, rock climbed and competed in rodeo. While studying at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, they took their climbing to the next level and spent a year exploring Horsetooth Reservoir and Poudre Canyon. Here their local community took them under their wing and mentored them in the sub-disciplines of climbing (trad climbing, big walls, sport climbing) skills they needed for the biggest rock routes in the world. When Alexa came to Yosemite in 2013, she looked up at 3,000 foot El Capitan and fell in love.
“From there, I took off with it,” Alexa tells ASN from her house in Yosemite Valley, where she works as a Climbing Ranger. To date, she’s summited El Cap 15 times – she holds the female speed record on Zodiac at 16:20 – and reached the top of most major rock formations in the park. She’s lived seasonally in Yosemite for six years.
These days, Lauren’s in Colorado and Alexa is in California. However, their work overlaps when it comes to working in trauma. Alexa performs dozens of rescues per year for Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) and Lauren is an emergency medical technician at Breckenridge Ski Resort.
“I started skiing when I was very young, and also grew up running cross country, dirt biking, playing soccer, and competing in rodeo,” she says.
After college, Alexa pursued a career in product development for Coleman, but life in the cube farm was not for her. “I wasn’t thrilled, but I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do in life,” she explains. After a year, I moved to Yosemite and got a job flipping burgers for the concession.”
A few years later she switched to working for the Park Service doing Search and Rescue and working as a Climbing Steward. This year she started as a Climbing Ranger.
As a Climbing Ranger, her responsibilities include the Ask A Climber program in El Cap meadow, where she assists visitors in finding climbers on the wall through a telescope. She also does SAR, trail maintenance, and vertical wilderness patrols. During climbing patrols – which can go on from several hours to several days (as in overnight on the wall) – she interacts with others on the route and notes human impact.
“It’s hard to explain why I love rock climbing so much, but I crave the adventure, the mental and physical challenge, and the liberating feeling when you overcome your fear,” Alexa tells ASN.
Alexa’s work in Yosemite is seasonal, May through October. In winters she flies back to Colorado to work ski patrol with her sister.
Lauren adds, “Our mom is into extreme sports. She totally gets why we climb. She’s a big dirt biker and mountain biker and a skier. We take her climbing too.” She got them into skiing when they were only two years old.
From 2015 to 2017 in Breckenridge, Alexa and Lauren worked ski patrol where they set off dynamite to reduce avalanche danger, patrolled the mountain, and responded to all on-mountain emergencies. Due to the government’s sole survivor policy, they weren’t allowed to ski together in dangerous areas nor set off avy bombs together. However, they were allowed to rescue the same patients; some who had had severe head trauma, others broken bones.
“We’ve gone through hard scenes together,” Lauren says. “And when it’s hard to put words together, we’re able to communicate without words.”
As for their plans, Lauren is applying for schools to become a Physician Assistant. Alexa plans to ski patrol part-time in Breckenridge this winter and travel internationally in the spring.
Where Alexa moved out west in 2014, Lauren stayed in Colorado where she pursued a career as an EMT working in emergency rooms. Today she works in emergency rooms at the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort, Copper Mountain and Keystone.
Lauren, like Alexa, also stays active in the mountains, where her passions include skiing, mountain biking, and climbing. These days she doesn’t climb as often as Alexa – just a few times a year – but every year when she comes out to Yosemite, they do long routes. One year they climbed the 2,000-foot Snake Dike route on Half Dome. “At the top she was really stoked,” Alexa says. “That’s a huge climb for someone who doesn’t live here or climb that much.” Another time they did the 1,500-foot Royal Arches route.
On the Arches route, they ended up taking many hours longer than they planned and ran out of water. “Mentoring someone on a long multi-pitch route adds a technical layer,” Alexa says. “Toward the top, she looked over at me and said I’ve never been this dehydrated in my life.”
At the end of it, after eight hours, Lauren was exhausted. “It was hard being exposed for that long,” she says. “I should have practiced before I got out there.”
“We both find a lot of life in climbing, and it’s a cool way for us to bond,” adds Lauren. “I trust her more than any other climbing partner. She’s so passionate about it. I am very passionate about mountain biking and compete in a handful of races each year. I share mountain biking with her.”
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