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2 best friends created a safer way to find hiking partners. Thousands of women joined

Myriam Raymond-L'Heureux, left, and Marie-Pier Ouimet, right, are seen before a three-day hike around the Adirondack Mountains in May 2023.  (Submitted by Myriam Raymond-L'Heureux and Marie-Pier Ouimet - image credit)
Myriam Raymond-L'Heureux, left, and Marie-Pier Ouimet, right, are seen before a three-day hike around the Adirondack Mountains in May 2023. (Submitted by Myriam Raymond-L'Heureux and Marie-Pier Ouimet - image credit)

When Myriam Raymond-L'Heureux posted about her plans for a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro in 2025 on the Facebook hiking group she created, she was prepared to go solo.

But instead, the response was so positive that now she's working out how to organize the trip for about a dozen women.

"Every occasion is good to meet new people," says Raymond-L'Heureux, who co-created the women's-only hiking Facebook group, Randonnée entre filles, along with her best friend, Marie-Pier Ouimet.

An avid hiker based in Terrebonne, Que., Raymond-L'Heureux would often resort to different Facebook groups to coordinate rideshares and find new hiking partners. After feeling a little uneasy from some of those interactions, she decided to create an online space for women to share their interest in hiking in June 2020.

"The initial idea was to stop having men who are a little strange and 20 to 30 years older than you answering your [Facebook] posts," she said.

"You don't want to be on your guards during the hike and a little insecure with a guy you don't know in the woods."

Over three years later, the Facebook group has around 9,200 members and is still growing.

"It became bigger than we thought," said Ouimet.

Nancy Jolicoeur says the Facebook group Randonnée entre filles is a good way to meet new people and also get their insights on the best trails and equipment.
Nancy Jolicoeur says the Facebook group Randonnée entre filles is a good way to meet new people and also get their insights on the best trails and equipment.

Nancy Jolicoeur says the Facebook group Randonnée entre filles is a good way to meet new people and get their insights on the best trails and equipment. (Submitted by Nancy Jolicoeur)

Among those is Nancy Jolicoeur, a 55-year-old hiker from Saint-Bruno, Que., on Montreal's South Shore. She joined the group shortly after it was created and has gone on hikes with as many as five other women at a time through the group.

She says it's helped her find regular partners who hike at a similar pace.

"I do a lot of solo hiking but sometimes you lack motivation. So if you go with someone else they can encourage you," she said. "Between women we feel more safe."

Geneviève Dubé, another member from the group, shares the same sentiment.

She recently went on a hike with some other members in Vermont and says that the group has really helped her value the social component of outdoor activities.

Usually focused on personal goals, Geneviève Dubé says that hiking with women from the Randonnée entre filles group has helped her take the pressure off from the hike and enjoy the process instead.
Usually focused on personal goals, Geneviève Dubé says that hiking with women from the Randonnée entre filles group has helped her take the pressure off from the hike and enjoy the process instead.

Usually focused on personal goals, Geneviève Dubé says that hiking with women from the Randonnée entre filles group has helped her take the pressure off from the hike and enjoy the process instead. (Submitted by Geneviève Dubé)

"Hiking with women changed me," she says. "I can relate to them ... we have discussions about women's health. [Before] I was only obsessed with mountains."

Dubé says that mixed Facebook groups can be just as fruitful as Randonnée entre filles for finding partners, but that the latter has really helped her find community.

"The energy that I found in the Facebook group is really amazing," she said.

"It's really about helping each other out, following the other person's rhythm and respecting that rhythm," said Raymond-L'Heureux.

She says she hopes the trip to Mount Kilimanjaro, when it materializes, will help unite the group even more. Ouimet expects to be by her side.

"People may see a hike as a physical challenge, but it's not really about that," says Ouimet. "The battle is me against me because my friend will not put my foot in front of the other."

"I'm the only person that can bring me to the top."