The Musical Mountaineers Give the Wild a Live Soundtrack

This duo melds their passion for music and the outdoors by bringing their instruments into the backcountry.

Anastasia Allison’s love for nature goes back to her childhood. When she was 13, her family went on a road trip through the American west’s national parks, an experience that proved life-changing. On the journey, she saw her first backpackers (whom she vowed to emulate one day). “I tied myself to a tree at our campsite in Glacier National Park, and refused to leave. My parents actually had to cut me away,” she recalls.

More than two decades after that trip, Allison, now 37 and living in Everett, Washington, has found a unique way to live her outdoor dreams. In September 2017, along with Rose Freeman, she founded The Musical Mountaineers. As the Mountaineers, Allison and Freeman haul their chosen instruments—a violin for Allison, a keyboard for Freeman—across streams, over logs, and occasionally up snow-covered slopes to perform for what Allison calls “the most special audience of all”: Washington’s Cascade range.

The music the Mountaineers play ranges from classical pieces to Christmas jingles, but every selection has one thing in common: “We play simple pieces of music, because the cold makes it difficult to play for long periods of time,” Allison says. There’s an ethereal, illusory quality to watching two women in formal dresses (sometimes half-covered by puffy jackets) practice their art as if they were merely in a recital hall, not surrounded by snow-covered boulders, having just schlepped their instruments up a mountain. And despite the long miles and sore backs, Allison believes that every installment has the universal power to inspire. “Music and the wilderness are the two things that can speak so powerfully to every single person on this planet,” she says, “regardless of what language you understand.”