When the mountains call, you listen

The boom that alpinism had in Europe in the 19th century did not pass by the women of the time – even if their alpine achievements were often not recognized to the same extent. 

The strongest enticement to engage in mountain adventures probably existed for those women who lived in the mountain regions or were wealthy enough to discover them while travelling. Physically, these women were in the thick of it, yet so far away due to social constraint. Still, some brave individuals defied convention. When the mountains called, these amazing women listened and plunged into daredevil adventures.

One of them was the Irish woman Elizabeth Alice Frances Hawkins-Whitshed. In 1880, she visited Chamonix and discovered her passion for the mountains.

Soon after, she stood on Mont Blanc for the first time and even made the first ascent of the Bishorn East peak, Pointe Burnaby.

She was also the founder of the “Ladies Alpine Club” in London in 1907, the first alpine club in Great Britain. Lucy Walker, the first woman on the Matterhorn, was also later a member of the Ladies Alpine Club.

 

AN ACT OF LIBERATION

For many female mountaineers, alpinism was an act of liberation, a sense of freedom from the constraints of the “dull” predetermined life, confined to clothes and stereotypes.

“It is one of the chief difficulties for women who undertake an expedition of this kind that any man thinks he knows better what ought to be done than they do.” 

– Annie Smith Peck, founding member of the American Alpine Club, after climbing Mt. Huascarán in Peru in 1908

SPECTACULAR ACHIEVEMENTS

An important day in the history of women mountaineers was September 3, 1838: on that day, Henriette d’Angeville (1794-1871) climbed Mont Blanc unaided. Although Marie Paradis had already been up 30 years earlier, she was supported with direct help at that time.

 

Fanny Bullock Workman already succeeded in setting an altitude record for women with her ascent of the 6952m Pinnacle Peak in the Himalayas in 1906.

 

A few years later, she made a clear statement with a photograph on a high glacier with the feminist magazine “Vote for women” in her hand.

The early mountaineers made an important contribution to overcoming social stereotypes and breaking through the narrow image of women. After all, isn’t that the beauty of the mountains: in front of them, gender and origin don’t matter, because they unite all mountain lovers with a sense of awe, freedom and enthusiasm.

For even more inspiring female mountaineers, check out the full story:

Read more

 

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