Alpine Ascents without the Guys

Thanks for the emails and comments on my earlier post on women mountaineers like Wanda Rutkiewicz, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Arlene Blum. Well, after writing and posting it, I remembered this article in the 2005 American Alpine Journal “Going Manless,” by Molly Loomis (pp. 98-115).

It’s a great piece. In it, Loomis covers why all-women ascents are significant, how the perception and expectation of what women can accomplish has changed over the decades, and the significance of role models — particularly in mountaineering, rather than just rock climbing. It’s interesting, but I think absolutely correct, why women in mountaineering don’t stand out in the media and public eye except in close circles of climbing aficionados.

It’s worth checking out and you might be surprised. Though from my experience, we shouldn’t be.

As always, thanks for stopping by. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter. Happy reading and carpe climb ’em!

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Comments

  1. Thanks for yet another great link; as a very novice female mountaineer it’s inspiring and as a historian with a growing interest in the history of women’s climbing – interesting and useful! I think the double standards thing is interesting – and at the moment probably shouldn’t be criticised as girls need role models and to see that women are out there doing this stuff, never mind whether or not they’re ‘competing’ with the guys. Too many girls think sport and adventure is what boys do; which contributes to the problems of unhealthy body image, lack of exercise and, somewhat ironically, obesity. We just need to show them women get out and play in the hills too. Not to mention the other character aspects of female mountaineers – strong, confident, determined which are all charateristics we need to encourage in young girls. As I titled a blog post once ‘girls climb mountains too’ (although that was more a tirade about the traumas of trying to find female shaped kit!). This is a message we need to shout from the mountain-tops. Your recent posts definitely help.

  2. Thanks, mountaincaro.

    I actually think most women mountaineers are strong and independent by definition, so they are all probably eligible to be somebody’s role model. But I understand that even some mountaineers that are aspiring to greater , er, heights need some encouragement from heroes. I’m glad these help!

  3. Right now I am thinking of Barbara Washburn because she puzzles me. According to her book, she was a young housewife without any climbing background. All of a sudden she was whipped to Alaska and climbing the likes of Mr.Hayes and Denali….Is that supposed to give ordinary women hope in alpine adventures? Or was she really an unusual case of quick study and no one else should emulate…? -LIllian

  4. Hi, Lillian.
    I agree, Barbara Washburn is puzzling. I think part of the reason is the generational and cultural tradition Barbara and Brad lived in in the northeastern U.S; there were expectations of what a woman like Barbara was supposed to do. Brad insisted she not fit that role. In general I think she is quite unique and not a suitable role model for an aspiring alpinist.
    At the same time, I think Barbara is a case for what is possible with a little fitness, courage and determination!
    –Andrew

  5. Thanks Andrew. I particularly like this part of your comment “Barbara is a case for what is possible with a little fitness, courage and determination!”
    Ever since I read her book I couldn’t get this strange tale out of my mind, for even the much maligned “client” Sandy Pittman packed considerable climbing miles under her belt before attempting any big ranges. The sourdoughs had not much experiences but they’re accustomed to a rough life.

    In a way I think Barbara’s unique life parallels that of Anne Morrow Lindbergh,who not only became a pilot but also the first woman to ever get a glider pilot license. Barbara decided to go on these expeditions with Brad because it meant a lot for Brad,even though separation from her young children was painful. Same with Ann Lindbergh , for Charles wanted so much for her to come along on these flying trips. They are “traditional” devoted wives in that sense. – Lillian

Trackbacks

  1. […] one of my favourite bloggers, Andrew Szalay aka the Surbuban Mountaineer has written a couple of pieces on female climbers and linked to a really interesting article. Now, […]

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