It seems to be a regular occurrence that people are using ‘like a girl‘ as a form of an insult, be it throwing, running or any other sport, come to think of it… and almost every day I see people taking offence, but why?
Why not use it to your advantage?
Make it a positive affirmation.
Why should being a girl stop us? 🙂
This week I have a slightly different Mountain Monday post and I’m choosing to focus on a few of those amazing ladies in our past who did it ‘like a girl‘, and paved the way for all of us to continue playing in the mountains!
Leslie Stephen, famous for completing the first traverse of Mont Blanc, and the first ascent of the Zinalrothorn in 1864 once wrote, very controversially, that climbs were ‘diminishing in difficulty until they became an easy day for a lady’ and for a long time, mountaineering was characterised as a male activity, but there have been active female climbers since early on in the sport’s history…
- Maria Paradis – the first female to summit Mont Blanc in 1808.
- Isabella Straton – part of a team in 1876 that made the first ever winter ascent of Mont Blanc.
- Lucy Walker – the first female to climb the Matterhorn in 1871.
- Elizabeth Le Blond – a mountain photographer and the world’s first mountain film maker, who made the first crossing of the cols de Tacul, du Chardonnet and d’Argentiere, as well as the first winter ascent of the Aiguille du Midi, she went on to become the founding President of the Ladies’ Alpine Club.
Of course, these are but a few of the first!
There was a fair amount of taboo around female alpinists in the 19th century, people didn’t approve firstly of women doing such things, nor did they approve of women sleeping out in tents with men who were not their husbands (the horror), not to mention the fact they were expected to climb in skirts or dresses…
Elizabeth le Blond in fact once left her skirt under a rock, so that she could continue climbing in trousers, only to find on her return that her skirt wasn’t there any more and had been lost to an avalanche. She sent her guide down in to the village to grab a skirt or dress, whilst she hid in the trees in her trousers… He came back with her best evening dress.
A guidebook from the 19th century commented by saying ‘on the much vexed question as to whether ladies should climb, we do not hesitate to say no’.
How wrong they were…
The Race for the Matterhorn
In 1871, Lucy Walker famously beat Meta Brevoort to become the first female to reach the summit of the Matterhorn.
She also made no less than 16 female first ascents – including the Balmhorn, Dent Blanche, the Finsteraarhorn and Monte Rosa, to name a few. She made the fourth female ascent of the Eiger (fuelled by her famous meal of champagne and sponge cake to combat her altitude sickness) and completed around 98 different expeditions, most with her favourite guide, Melchior Anderegg.
She was once asked why she never married, and replied with, “I love two things – Mountains and Melchior, and he already has a wife“.
She went on to become the second president of the Ladies Alpine Club, formed in 1907 and arguably the world’s first great female mountaineer. Plus, she completed all of these ascents in a skirt or dress… I struggle in trousers, so hats off.
“No glacier can baffle, no precipice balk her,
No peak rise above her however sublime,
Give three times three cheers for intrepid Miss Walker,
I say my boys, doesn’t she know how to climb!”
The Greatest Female Himalayan Climber
Wanda Rutkiewicz is arguably one of the most famous names of female mountaineering in the 20th century. The third woman to climb Everest, the first to climb K2 and the first to reach the summits of eight of the world’s fourteen 8,000m peaks.
In 1973, she climbed the North Face of the Eiger as part of a 3 woman team but she faced the problem of getting headline space for having done something as a woman, but wanting to be regarded as equal to male mountaineers.
So, in 1975 she organised an all female expedition to Gasherbrum III, then the world’s highest unclimbed mountain and was the first on the peak.
In 1986, the famed summer where 13 climbers died on the mountain, she managed to complete the first female ascent, but unfortunately lost two of her climbing partners on the descent.
She went on to continue climbing until 1992, when she disappeared close to the summit of Kangchenjunga whilst on an expedition to the North Face.
She famously once said, “I never seek death, but I don’t mind the idea of dying on the mountains… most of my friends are there, waiting for me.”
Of course, these are only two of the most famous female mountaineers, and there are so many more who paved the way for us to do what we love, but if I wrote about everyone who inspired me, I would be here for years…
One for another Mountain Monday perhaps, but if the ladies in this post don’t inspire us all to do it ‘like a girl‘ then I don’t know what will.
They certainly inspire me…