Idling through a couple of guidebooks and dimly recalling things I've gleaned from the web, I realised that I am not aware of any "notable" first ascents of rock-climbing routes by women. I am sure there must be some - to put it in context, I don't do much "armchair" climbing i.e. don't read magazines or website news, and don't scour guidebooks for every last detail. Maybe this puts me in a BETTER position to pose the question though - from a distant viewpoint, women's FAs seem "invisible". I know Anne Arran has been involved with parties' multipitch assaults (and I've never worked out who gets the FA on such ventures - a question for another thread?), and I daresay Julie Tullis put some stuff up both on rock and long mountain expeditions, but, blah de blah, you get the picture.
So many strong female climbers around. Is it not in the feminine psyche to new-route? Or is there something else at play? Or am I being patronising and sexist? This last is not Straggler pugnaciousness, it is a genuine and earnest question, w.r.t. comments I made in a thread about freediving and Tanya Streeter
Do you mean notable modern first ascents, or historical? There are quite a few classic routes which were first climbed by women (although often with a male partner, but both are recorded in the FA, and I know in at least some cases the woman was leading).
I read an interview with Lyne Hill ages ago in which she said that on the whole women didn't seem so bothered about new routing - She made some analogy with marking your territory, I think it was somthing like 'You don't see female dogs p**sing on lamp posts'.
ourkid06 Aug 2007
In reply to Blue Straggler:
emma alsford (i think thats how you spell her name?)in pembroke.
Thanks for the link sutty, I think I have read it before, I am certainly (dimly) familiar with Lucy Walker.
In the essay I count one mountain FA ("Wanda Rutkiewicz led a grup up Gasherbrum 2, at the time the highest unclimbed peak at the time") and sort-of one rock FA (" [Lynne Hill] helped put up the first .13 in the East.")
I think Oceanic has independently raised the point that I had in my mind.
Women FAs go back a long time. As well as the women noted in the article Sutty referenced, there was Loulou Boulez and more recently Nea Morin, Gwen Moffat. Nea Morin put up several FAs on southern sandstone, as well as a few further afield.
Emmeline Lewis Lloyd (1827-1913) seems to be overlooked in women's climbing. Lucy Walker always climbed with her father or brother, but Emmeline Lewis Lloyd usually climbed with a female partner, Isabella Straton. They made the FA of the Aiguille du Moine near Cham in 1871.
In reply to Blue Straggler: lynn hill's first free ascent of the nose say's it all?a lot of the top male yosemite climber's had been trying to free it for year's,I think the changing corner's was the main difficult pitch rated at 5.13c-5.14!also the glowering spot 5.12d pitch is pretty naughty!and her comment afterwards of "it goes boy's!" was pretty cool.she also put up a fair few hard routes in the gunk's and vietnam,anybody who want's a good read should get her book "climbing free",on a vaguely related theme has anybody read "the rock warrior's way" by arno ilgner?
In reply to Blue Straggler: Didn't Veronica Lee lead the top pitch of suicide wall? She does in the Hard Grit recreation anyway. Now that was impressive, its a chuffing pumpy lead even with all the gear you can now get into it!
In reply to Adam Moroz: No , in fact in the BMC, Peak (not Peaks notice) climbs 4 Chatsworth guide there is a good description of the first ascent, Hard Grit was innacurate, or taking artistic interpretation a bit far.
<opens can of worms and lights blue touchpaper etc>
Does freeing a route count as a first ascent?
And on that tangent, for unonsightable routes (Harder Faster, Meshuga, Indian Face, Rhapsody etc), what's the etiquette?
Mr Pink spots the line and practices it on top rope, gets the moves hardwired, but by the time he goes for the lead, Mr Orange has got in there before him - does Mr Orange get the FA?
In reply to Blue Straggler:
I being patronising and sexist? This last is not Straggler pugnaciousness, it is a genuine and earnest question, w.r.t. comments I made in a thread about freediving and Tanya Streeter
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> Would you care to elaborate on that, returning the courtesy that I granted to you?
Well its just that you must have had a suspicion that it was or you wouldn't have mentioned it, and I suspect it is.
There are all sorts of reasons why women have not been as forthcoming as men in new routing; history, demographic, the fact that until recently there were far fewer women than men climbing, the very fact that as in most sports the top males are usually better than the top females, though that of course does not preclude them from doing new routes!
In reply to Ian Hill thats bullshit, many of those routes are both significant and notable, The Dubliners was one of the hardest routes in the Poisoned Glen in Ireland way back in 1958. Nea was breaking down barriers, to be 'notable'it doesn't have to be the very hardest thing about.
> the very fact that as in most sports the top males are usually better than the top females, though that of course does not preclude them from doing new routes!
I guess this is what I was getting at - OK your MacLeods and Birketts and Gaskins etc, are up there at the top end, perhaps climbing that bit harder than the "top women" but, UNLIKE a lot of sports, climbing has a creative, pioneering and exploratory nature to it. If you can't run 400m faster than the world record-holder, you won't make an impact aside from taking more localised records. But an inability to climb (say) E10 does not stop someone from pioneering a fantastic and notable new (say) E4 somewhere.
So I don't think the comparison to "other sports" is too valid here, and that in fact is what brought the question up.
In reply to Blue Straggler: I agree, Gary Gibson has never been the best about but his impact and his thousands of new routes have certainly left a mark on UK climbing. I myself have never been cutting edge but I have done hundreds of new routes , many of which give a lot of people a lot of satisfaction. I bet one of my routes alone has had thousands more ascents than all the routes from E6 upwards put together.
So what is 'notable', the achievement maybe not, the route certainly.
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> by 'notable' I'm meaning good or of three star quality, not hard
But that's a very narrow interpretation. Early alpine FAs by the likes of Emmeline Lewis Lloyd and Loulou Boulez were neither hard (by mordern standards) nor " 3 star" but are nevertheless undoubtedly "notable".
As far as I know Gasherbrum III was the only first ascent Rutkiewicz was on (apart from various ‘first woman’ achievements). Her friends Anna Czerwinska and Krystyna Palmowska were on the first ascent of the NW ridge of Rakaposhi, although the ‘ladies team’ followed the men.
http://www.summitpost.org/mountain/rock/173510/rakaposhi.html To compare, though, Kukuczka put up 10 new routes on 8000ers.
In reply to Blue Straggler: Dorothy Pilley on Cioch West and routes in Wales. Mrs Mummery accommapied Alfred on a few alpine routes (not necessarily rock routes). In fact there were a number of early female alpinists.
In reply to AlisonC:
Saw her do right wall back in the late eighties - was that the first female ascent? Not sure. Had the good fortune to stay with her and her brother/s in Melbourne on an Oz trip way back when - a very talented climber.
The Lynn Hill ascent of the Nose is really startling. I think if it had been a bloke we would still be hearing about it now (unless it was Simon who had managed that one b.....d pitch - I don't think he would have shouted too much about it though being so laid back and chilled).
The fact could well be that the changing corners pitch is nigh on impossible for 99% of male climbers and so we have all lost interest and taken our collective bats home.
Now you mention her name, yes perhaps. But please check the OP for my various disclaimers and excuses for not having heard of some possibly "well known" climbers.
I think I vaguely heard her name in the context of "a, if not THE, top female climber" but I didn't make a mental note of her FAs.
How many E6s were onsighted in the 1980s? Extreme grades are all quite esoteric to me so I have no real idea, but I'm guessing that a lot of 1980s E6 routes were not onsightable, by any gender? So was Louise in fact one of the top climbers of her era, as opposed to "just" the top female?
shadrachyrci08 Aug 2007
In reply to Al Evans:
Ah ! Notable first ascents by women....
> How many E6s were onsighted in the 1980s? ...I'm guessing that a lot of 1980s E6 routes were not onsightable, by any gender?
I'm too far out of the loop to know about absolute numbers but I'm sure that a higher proportion of E6s climbed in the 1980s were onsighted than is the case now. Working trad. routes is a spin-off from sport-climbing, which didn't become a mass participation activity 'til the 90s.
> So was Louise in fact one of the top climbers of her era, as opposed to "just" the top female?
Louise was the best climber in Australia regardless of gender in the mid-1980s.
Lisa Rands (rock)
Freda Du Faur (NZ Alpine climbs at the tun of the last century)
Ginny Harrison (first female ascent of Kangchenjunga and 4 8000ers under her belt when she died on Dhaulaghiri. And she was a bloody good rock climber too.
In the late 1950s/early 1960s, Elizabeth (Betty) Healey was one of the best climbers in Ireland - of either gender. The classic Ploughshare in Donegal doesn't sound too bad at VS, 4c. The reality is much more daunting! Done with one dubious peg and a sling round some vegetation (!) on the crux pitch. High steps with big boots onto sloping ramps. Wet streaks. Moves you really wouldn't want to reverse. No idea whether the line was climable or not. In the circumstances of the FA, it was just about as bold as it gets. A notable effort from a (now) little known climber, who did an awful lot of good stuff.