Test your knowledge and see if you can name these famous female mountaineers and climbers for International Women’s Day 2023.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we thought we’d put together a little quiz to test your knowledge on some of the famous British women mountaineers and climbers. Below you’ll find brief descriptions and a photo, so it should be fairly easy, right? Of course, this is a just a few of the hundreds we could have picked from! Answers are at the end. Let us know how many you got!
Name these women!
1. This Irish aristocrat travelled to the Alps to find a cure for her lungs, yet discovered a penchant for alpine winter. She was one of the first Western females to lead parties and she thanked the mountains for knocking her from “the shackles of conventionality”. When climbing she would wear a hat over her thick brown hair and a skirt over her climbing pantaloons until above the cow-line (this backfired when she left her skirt on the summit of the Rothorn and had to re-ascend to retrieve it). If you still haven’t got it, this lady was also famous for her creative side too, as a mountain photographer, one of the first female filmmakers, and an author, and she was also the first President of the Ladies’ Alpine Club. After she bagged the first winter ascent of the Aiguille du Midi, celebratory canons were fired in Chamonix.
2. Adventure climber with a capital A. This woman is a 5’2, straight-talking lifer who excels at whatever type of climbing she wants to: she’s six-time junior national champ, first British woman to climb E9, free climb El Capitan and to redpoint 8c. When she learnt to find even trad falls exhilarating, there was no stopping her. She is fascinated by the mental side of climbing and has started a business coaching climbers on improving their mental game and has been described by Beth Rodden as the future of trad climbing.
3. As a young Army driver, bored in post-war North Wales, this woman followed a climber-god in bell-bottoms off life’s beaten path. She lived a wild, bohemian life for years, making real choices between finding food and going climbing, washing her cropped curls in lakes and often ascending barefoot. Her adventures in Snowdonia, then the Lakes, Scotland and the Alps led to her becoming our first qualified female mountain guide. Later she became a successful crime writer. She was catapulted back into the limelight in 2017 by the BMC film based on her life, which won 20 international film awards and inspired a new generation. She is also one of the first female honorary BMC members.
4. British Lead Champion in 2002 and British Bouldering Champion in 2002/3, this woman applied her form outdoors to tick Brad Pitt at Stanage, a V10 in Hueco, and a clutch of bold E7s. When she climbed End of the Affair at Curbar in 2010, she was one of the very few women to have climbed E8. After climbing Austrian Oak (8b) and Overnight Sensation (8a+) at Malham in 2011, she turned to coaching and is now a GB Climbing Talent & Performance Pathway Manager, helping to nurture the next generation.
5. On May 13 1995, this woman radioed her son and daughter from the top of Everest: “I am on the highest point of the world, and I love you dearly.” She had just become the first woman in history to climb Everest without bottled oxygen and fixed ropes (only Reinhold Messner could match her style). The greatest British female mountaineer of all time, this lady left school at 18 to lead a life unashamedly devoted to climbing. She made the first British female ascent of the Eiger North Face when six months pregnant. Her next big challenge was climbing all six famous Alpine north faces in one summer, alone, during a long camping holiday with her husband and children. This was a first for any climber. After Everest she was in the media spotlight, but it was to be shortlived. Exactly three months later, she made the summit of K2 before dying with five others in a storm, aged 33. Her ambition had been to climb the three highest peaks in the world without oxygen; she had managed two. The stinging media backlash against a mother who dared to climb is still remembered to this day.
6. Steely determination, long blonde hair and a Red Bull ambassador hat? This might be an easy one for all you readers! As a child, this woman decided to take up climbing after watching Catherine Destivelle scaling the huge cliffs in Mali on TV. Without a doubt, she’s Britain’s most successful competition climber ever with an MBE from the Queen and as the first climber to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games. She has won every British Bouldering Championship she’s entered, is the only Brit to have won a Bouldering World Cup and is one of only a handful of women to have bouldered 8B+. Co-founder of the Women’s Climbing Symposium, she’s passionate about encouraging other women to climb.
7. This woman thought she was scared of heights until she started climbing, yet went on to become the standout British female climber of her generation. For over a decade, she was ahead of the game whilst others scrambled to keep up. She was seven-times British Lead Champion, a British Bouldering Champion, the first British woman to onsight 8a, redpoint 8b+, onsight E7 and climb E8. She also made the first ascent of an M9 mixed route in Colorado. Once said that she was “an obsessive climber but not obsessed with climbing”.
8. This record-breaking Punjabi woman from Derby has many claims to fame, but most recently, in January 2023, she conquered one of the most unforgiving environments on the planet, alone! This British Army Captain trekked over 922 miles over 70 days in temperatures as low as -50C to complete her expedition across Antarctica and in doing so broke the record for the longest solo unsupported one-way polar ski journey by anyone ever. During the gruelling journey she fell over more than 40 times in just one day, suffered a cold burn to her leg, and just kept going despite it being the hardest thing she’s ever done. And in 2022, after her first expedition, she became the first Asian woman to complete a solo expedition to the South Pole.
9. Britain’s reigning trad and sport queen. This coolheaded woman has headpointed multiple E9s and climbed stacks of E8s – flashing one, and in September 2019 she became the first British woman to break the ninth barrier when she climbed the 9a sport route, the Big Bang. She grew up in the Lakes, climbing with her dad and his strong friends. By 15, she’d climbed E4 and was hooked. She moved to Llanberis in search of a hardcore trad scene and hasn’t stopped since. Working as a route-setter, this lady is down-to-earth and open - her blog talks about facing fears and bouts of depression.
10. Legendary Liverpudlian who made headlines with the first female ascent of the Eiger in 1864. In 1871, after hearing Meta Brevoot (the first female mountaineer to dare to wear trousers) was planning on bagging the first female ascent of the Matterhorn, she couldn’t have that. She got there first, in a long flannel skirt and on a diet of champagne and sponge cake. This woman completed 98 alpine climbs and several female firsts with her guide Melchoir Anderegg, always chaperoned by her brother or father. Acclaimed as the pioneer of Western women’s climbing, she became second president of the Ladies’ Alpine Club in 1913.
WATCH: The award-winning film The Big Bang on BMC TV
Elizabeth Hawkins, AKA Lizzie Le Blond
Shauna Coxsey MBE
Preet Chandi, AKA Polar Preet
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