A celebration of

Women in Climbing History

After a severe back injury and months of PT, Pamela Pack gets back to work on Nathan Martin (5.12+), Indian Creek, UT. AAC member Jason Gebauer

Climbing Timeline 1800-2015

“Above and beyond this, being from earliest years a firm believer in the equality of the sexes, I felt that any great achievement in any line of endeavor would be of advantage to my sex.”—Annie Smith Peck

1808: 18-year-old Marie Paradis of France becomes the first woman to summit Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. Henriette D’Angeville would become the second woman to climb Mont Blanc 30 years later.

1871: Lucy Walker becomes the first female to climb the Matterhorn.

1890: Fay Fuller becomes the first female to summit Mt. Rainier. She was known for her self-reliance and determination, stating that if she could not achieve the goal without help, she would not deserve to reach it. Fuller went on to become a founding member of a number of mountaineering clubs, including the American Alpine Club, Washington Alpine Club, and the Mazamas. Mt. Rainier’s Fay peak was named after her.

1897-1908: Annie Smith Peck and Fanny Bullock Workman compete for highest female altitude record. In 1908, Peck makes the first ascent of Huascaran Norte (21,831’) in Peru. Topographers employed to substantiate claims determine that Workman climbed higher with her ascent of Pinnacle Peak (22,810’) in 1906. Both women were founding members of the American Alpine Club.

Sasha DiGiulian gives it her all at the Ouray Ice Festival only two weeks after leaning how to ice climb in Ouray, CO. AAC member Jason Gebauer


“I decided to try some climbs not only guideless but manless.”—Miriam O’Brien Underhill

1928-1932: In 1928, Miriam O’Brien Underhill participates in the first complete ascent of Les Aiguilles du Diable. In the same year she becomes the first female to lead the Grépon. A year later, O’Brien and Alice Damesme make the first “manless” ascent of the Grépon. O’Brien and Damesme also make the first all-women’s ascent of the Matterhorn in 1932.

1947: Barbara Washburn makes the first female ascent of Mt. McKinley / Denali.

1952: Jan Conn and Jane Showacre make the first all-female ascent of Devils Tower.

1953: Gwen Goddard Moffat becomes the first certified female climbing and mountaineering guide in Britain.

1962: Yvette Vaucher makes the first female ascent of the North Face of the Eiger.

Audrey Sniezek on Fun de Chichunne (8a / 5.13b) at night in the Grande Grotta, Kalymnos, Greece. On-sighted by Audrey earlier that week. AAC member Luke Humphrey


“I can't understand why men make all this fuss about Everest—it's only a mountain.”Junko Tabei first woman to climb Mt. Everest

1970: Grace Hoeman and Arlene Blum lead the first all-women’s expedition to Denali. All six members summit.

1973: Sibylle Hechtel and Anne Marie Rizzi complete what is believed to be the first all-women’s ascent of a North American big wall: the South Face of Washington Column. That same year Hechtel and Bev Johnson make the first all-women’s ascent of El Capitan, via the Triple Direct.

1978: Arlene Blum makes the first American ascent of Annapurna, raising funds for the trip by selling t-shirts printed with the slogan, “A woman’s place is on top.” Blum writes a book recounting her experience, titled Annapurna: A Woman’s Place.

1974: Vera Watson completes the first female solo ascent of Aconcagua. The first all-female team would summit in 1983, led by Julia Ramirez.

1975: Junko Tabei makes the first female ascent of Everest. In the same year, Gasherbrum II becomes the first 8,000-meter peak to see a successful all-female ascent. Back in the U.S., Molly Higgins Bruce, Steph Atwood, and Laurie Wood make the first all-women’s ascent of the Diamond on Longs Peak, Colorado.

1986: Julie Tullis becomes the first woman to climb K2, but dies in a storm on the descent. That same year, Wanda Rutkiewics becomes the first woman to climb and descend K2.

Audrey Sniezek climbing with her shadow on DNA (7a / 5.11d) in the Grande Grotta, Kalymnos, at sunset. AAC member Luke Humphrey


"It goes, boys!" —Lynn Hill after freeing the Nose.

1990: Kitty Calhoun summits Makalu via the West Pillar, becoming the first female to climb an 8,000-meter peak by a technically difficult route. Lynn Hill becomes the first female to redpoint 5.14a with her ascent of Masse Critique in Cimaï, France.

1993: Alison Hargreaves solos the Alps’ famous six north faces in a season, a first for any climber. Two years later, Hargreaves makes the first unsupported female ascent of the Everest without supplemental oxygen. Only Reinhold Messner had climbed Everest solo without oxygen at this point.

1994: Lynn Hill becomes the first person to free climb the Nose in 1993 and a year later repeats the climb, free, in a day.

Alex Johnson on the 2014 Psicocomp Wall in Park City, UT during the Psicocomp Competition. AAC member John Lindmark


“I first started thinking about doing it when the women’s record was 12 hours, basically because I felt that this was almost an embarrassment to us. Then two good friends of mine brought the record down to 10 hours and 40 minutes [Libby Sauter and Chantel Astorga]. Half a year later a couple other women joined the game and broke their record by 20 minutes [Jes Meiris and Quinn Brett]. The race had begun… I knew that I could still break this record without investing too much time into it. So, I decided to and in the process I realised that it is actually a really fun way to climb big walls!”—Mayan Smith-Gobat (interview) about breaking the female speed record on the Nose.

2004: Monika Kambic-Mali and Tina Di Batista make the first all-female ascent of Fitz Roy, via the Franco-Argentine route. Karen McNeill and Sue Nott make the first female ascent of the Cassin Ridge on Denali. This same year Steph Davis free climbs El Capitan’s Free Rider in a day.

2005: Josune Bereziartu climbs Bimbaluna rated 5.14d/5.15a (9a/9a+).

2006: Kit DesLauriers becomes the first female in the world to ski off the top of the Seven Summits.

2011: Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner becomes the first female to climb all 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen.

2012: Sasha Digiulian becomes the first North American woman to climb 5.14d, joining Spain’s Josune Bereziartu (2004) and Charlotte Durif of France (2011). Also in 2012, Japanese climber Tomoko Ogawa became the first woman to boulder V14, followed two years later by Ashima Shirashi.

Arlene Blum (born 1945) is inducted into the Mountaineering Hall of Fame. She is best known for leading all-woman ascents of Annapurna and Denali.

Chantel Astorga and Mayan Smith-Gobat make the first all female Half Dome/El Cap link-up.

2013: Mayan Smith-Gobat (New Zealand) and Libby Sauter (U.S.) break the female speed record for the Nose on El Cap by nearly two hours (4:43).

Gaby James making her way up Jim Jam (5.9) during her first visit to Vedauwoo, WY. AAC member Jason Gebauer


"I fully suspect 30 years from now it will be hugely different. And if this is a stepping stone to encourage underrepresented minorities, and to help encourage participation in climbing, then I will happily be that.” —Libby Sauter

2014: Alex Puccio climbs her second V14, just six weeks after her first one, making Puccio the first woman to climb more than one V14.

Explorer, geographer, and Himalayan mountaineer Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925) is inducted into the Mountaineering Hall of Fame.

Quinn Brett and Libby Sauter do the first all female two El Cap routes in a day.

2015: Ashima Shiraishi climbs 5.14d/5.15a (9a/9a+).

Ashima Shiraishi, at age 13, climbs Open Your Mind Direct- a possible 5.15a in Spain. If the grade holds, she will be the first woman to climb such a difficult route.

Brette Harrington completes the first free-solo ascent of the 2,500 foot Chiaro di Luna (5.11a), in the Fitz Roy massif.

2016: Ashima Shiraishi, age 14, becomes first woman to climb V15 with her ascent of Horizon at Mt. Hiei, Japan. Three months later she climbs a second V15: Sleepy Rave, in Australia.

Melissa Arnot becomes the first American woman to summit and descend from Everest without using supplemental oxygen.

Libby Sauter and Alix Morris top out above the Salathé Wall on El Cap after 18 hours and 35 minutes of climbing, setting a new female speed record for the route. Sauter is the fifth female and youngest person to be inducted into the Mountaineering Hall of Fame.

Fernanda Maciel achieves the women's fastest ascent of Aconcagua in a day.

Miranda Oakley becomes the first female to solo the Nose of El Cap in a day.

2017: Margo Hayes Climbs La Rambla, Becomes First Woman to Send 5.15a

Libby Sauter on the Salathe Wall in Yosemite. AAC member Cheyne Lempe


“Mountaineering for women is no new sport, no mere temporary fashion that they will soon tire of.”
—Elizabeth Le Blond

See our online exhibit featuring some of the first pioneering women of mountaineering in the 1800-1950's.

Elmina Buhl crossing the bergschrund on the SE face of Gannett Peak, WY. AAC Library collection

What is the biggest misconception about women in climbing?

We asked eight women to tell us what they think—read their interviews.

Audrey Sniezek getting the first female ascent of Lost Horizons (8c / 5.14b) at Little Si, North Bend, WA, early morning before heading into the office. AAC member Luke Humphrey