Inspirational Outdoor Women – 8 Famous Female Mountaineers

March 7, 2021 by
POSTED BY March 7, 2021

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, we’ve decided to dedicate this post to some impressive outdoor ladies. In this post, we will introduce you to 8 famous female mountaineers of different generations who influenced the outdoor world and amazed with their incredible achievements. 

More and more women are excelling in sports such as mountain biking, hiking, climbing and, more recently, trail running. However, the sport that attracts the most media attention and produces the biggest stars is certainly climbing in all its diversity. Although once considered a male dominated sport, the number of female participants has been steadily increasing. Here are some famous women who have helped instigate that change.

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Fanny Bullock Workman  (1859-1925)

Born in 1859, Fanny Bullock Workman was one of the very first women to climb the Himalayan mountains. Otherwise she was an adventurer through and through. Together with her husband, she cycled through countries such as Spain, Syria and Turkey for ten years. And all the time while wearing a skirt.

As a geographer and cartographer, she measured the mountains she traveled and wrote books about her experiences.

She also campaigned for equality at a time when women were not even allowed to vote. This is how the famous photo of her was taken in which she propagates women’s suffrage on the “Silver Throne Plateau” in Kashmir, India .

Junko Tabei (1939 – 2016)

The Japanese Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Mount Everest. On May 16, 1975 she stood on the summit of the highest mountain in the world. In her homeland, when she was over 70 years old, she still led groups of children up the 3776 meter high Fuji. Her motivation was to instill confidence and love for nature in the next generation. When asked where she got the strength from, she told a German press agency: “The source of my energy is that I set myself one goal after the other.”

Junko Tabei died in 2016 at the age of 77 but her legend as a famous female mountaineer lives on.

Photo:  Jaan Künnap – Jaan Künnap, CC-BY-SA 4.0 , Link

Clare Sheridan (born 1952)

Clare Sheridan was one of the very first female climbers in Ireland in the 1970s. She loves hiking and climbing and has participated in expeditions on many different continents, has established climbing routes herself and written books about Fair Head and The Burren. For over forty years she has helped shape the development of climbing on the Emerald Isle.

Clare prefers traditional, technically demanding climbing at great heights and for this reason has made the conscious decision not to climb Mount Everest. For many years, her heart has belonged to Fair Head with its exquisite climbing opportunities. This headland can also be admired while hiking the coastline of Antrim.

Hiking the beautiful Antrim Coastline

Lynn Hill (born 1961)

Lynn Hill, became an absolute legend in the 80s and 90s and is one of the best rock climbers of all time. She broke various records and was the first person to climb “The Nose”, a route on the rocky promontory “El Capitan” in Yosemite National Park in 1994, making history.

Today she runs a company for climbing guides and writes on her blog about the environment, society and “women” topics such as climbing during pregnancy.

Here’s this famous female mountaineer in action:

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner (born 1970)

The Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner was the first woman in the world to climb all 14 eight-thousanders without additional oxygen. In 2012, National Geographic awarded the high-altitude climber the title “Explorer of the year” .

In the early 2000s she was part of a sensational competition between four notable female mountaineers, who were fighting over who would be the first woman to climb all eight-thousanders. The competition between Kaltenbrunner, Edurne Pasaban, NivesMeroi and Oh Eun-sun sparked a lot of debates about motivation when climbing.

Photo credit: wikimedia_ Franz Johann Morgenbesser

Lhakpa Sherpa (born 1974)

Lhakpa Sherpa is a lesser-known mountaineer. The native Nepalese holds various world records. First of all, with seven Everest climbs between 2000 and 2016, she is the woman who has climbed the highest mountain in the world most often. She also formed the first sibling team in 2003 with her sister Ming Kipa and her brother Mingma Gelu to climb the mountain at the same time. This ascent made her 15-year-old sister Ming Kipa the youngest woman on Everest.

In an interview she also said that she did not train for the climbs. She grew up in the shadow of the fifth highest mountain in the world, which has accustomed her body to the climatic conditions of the Himalayas. Lhakpa lives in the USA and works as a housekeeper.

Melissa Arnot (born 1983)

Although Melissa Arnot only started climbing at the age of 19, the American has made a name for herself internationally with her extraordinary achievements. This includes six ascents of Mount Everest, including one without additional oxygen and record times in the “50 Peaks Challenge”.  This is a challenge where the highest mountain in every US state is climbed. However, Melissa’s goal is not to compete, but to overcome her own limits.

She trains young climbers and wants to inspire other women to do the same. She says: “I want other climbers to know what women can achieve. I don’t want to be an exception and I want young women to know that anything is possible for them. “

Margo Hayes (born 1998)

Born just in the 20th century, the American Margo Hayes belongs to the very young generation of new climbers. Nevertheless, she has already made history in her own right. 

In February, 2017, she became the first woman to climb a route graded 9a+ or 5.15a (these are the highest difficulty and danger grades in mountaineering for a climbing route) when she completed the notorious “La Rambla” route in Siurana, Spain.

A growing community of female mountaineers

The story of women in the world of climbing reflects the history of the world. While Fanny Bullock was still fighting for the right to vote, today we take many freedoms and rights for granted. Women were excluded from various areas of life, including sports, for a long time. The 1972 Boston Marathon was the first marathon to allow women.

New generations of women are now growing up with a completely different self-image and imagination for what is possible. Margo Hayes now shares her successes with thousands of women on Instagram. This is certainly a long way from Fanny’s black and white picture. Clare Sheridan also firmly believes that the invention of bolts and the advent of sport climbing paved the way for women to enter the sport.

And even if the competitive nature of climbing creates competition, there is also a growing community of female mountaineers who support each other and can be inspired by role models from previous generations.

We hope that you enjoyed this post and if you’re interested in taking on the challenge of completing a long-distance hiking trail, Hillwalk Tours is here to help.