Following my recent article in the New Zealand Alpine Journal on gender politics in the mountaineering community, I thought I’d pay tribute to female climbers who are totally pushing the limits. Being inspired by these badass ladies is what it’s all about…
Starting with my fave Margo Hayes since I recently watched her film in the Reel Rock Festival. EPIC!
This has been quite a year for her. She started out by sending Spain’s La Rambla, graded 9a+ (5.15a), in March. Later in the same year, on the 24th of September, she also sent Realization/Biographie in Céüse, France. As such, she isn’t just the first woman to send a route graded 9a+ (5.15a), but the first to do it twice in the same year!
After sending Biographie, she commented on Instagram “The difficulties of this endeavor were overshadowed by the sound of the birds, laughter of friends, and the changing of the seasons. To experience the delicate power that Biographie holds is a true privilege.” Definitely one of the world’s best and she sends it harder than most of the guys. Her attitude is infectious too.
How about Ashima Shiraishi- now 15 years old. She’s been making waves in the climbing community and is a sure contender for the 2020 Olympics.
She believes that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to climbing. To quote her, “Even if you’re bigger or smaller than someone, you’re tackling the same thing. It’s just your determination and focus and dedication, and that’s what makes you stronger.”
Sasha DiGiulian is a force to be reckoned with. She has been breaking records and making history with her skills for several years now. In 2012, she became the first American woman to scale grade 9a (5.14d). She has also made history as the first woman to free-climb one of the most complex routes in Eiger — Magic Mushroom (7c+).
And now, in 2017, she has made history yet again as the first woman to free-climb Madagaskar’s Mora Mora. The only other person to have ever free-climbed this 2,300-foot natural granite wall is Edu Marin, who accompanied DiGiulian on her climb.
When talking about free-climbing, Sasha DiGiulian described it as “super balletic.” In relation to gender and climbing, she said, “You can be feminine and a badass. I like to climb massive cliffs while also painting my fingernails pink — there’s no certain mold to a certain identity — Be who you want to be.”
While it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the world’s best female climbers, it’s equally important to highlight those who are working somewhat in the background to help others realize their potential.
Masha Gordon is one such individual. She didn’t discover her love for mountaineering until she was on her maternity leave in her 30s. However, since then, she has gone on to become the fastest woman to ever complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which involves reaching the two poles, and the seven highest summits of the world.
However, her greatest accomplishment isn’t just her personal achievement. It’s all of the talented young women she has helped through her UK-based charity GRIT&ROCK, a mountaineering training program largely aimed at helping teenage girls from weaker socio-economic backgrounds.
GRIT&ROCK helps promote female first ascents and helps female-led teams qualify for alpine awards like the Piolet d’Or.