Does it take balls to go on an expedition?

When we talk about alpine climbing, we think of names like Whymper, Preuss, Cassin, Bonatti, and Desmaison. When it comes to expeditions, figures like Herzog, Bonington, Messner, and Steck often come to mind.

Where are the women?

Is there not even a hint of finesse in this vast world of brutes?

To find out the answer, you have to be willing to change your point of view a little and look at the history of expeditions from a more objective perspective.

Here are five female alpinists and Himalayan mountaineers who’ve proved that they’ve got what it takes:

– Henriette d’Angeville (1794-1871), the “darling of Mont Blanc,” was the second woman to climb Mont Blanc, in 1838. She made a number of other ascents not long after (including a notable winter ascent). Her success came after the first female ascent of Mont Blanc, made by Marie Paradis in 1811, but she set herself apart by not relying on the assistance of her male companions.

Henriette d'Angeville

J. Hébert — Aus Segogne: Les Alpinistes Célebres. Paris 1956. Photo J.Colomb-Gérard / Ciba Rundschau 1965/4 S. 29 / Collection G. & C. Franke (Repro)

– Wanda Rutkiewicz (1943-1992) was one of the first women to climb multiple 8,000 meter peaks, after having been a champion volleyball player and a rally car driver! Endowed with a strong personality and an entrepreneurial temperament, Wanda created the RHM

(Rendezvous Haute Montagne) meetings reserved exclusively for female alpinists. She died tragically on Kangchenjunga in 1992.

Wanda Rutkiewicz

©Seweryn Bidziński

– Alison Hargreaves (1962-1995) was the first woman to reach the summit of Everest without supplemental oxygen. She also knew how to hold her own with the guys in the Alps (she made solo ascents of all three big north faces in the Alps in the same winter!). Her son, Tom Ballard, is living proof that genius and determination were in her blood.

Alison Hargreaves

©John Paul

– In the years from 1992 to 1997, French alpinist Chantal Maudit (1964-1998) climbed six 8,000 meter peaks, alpine style and without supplemental oxygen. Some of her most notable achievements included K2 by the Abruzzi ridge, and her solo ascents of Lhotse (8,516 m) and Manaslu (8,163 m), made just fifteen days apart. Her book, “J’habite au Paradis” (“I Live in Paradise”), accurately sums up the spirit with which she took on her projects.

Chantal Mauduit

©Nacho Orviz

– Elisabeth Revol, one of our first ambassadors, appears to be made of the same stuff as these ground breaking female alpinists…

As a member of the French alpine club’s elite female team she climbed a handful of 6,000 meter Bolivian summits, before beginning her Himalayan climbing career with a link up of three 8,000 meter peaks: Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak, which she did solo!

Between 2013 and 2015, she set her sights on a winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. Discreetly, in alpine style and without oxygen, she put all of her energy into tackling this Himalayan peak.

Elisabeth Revol

She made several major attempts on the mountain, but has yet to be successful. Nevertheless, while failure is not unusual for this kind of undertaking, giving up is not an option for Elisabeth.

She is now preparing for new projects and we are sure to hear about her in the coming months.

Elisabeth Revol

So, does it take a pair of balls to go on an expedition? Definitely not! Courage, commitment, will, and skill are apparently found elsewhere, and female alpinists can hold their heads high alongside their male counterparts.

Hats off, ladies!

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