Women in the Mountains (updated 8/8/07)

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"Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing."
Helen Keller

Below are organizations, web sites and informational articles promoting rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and skiing for women. This is followed by a list of guides specializing in women's trips and an article titled "The Elusive Image: A Woman Climber."

Organizations, Articles and Web Sites

Aspiring Heights--is dedicated to promoting rock climbing and mountaineering through climbing events, corporate team building programs and promotional opportunities. Specialize in youth programs, youth climbing camps, climbing leagues and women's programs.

Babes in the Backcountry is about educating women in outdoor skills to enable them to become more knowledgeable, self reliant and confident in the backcountry. Babes in the Backcountry are women who want to share their love of the outdoors and backcountry expertise with other women. Great site, check it out.

Climbing California's 14,000 Footers--this article appeared in the Mountain Democrat newspaper and describes Sierra Richins' accomplishment of climbing all of the 14,000 foot peaks in California, by age 13. (updated 7/1/98)

Mount Denali--Laura Evans has dedicated her life to helping others appreciate life more fully. She regularly co-leads adventures through The Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research, which she founded. Here is a brief account of her climb of Denali with Expedition Inspiration. (new 7/3/99)

Expedition Inspiration--Calling attention to the breast cancer epidemic and the urgent need to find a cure. Laura Evans developed the idea of this organization during her personal struggle with breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors climb mountains (Denali, Aconcagua, Rainier, Whitney) to raise awareness and funds for research. E-mail: ei@expeditioninspiration.org. Laura finally succumbed to breast cancer and died in 2000 but her legacy lives on.

Flygirls--Lexi's fishing school for women. Learn to flyfish in the Sierra Nevada from a real pro.

My Climb of Mount Whitney--Sierra Richins, age 10, describes climbing Cirque Peak by moonlight, Mount Langley and Mount Whitney on successive days. This article appeared in the Mountain Democrat newspaper. (Updated 6/30/98)

Outdoor Industry Women's Council (OIWC)--promoting the advancement and participation of women in the outdoors industry

Mount Shasta--Laurie Bagley sets a women's record for climbing Mount Shasta in 2 hours 13 minutes.

MountainWoman--devoted to outdoor gear and issues for women. A web site of Mountain Gear.

Red Slate Mountain--Sierra Richins, age 10, describes her hike and climb of Red Slate Mountain and frigid swim in snow covered Big Horn Lake. This article appeared in the Mountain Democrat in August 1991. (updated 7/1/98)

Sheclimbs, Inc.--a national resource for women climbers. A non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and fostering personal growth, self-reliance, self esteem and confidence through participation in the sport of climbing and to encourage stewardship of the environment.

Self_Rescue--an excellent site with valuable information on self rescue and interesting info on caving by Cindy Heazlit. E-mail Cindy at: cheazlit@ix.netcom.com

The Women's Page--events, gear, health, women's forums, recommended reading by backpacker magazine.

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Backcountry Guides for Women


Alaskan Gourmet Adventures--hike, ski and climb the Alaskan Skyline at your own pace and tailored for your own interest. Catering to small groups of all ages, who want to get off the beaten path and take ownership in their Alaskan adventure.

Equinox Wilderness Expeditions--Offers extended backpacking, sea kayaking, canoeing and rafting expeditions for women from Southeast Alaska to the Brooks Range. Largest selection of women-only adventures in Alaska. Also, women's canyoneering and backpack trips in Southern Utah. Karen Jettmar Equinox Wilderness Expeditions, 618 West 14th Ave, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, (907) 274-9087 Toll-free (877) 615-9087, email: equinox@alaska.com

Mimi Bouquin--140 10th Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone: (907) 272-0904, e-mail: mimib@alaska.net. An AMGA certified alpine guide. Guides in the Wrangell-St Elias Range and the Alaska Range with American Alpine Institute and Ultma Thule Outfitters.

Mountain Trip--climb with the guides who know Alaska's mountains best. Gary Bocarde (AMGA certified) is perhaps the finest guide in Alaska and the only guide that will lead experienced climbers on the non-standard technical routes on Mount McKinley, Mount Hunter, Mount Foraker, Mount Russell and other Alaskan peaks. Includes programs for women. The address is: Box 91161, Anchorage, Alaska, 99509, phone: (907) 345-6499, e-mail: MtTrip@aol.com.


Ascend Adventures--is Arizona's leading provider of guided outdoor adventure including rock climbing, canyoneering, canoeing, caving, mountain biking, and hiking trips, as well as a wide variety of international adventures.


Cosley and Houston Alpine Guides --1627 Dunbar Lane, Bishop, CA 93514, phone (760) 872-3811, e-mail: CosleyHouston@telis.org. Kathy Cosley and Mark Houston team up to provide custom guide services and programs for women. UIAGM and AMGA certified alpine, rock and skiing guides with over 20 years experience in the Sierras, the Alps, South America and the Himalayas.

Shasta Mountain Guides--1928 Hill Road, Mount Shasta, CA 96067, phone: (530) 926-3117, e-mail: guides@macshasta.com. Andy Selters and Michael Zanger are the authors of the very fine book, "The Mount Shasta Book: A Guide to Hiking, Climbing, Skiing ..." They have instruction programs and guided trips to climb Mount Shasta geared for women. Specialized climbing and backpacking programs that are designed by and for women to provide a unique blend of the physical and personal benefits. They combine instruction and practice in wilderness skills with special women's retreat elements that encourage confidence.

Sierra Mountain Center--climbing, nordic and alpine skiing, backpacking and mountain biking in California's Sierra Nevada and around the world. All lead guides are AMGA certified.

Vertical Adventures Rockclimbing School--has been Southern California's rock climbing leader, setting a standard of professionalism with our low student to instructor ratios, excellent safety record, and highly qualified guides. 800-514-8785

Yosemite Mountaineering School--A full service climbing school, guide service and cross country ski center located inside Yosemite National Park.


Colorado Mountain School--guiding to the mountains of the world, but our basecamp is at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado. We are the only guide service legally authorized to climb in Rocky Mountain National Park.

San Juan Mountain Guides--offering personalized professional instruction and guiding. Guiding and courses are offered on a year round basis and all experience levels are welcome. San Juan Mountain Guides is a business dedicated to instruction in not only alpinism, but also traditional values and ethics with regards to backcountry travel.

The World Outside--extraordinary multi-sport, hiking & biking backcountry adventures in the Rockies, Southwest, Sierras, Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, Latin America & the South Pacific! Inn & camping trips for all ages & abilities since 1988. Based in Boulder, CO.

International Guides--Canada, England/UK, New Zealand

Abby Watkins--rock climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, ice climbing, expeditions to exotic locations with expert instruction and guiding. Based in Golden, British Columbia, Canada.

Adventure Consultants--New Zealand based company known as one of the world's premier alpine guiding services. Well organized, well led expeditions to the world's highest peaks.

Canadian Paddlequest--custom and instructional kayak trips in British Columbia and the Yukon designed for women. Expeditions for all ability levels. Highly experienced, personable guides provide a fun, safe and exciting learning experience.

Jagged Globe--international expeditions led by women for women to Kilimanjaro, Vinson, Carstensz Pyramid, Mera Peak and Cerro Aconcagua. Based in England/United Kindom.

Karl Klassen--Karl creates premier private, customized trips to the world's best rock climbing and mountaineering destinations. Choose Karl if you want a trip tailored for your needs by a veteran guide, instructor and author of avalanche forecasting and guiding manuals.

M&W Guides--join Wendy and Mark, a husband and wife team with more than 30 years combined experience in mountain and ski guiding and outdoor education, for personalized private guiding services in the majestic Canadian Rockies.

Mountainguide.com--premier private guiding in the Canadian Rockies, from Western Canada's finest ice, rock and alpine mountaineering guides. Tell us what you want, we take care of the rest.


Acadia Mountain Guides--Safe, supportive, state-of-the-art instruction and guiding in our home base of Acadia National Park, Maine, and in destination trips to South America and the western U.S.

Mountain Woman Guide Service--Hiking, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Gold Panning, Wildlife Tours, Snowshoeing, and Snowmobiling in the Western Maine Mountains.


Adventures in Good Company--all types of high quality, affordable outdoor and wilderness trips just for women.

New Hampshire

Jay Philbrick--Jay is an AMGA certified level I and II Rock Instructor and Alpine Guide offering rock and ice climbing instruction, mountaineering and guided ascents in New Hampshire.

North Carolina

Appalachian Mountain Guides--a rock-climbing guide service for North Carolina climbing areas. The only AMGA certified guides in the south and offer private guiding and instruction in groups up to 3 people. Information taught is based on the client's skill level and covers first time climbers to leading instruction.

Carolina Outdoors--there is no better way to view nature than from the perspective you get from a kayak. All instruction and equipment is included in the price of the tour, and are enjoyable by any level of paddling ability. Phone: 800-334-4777.

Kitty Hawk Kites--known widely as the world's largest & oldest Hang Gliding school now teaching our 25th year! There is no more beautiful place to learn to fly. Try Kite Surfing, climb one of our rock climbing walls. Phone: 800-334-4777.

Side Trips: retreats4women--offers a variety of retreats from studying watercolor painting on a semi-tropical island to dogsledding in Alaska. All trips are for women aged 30 and better.


First Ascent Climbing Services, Inc.--AMGA accredited guide service, co-owned by Carol Simpson, offering programs at Smith Rock, Joshua Tree, Idyllwild and other locations. Women's programs include Women's Rock and Raft Camp, Women's Lead Climbing Clinic and more. Phone: 800-325-5462

O'Brien Adventuresport--Based in the Pacific Northwest, we provide professional instruction, custom vacations and expeditions in alpine mountaineering, rock, and ice climbing. Itineraries are completely customized and range from a weekend clinic to a 24 day expedition. We can bring this program to other regions of the U.S. for corporate groups, clubs, and families. E-mail: obrientim@aol.com


Alpine Ascents International--our international reputation began on Mt. Everest and our expertise quickly spread to great mountains around the world. The North Cascades Mountaineering School is considered one of the premier climbing schools in America.

American Alpine Institute--North America's most comprehensive guide service and technical instruction school since 1975. AAI offers guided ascents and instructional programs for all levels of ability, including trekking in Nepal, Bolivia, Peru and Patagonia.

Beyond Limits--offers a comprehensive selection of mountaineering, trekking and mountain bike trips throughout the world for all activity levels.

Cascade Alpine Guides and Adventures--specialists in "user-friendly" instruction and guiding, offering hiking, mountaineering, skiing and multi-sport and family adventures in North America, South America, Mexico, Africa and Asia. Mature, expert and personable staff with average of 14 years professional guiding experience.

West Virginia

Seneca Rocks Climbing School--building on a twenty year history of professional skill and congenial service, our experienced, high-standard rock climbing instructors are dedicated to teaching and to helping people safely discover the challenge and adventure of the vertical rock environment. Phone: 800-548-0108


Exum Mountain Guides and Teton Mountaineering--team up to provide, "Women That Rock." Includes programs for women in basic rock climbing, intermediate rock climbing, sport climbing, advanced climbing and mountaineering on snow and rock. Phone (307) 733-3595 or (800) 850-3595 or e-mail them at tm@tetonmtn.com. Exum has provided mountain adventures for beginning, intermediate, and advanced climbers since the 1920's. Their guides are among the most experienced climbing guides in America with the aim of providing you with fun and educational experiences.

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The Elusive Image: A Woman Climber
A Report by Eliza Moran, AAC Director

The following May 22, 1998 report originally appearing in the American Alpine Club, Sierra Nevada Section Newsletter (July/August 1998 ) is reprinted with the permission of Eliza Moran and the American Alpine Club.

The British Mountaineering Council sponsored a first in the world, a symposium dedicated to and for woman climbers. The idea was to bring together women climbers of all abilities, to explore issues facing them and to enjoy climbing in one of the UK's premier venues, North Wales.

Twenty-six countries responded by sending 80 women ranging in age from 15 to 68 years. Every aspect of this sport was represented in the diversity of women sent--mountaineers, ice climbers, traditional rock climbers, boulderers, sport climbers, professionals and amateurs. What came out of this meeting? As the group first came together, it was quite apparent that we judged each other by nationalities. Interaction began in English, no matter the country of origin. The official welcomes and written agenda presented by our hosts did not really hint at what would transpire during the week. I don't think that most of the invited guests really knew just what we were going to do either, but like all grand adventures, it begins with the first step. Over meals, out climbing, in lectures, and while shopping for climbing equipment that was generously offered at discount rates by local manufacturers and stores, we came to discover who we were. National labels fell by the wayside as we found no stereotypes in looks or styles. No elitism or competition manifested itself as a form of segregation during our climbing days. Educational levels ranked highly, with a strong representation in the sciences and medicine.

Climbing--was it a hobby, a sport, a job, a form of competition, or a way of life? This theme soon emerged as new personalities came to the front daily, expressing viewpoints that were encouraged by our British women climber hosts. Why do we stay in climbing? Here the answers became as varied and intriguing as one might expect. Who encouraged you? Who supports you? Why were you sent to represent your Federation at this symposium? Was it a man who selected you? What do you think that you will take back with you to your Federation from this symposium? Again, another theme became apparent as we all saw the similarities of our predicaments as woman athletes trying to validate our desire to climb.

One of the BMC's guest speakers on media night lecture (in addition to our AAC President, Alison Osius) was author and pathologist Dr. Rosemary Cohen. She presented a small chronology of books and articles written about women climbers. Of note was an article written in 1838, entitled Thwarted Maiden Lady. This defined the woman climber as a spinster who could not find or get a man to marry her. Universal laughter filled the room as this was translated (not an easy task to translate thwarted) into 26 languages. However, in this laughter was a recognition amongst us of the the shadow question that still exists today for all women. You must be climbing because your real life as a woman is not complete, i.e., no man to marry. Something must be missing that is causing you to do this, otherwise a happy woman would not be climbing. Why do you want to take that risk and if you do now that you are having children, you wouldn't do that anymore would you? Every woman in the room had faced some format of this question sometime in her life. When we heard of the lonely efforts of the woman climbers in Iran, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, we knew that we were not so far removed from this ourselves. Francoise Aubert, UIAGM French Guide that makes her living guiding, revealed to us that her new ice route topping out on Point Helen was not recognized by her French Climbing Federation. As of yet, this ice climb has not been repeated. In solidarity we realized we are not so far removed from the stigma of the Thwarted Maiden Lady.

Many wonderful exchanges continued that were as novel as the speakers. Backgrounds as exotic as the countries represented and adventures came to the front as we discovered who we were: oceanographers, physicists, physicians, teachers, biologists, flight attendants, North Sea oil riggers, physical therapists, students, grandmothers, tour operators, public relations directors. We were problem solvers. We too came to ask ourselves the question, "Why do you climb?" As to the diversity of answers supplied, I will leave that to you the reader to surmise. I came away from this meeting fatigued. I did not want to miss out on anything. This meeting enabled me as an AAC Director to ask for a statement of support for our club's position with the Friends of Valley in our lawsuit against the National Park Service. After a day of intense discussion with all delegates, I was proud to see this group give the AAC a unanimous vote of support. You can see this statement on The Friends of Yosemite Valley web site.

What is the image of the woman climber? She is anything and everything, she is always the same and she is never the same. She can make a difference and will if given the chance. Whatever you may think, I believe it is safe to say we don't see ourselves as "Thwarted Fair Maidens". We see ourselves as elusive in identification as the adventures we seek. How else could names such as The Wall of the Early Morning Light or Dreams of White Horses come to be without this imagination and desire for the unknown. But then again, that is what being a woman is all about, an elusive evolving image that we choose to explore as we get to know ourselves. Perhaps that is what life can be, perhaps that is why mountaineering is a way of life for those who are bold and dare. The women climbers that attended this symposium reaffirmed this choice.

Comments are welcome. Please contact Eliza with your suggestions and ideas.

Eliza Moran, AAC Director, UIAA Delegate, 22 May 1998

Backcountry_Resource_Center--Paul Richins, Jr.

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