Let’s encourage celebration of women and not competition between them especially in the area of adventure where limitations have no place - hiking, climbing, and mountaineering!
Here are our picks of the top 30 female climbers and mountain adventurers of all time - in no particular order.
Women Climbers & Mountaineers
Year of birth: 1939
Tabei was a mountaineer rather than a climber and was the first woman to reach the summit of Everest in 1975.
Growing up in an era of restrictive gender expectations, Tabei had to start the Ladies Climbing Club in 1969 because so many men refused to climb with her.
On her first climb of Everest with an all-female Japanese team, the team escaped being buried by an avalanche on their ascent.
In 1992, Tabei completed the Seven Summits, decisively establishing her as one of the world’s great mountain climbers.
Year of birth: 1961
Hill was a free climbing pioneer during the 1980s to the 90s. She started climbing at the age of 14 and was soon setting world records in an era when female climbers were catching up their male counterparts.
Hill is known for completing the first ever free ascent of the sheer rock face of The Nose on El Capitan, Yosemite in 4 days in 1993 and repeating the achievement the following year in under 24 hours.
This accomplishment was way ahead of its time in the history of rock-climbing and drew international attention to the sport.
Year of birth: 1960
Destivelle was also doing her thing for woman empowerment in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.
Known for being the first woman to climb the Eiger’s North Face in 1992, she faced initial scepticism about her climbing ability because of her gender.
Destivelle completed climbs at Chouca at Boux and Trango Tower, with her male climbing partner but was not given due credit.
She therefore undertook a solo climb of the Eiger in under 15 hours, leaving no one with any doubt about her impressive skills.
Year of birth: 1980
Rodden was famously inspired to start climbing when Lynn Hill climbed The Nose back in 1993.
Starting out as an organised competition climber, she was converted to outdoor climbing after meeting her idol in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon. Rodden met Tommy Caldwell on the walls of Yosemite, and became half of free climbing’s golden couple.
The pair were the first to free climb El Captain’s Lurking Fear in 2000, and became the second and third people to climb The Nose in 2005 after Hill in the 90s. Rodden also sent Yosemite’s then-toughest climb in 2008, naming it The Meltdown – no one has successfully climbed it since.
Year of birth: 1963
Erbesfield was the Climbing World Cup champion for four consecutive years from 1991 to 1995.
She founded ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder, Colorado and serves as a coach to many burgeoning young climbers.
Year of birth: 1992
DiGiulian is often referred to as one of the best free climbers of the day and has achieved more than 30 first-female sends and eight notable first ascents.
She was also inspired by Hill, and has highlighted the importance of accomplishing first-ever and first-female ascents in the world of climbing and gender equality.
DiGuilian was the first woman to successfully climb the Magic Mushroom on the North Face of the Eiger in 2015 and was the first ever climber to send The Misty Wall in Yosemite in 2017.
Year of birth: 1986
Angela Eiter is a high-achieving competition climber and became the first woman to climb 9b (5.15b) grade on La Planta de Shiva in October 2017.
Eiter started her climbing journey at age 11 and won her first international title at 17. Thereafter, she turned her attention to outdoor climbing, culminating in her record-setting achievement.
Year of birth: 1998
Hayes set the record for the highest grade climbed by a woman at 9a+ (5.15a) on La Ramba in Spain, February 2017. She held this record for nine months after being pipped by Angela Eiter.
Hayes was originally trained as a gymnast, and competed on a national level at the age of eight. After finding her passion for climbing at 10 years old, Hayes joined Boulder’s Team ABC.
Before her historical ascent of La Ramba, Hayes attempted the climb 17 times over a week, proving to everyone what hard work and perseverance can accomplish.
To celebrate, Hayes followed her record-setting send with a send of Realization/Biographie.
Year of birth: 2001
Shiraishi is the one of the youngest contemporary climbing superstars and was the second female to ascend a 9a/9a+ (5.15d/5.15a) route at only 13 years old.
She started her climbing career at age 6, introduced to the sport by her father and quickly made her mark by being the youngest person to send a grade 8c+ (5.14c) wall.
In 2015, Shiraishi climbed a 9a/9a+ (5.14d/5.15a) grade face on Ciudad de Dios, becoming the second ever woman to climb at this level. Keep an eye out for this promising young woman – her career is one to watch.
Year of birth: 1996
Verhoeven got an early start to climbing at 4 years old, but concentrated on organised competitions.
After a recent introduction to outdoor climbing, she has sent more than 34 8b+ (5.14a) routes or harder.
Year of Birth: 1989
Findlay has established herself as a traditional and big free wall climber to be reckoned with, and has been called the Best Female Mountaineer in Britain.
She was the first female, British climber to successfully scale an E9 graded route and has been the first woman to send many walls.
Nationality: Spanish, Canary Islands
Year of birth: 1980
Ojeda started climbing at age 18, after early interest in surfing, and moved to Catalonia, Spain to pursue her passion.
Since then, Ojeda has energetically contributed to the climbing community and has served as a role model to many aspiring climbers.
Legendary Women Trekkers & Mountain Hikers
Nationality: British, born in Canada
Year of birth: 1836
Although her achievements are not well documented, the aptly named Lucy Walker was one of the first female alpinists of the nineteenth century.
She was the first woman to summit both the Matterhorn and the Eiger and did so in a Victorian, floor-length dress to the general astonishment of her male colleagues.
Her interest in hiking was sparked because her doctor advised her to take up trekking in an attempt to manage her rheumatism.
Taking to the sport with enthusiasm, she holds the first-female climb of 16 alpine peaks, and successfully completed a total of 28 summits in her 21-year-long career.
Emma Rowena Gatewood aka Grandma Gatewood
Year of birth: 1887
Grandma Gatewood is famous for being the first solo, female “thru-hiker” of the Appalachian trail, the 2168-mile path in which runs from Georgia to Maine in the Eastern United States.
Given that she started her hiking career at age 67, her accomplishment of being the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail 3 times is particularly impressive, never mind the fact that she completed the journey carrying only an army blanket, a plastic shower curtain and a raincoat all in a homemade denim shoulder bag.
Year of birth: 1945
Blum is best known for leading the first successful American ascent of Annapurna (I), one of the world’s most notoriously difficult peaks.
The expedition was all the more exciting because the team she led comprised only of women. Blum also headed all women teams up Mt. McKinley and was herself the first American woman to attempt a summit of Mt Everest.
In addition to her notable mountaineering feats, Blum has a PhD in biophysical chemistry and has published two award-winning books.
Jennifer Pharr Davis
Year of birth: 1983
Davis is a more contemporary Appalachian Trail record-setter, who completed the trail the fastest overall (male and female) time of 57 days and 8 hours. She was also the first woman to set such a record.
Although the completion time has since been beaten, Davis’ mountaineering accomplishments do not end there. She has also completed the Pacific Crest Trail, hiked Kilimanjaro and is the founding head of Blue Ridge Hiking while simultaneously raising her two children.
Year of birth: 1962
Hargreaves’ achievements included summiting Mt Everest alone without the aid of supplementary oxygen, and climbing all the great north faces of the Alps alone in a single season.
This intrepid mountaineer also made the first British female ascent of the North Face of the Eiger while 6 months pregnant with her son.
Tragically, Hargreaves died on her descent of K2, leaving her two children and husband behind.
Year of birth: 1868
Bell was not only one of the world’s most impressive female mountaineers, but also an extraordinarily accomplished person in several other fields.
She was a particularly brilliant scholar in her time at Oxford University, a diplomat focusing on the Middle East, an accomplished archaeologist as well as a linguist. Her hiking adventures, however dwarfed they were by her academic achievements, were nevertheless formidable.
Bell spent 10 years travelling around the world in a time that women were often restricted to the confines of their homes, and was a leading Alpine mountaineer.
She was one of the first people to tackle mountains in the Engelhorner range, including Gertrudespite, named in her honour.
After a being caught in a treacherous blizzard in 1902, Bell’s passion for hiking was undeterred and she went on to summit the Matterhorn two years later.
If you are keen to learn more about this fascinating explorer, there is also a wonderful film about Bell with Nicole Kidman as the Queen of the Desert.
Year of birth: 1943
Rutkiewicz was the first woman to successfully climb K2, and worked as a computer engineer at a time when both climbing and engineering were all-but exclusively male.
She was also the third woman, first Pole, and first European woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Year of birth: 1933
Hancock is not primarily known for her mountaineering prowess, but instead for her successful career as a theatre and TV actress.
When she was offered the role of the main character in “Edie”, a movie about a woman who climbs the daunting Mt Suilven at an age when most people are moving into retirement villages, Hancock was initially cautious.
To properly portray her character, Hancock buckled down to do just that, becoming the oldest person to summit the mountain at 83 years old. In addition to her acting and trekking achievements, Hancock has also written three best-sellers.
Year of birth: 1988
Sinha was a national football and volleyball player when she suffered a horrific injury at the hands of robbers who pushed her out of a train, causing her leg to be run over and ultimately amputated below the knee.
Sinha resolved not to let her disability define her and became the first amputee to scale Mount Everest, quipping “A leg is but obviously required to limb Mt Everest, but what is needed most is a brave heart”.
Year of Birth: 1938
Tamae Watanabe started her career as a mountaineer at 28, expressing a keen appreciation of the natural world and an interest in its conservation.
Some of her notable ascents were Mount McKinley, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, and Aconcagua, but her most impressive achievement is being the oldest woman to climb Mount Everest, a record she set at 63 and then broke 10 years later at 73.
Tashi & Nungshi Malik
Year of birth: 1991
These twins have set several mountaineering records, including the “first female twins to summit Everest”, “the first siblings to climb the Seven Summits”, and many others.
They are also the first siblings to reach the North and South Poles. The ladies’ adventurous spirits were sparked by their father, a retired Indian Army Officer.
According to the twins, “mountaineering has taught [them] that life contracts or expands in proportion to one’s courage”.
Year of birth: 1970
In 2011, Kaltenbrunner became the second woman to summit the fourteen eight-thousanders – the 14 mountains which are more than 8000 meters above sea-level – and the first woman to achieve this feat without the help of supplementary oxygen or high-altitude porters.
For her triumph, she won the eminent National Graphic Explorer of the Year Award in 2012. Starting mountaineering at the age of 13, she eventually decided to commit full-time to the sport professionally at the age of 32.
Year of birth: 1974
Skog is the first woman to complete the Mission7Summit, which meant scaling the highest points on each of the seven continents, as well as to reach the North and South poles.
She also was the first person to cross Antarctica unassisted and unsupported along with Ryan Waters. In addition to being a high achiever in her mountaineering pursuits, Skog emphasises the importance of having fun along the way.
Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru aka Mysterious Mountain Girl
Year of birth: 2002
Sriperambuduru is known as the youngest girl to have ever scaled Mt Elbrus, the tallest peak in Europe as part of her mission to complete the Mission7Summit at just 13 years old.
She has also completed the Aussie 10 Challenge and has set records as the youngest person to summit the peak of Stok Kangri and Mt. Kosciuszko.
In the fight for gender equality, this young adventurer is also a leading spokesperson, having started a campaign titled, “let’s look beyond looks”.
Year of birth: 1972
In 2006, Danenberg became the first African American, and first black woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
Impressively, Danenberg completed her ascent unguided, having to make decisions on routes and pace by herself. In addition to her mountaineering success, Danenberg is also a Harvard graduate.
Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita
Year of birth: 1984
Akita is a Sherpa mountaineer, and works as a guide for others in the Himalayan mountains, the first woman to do so, as well as elsewhere around the globe.
She is also recognised for her humanitarian efforts during an earthquake which struck Nepal in 2016, setting her as a firm role model for Nepalis, women and climbers alike.
Melissa Arnot Reid
Year of birth: 1983
Reid is a mountaineer and an activist. She has summited Mt Everest as many as six times, and has summited Mount Rainier in Washington more than 90 times.
To raise awareness for HIV/AIDS, she climbed Everest and was part of a celebrity team to hike up Kilimanjaro for the cause of clean water access.
Year of birth: 2000
Poorna is the youngest girl and youngest Indian ever to have scaled Mount Everest, and has said in interviews that she wants to be a model to tribal children everywhere.
Experts report that her achievement is all-the-more impressive because she approached the peak from the tougher Tibetan side.