Best Female Climbers & Trekkers Of All Time

Updated: October 27, 2023
female climbers

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

Junko Tabei


Nationality: Japanese
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. (Check out some other interesting Mt Everest Facts and firsts)

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.

Lynn Hill


See more on @_linacolina_

Nationality: American
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.

Catherine Destivelle

Nationality: French-Algerian
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.

Beth Rodden


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Nationality: American
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.

Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou

Nationality: American
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.

Josune Bereziartu

josune bereziartu climber

Nationality: Spain
Year of birth: 1971

Josune Bereziartu, born on January 17, 1971, in Biscay, Spain, is a pioneering Basque rock climber. She gained international acclaim for her remarkable feats in both sport and traditional climbing.

Josune's career highlights include being the first woman to redpoint routes graded 8c+ (5.14c) and achieving a formidable 9a (5.14d) grade climb. Her tenacity and dedication to climbing made her a trailblazer for female climbers worldwide.

Beyond indoor walls, Josune conquered challenging outdoor routes across the globe, setting new standards in the climbing community. Her influence extended to environmental conservation, as she passionately advocated for responsible climbing and preserving natural climbing areas.

Sasha DiGiulian


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Nationality: American
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.

Angela Eiter


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Nationality: Austria
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.

Edurne Pasaban

Edurne Pasaban

Nationality: Spanish
Year of birth: 1973

Edurne Pasaban is a Spanish mountaineer born on August 1, 1973. She is best known for being the first woman to climb all 14 eight-thousanders (mountains above 8,000 meters) in the world.

Her first eight-thousander was Mount Everest in 2001, and she completed the challenge in 2010 with the ascent of Shishapangma in Tibet. She was also the first female to ascend Nanga Parbat in Pakistan and the first to ascend three peaks in the Karakoram range in Pakistan.

In addition to her mountaineering achievements, Pasaban is also a writer and motivational speaker, and she has used her platform to advocate for environmental conservation and gender equality in the sport of mountaineering.

Margo Hayes


See more on @margojain

Nationality: American
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.

Alison Hargreaves


Mother of Tom Ballard (@TomCBallard)

Nationality: British
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.

Ashima Shiraishi


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Nationality: Japanese-American
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.

Anak Verhoeven


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Nationality: Belgian
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.

Hazel Findlay

Nationality: British
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.

Daila Ojeda


See more on @dailaojeda

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.

Stacy Allison

Stacy Allison

Nationality: American
Year of birth: 1958

Stacy Allison was born on August 10, 1958, in Portland, Oregon. Allison began climbing mountains in her early twenties and quickly became an accomplished mountaineer.

She is best known for being the first American woman to summit Mount Everest,  in 1988. She was part of a five-person team, and it took them nearly two months to complete the climb.

After her successful Everest summit, Allison continued to climb and became a sought-after motivational speaker.  In 2003, she published her memoir, "Beyond the Limits: A Woman's Triumph on Everest".

Lucy Walker

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

Emma Rowena Gatewood

Nationality: American
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.

Arlene Blum


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Nationality: American
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

Nationality: American
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.

Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell

Nationality: British
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.

Wanda Rutkiewicz

Wanda Rutkiewicz

Nationality: Polish
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.

Sheila Hancock


See more on @4sheilahancock

Nationality: British
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.

Silvia Vidal

Silvia Vidal

Nationality: Spanish
Year of birth: 1973

Silvia Vidal is a renowned Catalan alpinist and mountaineer who has made a name for herself in the world of high-altitude climbing. She was born in 1973 in Catalonia, Spain, and grew up in a family of climbers. Her parents were both mountaineers, and they passed on their love of the mountains to Silvia at a young age.

Silvia's climbing career began in her teenage years, and by the time she was in her twenties, she had already climbed several peaks in the Pyrenees and the Alps. However, it was her solo climbing expeditions to remote regions of Patagonia, the Andes, and the Himalayas that brought her international recognition as one of the best alpinists of her generation.

What sets Silvia apart from other climbers is her preference for solo climbing, which involves climbing alone without the support of a team. She has completed numerous solo first ascents of difficult routes in Patagonia, including Cerro Fitz Roy and Aguja Poincenot.

Arunima Sinha


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Nationality: Indian
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”.

Tamae Watanabe

Nationality: Japanese
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


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Nationality: Indian
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”.

Jen Peedom

Jen Peedom

Nationality: Australian
Year of birth: 1970

Jen Peedom is an Australian filmmaker and mountaineer who is best known for her documentary films about mountaineering and adventure sports.

Peedom's love for mountaineering began in her early twenties when she traveled to Nepal and started climbing in the Himalayas. She went on to become an accomplished mountaineer and has climbed all over the world, including in the Andes, the Alps, and the Himalayas.

In addition to her mountaineering career, Peedom is also an accomplished filmmaker. She has directed several documentaries about mountaineering and adventure sports.

Louise Shepherd

Nationality: Australian
Year of birth: 1958

Louise Shepherd has lived in the region of Mount Arapiles, Australia for her entire life.  She started rock climbing around the age of 20. Highlights of her career include being the first woman to ascend Separate Reality in Yosemite and establishing some of the trickiest first ascents in South Eastern Australia.

During the 1980s, Louise was recognised as one of the strongest female climbers in the world. She paved the way for more woman in this male dominated discipline.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner


Nationality: Austrian
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.

Fanny Bullock Workman

fanny bullock workman

Nationality: American
Year of birth: 1859

Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925) was an American mountaineer, explorer, cartographer, and women's rights advocate. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, she was raised in a wealthy and socially prominent family. She studied at the Salem Normal School and Wellesley College, where she became interested in cycling and outdoor activities.

In 1889, she married William Hunter Workman, a physician and mountaineer. Together, they embarked on a series of expeditions to the Alps, the Caucasus, and the Himalayas. Fanny set several altitude records for women, including reaching an elevation of 23,000 feet in the Himalayas in 1906.

Fanny Bullock Workman was a pioneer in mountaineering and exploration, and a champion for women's equality. Her legacy continues to inspire adventurers and advocates for gender equality today.

Cecilie Skog


Nationality: Norwegian
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


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Nationality: Indian
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”.

Sophia Danenberg


Nationality: American
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.

Gertrude Emily Benham

Gertrude Emily Benham

Nationality: England
Year of birth: 1867

Gertrude Emily Benham (1867-1938) made significant contributions to the field of mountain exploration during the early 20th   climbed extensively in the Alps and other mountain ranges throughout Europe

She went on to become the first woman to climb the Dent du Requin in the French Alps. She was also the first British citizen to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Benham was also an accomplished explorer, traveling extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. In addition to her mountaineering and exploration achievements, Benham published several books about her travels and experiences. 

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita

Nationality: Nepalese
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.

Olga Koroleva

Nationality: Russian
Year of birth: Unknown

Olga Koroleva was born in Russia. She has been tackling mountains since the age of seven. Koroleva has been a part of over 40 expeditions and summited some of the highest mountains in the world.

To date, she has conquered six of the Seven Summits. She has summited Everest without a guide and, in 2021, became the 1st Russian woman to reach the top of Pakistan's K2 in the Karakorams. This is considered the toughest mountain on earth.

As well as being an adventurer, Olga is the founder of an AI company that specializes in property investment strategies. 

Melissa Arnot Reid


Nationality: American
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.

Malavath Poorna


See more on @MalavathPoorna

Nationality: Indian
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.

About the author 

Mila Whitman

Mila has been to 5 continents, visited over 40 countries and hiked across some of the most famous mountain ranges including the Andes and the Atlas Mountains. As an AMS sufferer she learned a few techniques to reduce the symptoms and the effects on her hiking adventures.

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  1. Why doesn’t this list doesn’t include the legendary Fanny Bullock Workman, an early mountain climber (1800’s?) There’s a great new book about her, Queen of the Mountaineers, by Cathryn Prince.

    1. Hi Sharon, thanks for the heads up. We’ll check out the book and add Fanny to the list when we update it next.

  2. All deserving, but an easy 2/3s or more of this would be ranked well below Silvia Vidal in terms of badassery and accomplishment. Male or female, she is clearly one of the most under-rated climbers/alpinists on the planet today – a point re-iterated by her omission from this article.

  3. Why is not Edurne Pasaban in this list, she was the 21st person and the first woman to climb all of the fourteen eight-thousanders.

  4. Gertrude Emily Benham (1867-1938), first woman and first British citizen to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (in late 1909), reaching the summit of Mawenzi, the second highest of Kilimanjaro's three peaks. (see Ray Howgego, 2009, pp 20-23).

  5. I think you might find Lydia Brady (New Zealand), not Alison Hargreaves, was the first woman to summit Everest without oxygen

    1. As a still-active mountaineer who soloed everest without oxygen in difficult and controversial circumstances, I think Lydia Brady deserves to be on this list.
      Another woman kiwi who has pushed the boundaries of mountaineering and big wall climbing is Mayan Smith-Gobat. I climbed with her dad, but I’m not biased!

  6. All sorts of people could have been included, such as Luisa Iovane — Italy's best female climber for many years. Going back a few years, Beth Bennett, Diana Hunter, oh shucks, I could go on and on. Some wonderful British women….

  7. Forgot Barbara Lilley on this list. she was one of the first 20 women to climb Mt Denali. she has gone unknown for almost her whole life as one of the best female climbers in USA. she has over 4549 ascents and ranks # 10 on peakbagger website. she was part of the sierra club and worked for the sierra club.

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