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The Best British Climbers?

The Best British Climbers?

Last year I was asked to put together a list of climbers ‘of note’ to help a member of staff working in an outdoor centre. The centre had a series of rooms, all named after male climbers and she wanted to encourage the inclusion of notable female climbers. If you’re curious about who’s on the list, read on. You might disagree, leave us a comment if you do!

There are a great many skilled, strong and talented female climbers the world over. I could have written a list as long as my arm, but here is a selection of the women I’m aware of right now. I haven’t done much research and there may be gaps, but these are the ‘stand-out’ women on my list. I’ve stuck to UK climbers in the first instance, because we have enough world class women to fill many pages. I’ve added in a few foreign women at the bottom if you want to spice it up a bit. These are roughly in my order of preference, but each woman’s inclusion on the list is based on its own merit. Of note is the absence of woman of colour, which saddens me, but gives me hope that in this new century we can encourage women and girls of any colour and background to go outside of their comfort zone to places beyond their wildest dreams.

Notable British Women Climbers:

Gwen Moffat

First female mountain Guide UK – I love her. She is an unconventional woman who, in the 1940s, 50s and 60s challenged stereotypes by leading a bohemian lifestyle travelling around the UK to climb, unencumbered by the usual trappings of conventional life. While she didn’t climb very hard, she climbed diverse routes and really challenged the status quo, leading the way for other women to branch out. There’s a film out – Operation Moffat – if you get a chance, watch it.  Read about her book Space Below my FeetGwen Moffat’s life and an interview we did with Gwen.

Gwen Moffatt on Spiral Stairs, Dinas Cromlech (D) Photo: J R Less

Gwen Moffatt on Spiral Stairs, Dinas Cromlech (D)
Photo: J R Less

Alison Hargreaves

Badass! Scaled Everest completely unsupported. She was the first person to scale all of the north faces in the alps in one season. She is undoubtedly a front runner here. In 1995 she tragically got blown off K2 whilst descending after reaching the summit.

Lucy Creamer

Epic climber, multidisciplinary, lives for climbing. Her centrepiece was first ascent of ice climb Mighty Aphrodite graded M8 a few years ago now. She onsighted E7 6C on trad and redpointed 8b+. British leading champion 7 times.

Rebecca Coles

Rebecca Coles has a PhD in Glacial Morphology and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Alongside this, she has been working full time as an expedition leader since 2012, using her training as a Mountain Leader to take teams to Aconcagua and the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan. She has travelled to all seven continents, and summited several 6000m+ peaks. Although not the most experienced or most travelled on this list, she is notable in respect of being a leader right now. There are very few female leaders at her level in comparison to men.  Rebeccaa wrote a brilliant Expedition Funding article – great if you’re thinking of doing something different, whatever the scale.

Shauna Coxsey

GB number 1– boulderers, who makes a living from climbing. Young, inspiring, fun, strong. An incredible role model for young women. She’s tiny – not excuse for us shorties to say we’re not big enough! She has bouldered to an incredible grade of V14 and won loads of competitions, most recently getting Gold in 4 consecutive bouldering world cups.

Hazel Findlay

Hazel has led E9

The first female in the UK to do so – as well as climbing 8C. She has free climbed El Capitán three times on different routes. She has made many first female ascents and is only in her 20s.

Emily Kelly

Founded the Pinnacle Club in 1921. Ground breaking at the time and the club is still in good health today.

Rebecca Stephens

First British woman to summit Everest and the seven summits.

Other Female Climbers:

Junko Tabei

First woman to summit Everest. What an awesome woman!

Catherine Destivelle

First woman to solo the north face of the Eiger. Seemingly fearless, adaptable and was considered the world’s best climber in the late 80s.  Find out about Catherine Destivelle’s life.

Catherine Destivelle

Catherine Destivelle

Lynn Hill

American and well known free climber.  Find out about Lynn Hill’s life.

Lynn Hill free climbing. Photo: Nathan Smith

Photo: Nathan Smith

Alex Puccio

STRONG, powerful, muscular. Great role model for girls who want a strong woman to look up to and respect.

Steph Davies

She pushes boundaries. Often. And far.

What do you think?  Who did we miss?  Leave us a comment now. 

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  • Jennifer Mason
    June 11, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    It’s sad how women’s history continues to be erased, even today. The truth is that there have been a great many inspirational female climbers, but their stories are forgotten, and overwritten by more modern ones, in a way that doesn’t seem to happen to male climbers. I’m glad you’ve got Gwen Moffat, Alison Hargreaves and Emily Kelly on your list. Without any disrespect to the more current names on the list, I’d like to suggest you should add the following:

    Brede Arkless (inspirational British Mountain Guide who, amongst other achievements, climbed Point Five Gully 7 months into a pregnancy)

    Julie Tullis (climber and filmmaker).

    Blanche Eden-Smith (Lakeland pioneer).

    Lucy Walker (golden-age alpinist who made the first ascent of the Balmhorn, and the first female ascents of the Matterhorn, Eiger, Lyskamm amongst other achievements).

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