[Photo] Giulio Malfer

Catherine Destivelle

Posted on: June 1, 2004


In the mountains I prefer the time for action. At the foot of every wall, all excited like a child with a new toy, I'm in a rush for just one thing: to decipher the rock before me. As I think about certain climbs I've done, I discover the memories of emotion: intense pleasure, sometimes suffering, weariness, anger, doubt. I couldn't say precisely what it is that pushes me to connect my life so closely to the mountains, but whatever the motivation, they have allowed me to fulfill my potential without becoming an obsession.

Now I have a child, Victor, and my life is finding a different balance. Being with him is more important than being on a climb; what captivates me most is helping him to discover what I was fortunate to experience in my childhood. Playing in streams, running in alpine meadows, seeing chamois, eating wild strawberries, picking up crystals, walking on the snow in the middle of summer: are all sources of great amazement for him. And on the rock, what a delight to see him enjoy the concentration as he controls his emotions and makes the right moves to the summit, smiling like a conqueror! Like me, he will carry the memory of these experiences for his entire life.

—Translated from the French by Eric Bye

1973:Fontainebleau, France, first climb.

1976: Cousy-Desmaison Route (ED, 800m), north face, l'Olan (3564m), and Devies-Gervasutti Route (TD+, 1050m), northwest face, Ailefroide (3848m), France, ascents.

1977: American Direct (ED1: 5.10+ A0, 1100m), west face, Petit Dru (3732m), France, ascent.

1980-1985: Five-year hiatus from climbing to pursue physiotherapy.

1985: First modern World Cup climbing competition, Bardonecchia, Italy, first place, speed, style, difficulty. Becomes professional climber. Takes thirty-five meter fall into a crevasse near Chamonix, resulting in a broken back and a broken pelvis. Film E Pericoloso Sporgersi (climb in the Gorges du Verdon) released.

1986: Arco Rock Master Championship and Sportroccia competitions, Arco, Italy, first place.

1987: Film Seo! (solo climb in Mali) released. First book, Danseuse de Roc, published. Paraglides from summit of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

1988: International climbing competitions: Bardonecchia, Italy, first place; Paris-Bercy, second place. Chouca (5.13c), Buoux, France, ascent; at the time, hardest route in the world climbed by a woman.

1989: National Sport Climbing Championship, Snowbird, Utah, first place. World Cup Climbing Championship, Birmingham, U.K., fourth place. Film Solo Thai (journey with a swallow nest hunter, Thailand) released.

1990: National Sport Climbing Championship, Snowbird, Utah, third place. Retires from sport climbing to pursue mountaineering. Yugoslav Route (with seven-pitch variation to Shoulder, VI 5.12a, 1000m), Nameless Tower (6200m), Karakoram, Pakistan, free ascent (second free ascent of Tower), with Jeff Lowe. Bonatti Pillar (TD+: 5.9 A1, 600m), southwest face, Petit Dru (3732m), French Alps, four-hour solo ascent, first woman.

1990: Film Nameless Tower released.

1991: Destivelle Route (VI 5.11b A5, 800m), west face, Petit Dru (3732m), eleven-day solo first ascent. Film 11 Days on the Dru released. Book Rocs Nature published.

1992: Original Route (ED2, 1800m), north face, Eiger (3970m), Bernese Oberland, Switzerland, seventeen- hour winter solo ascent, first woman. Latok I (7145m), north ridge, Karakoram, Pakistan, attempt, with Jeff Lowe, reached ca. 5800m. Film Eiger (winter solo ascent of the north face of the Eiger) released. Film Ballade a Devil's Tower released.

1993: Walker Spur (ED1: 5.8 A1 60 degrees, 1100m), north face, Grandes Jorasses (4208m), France, winter solo ascent, first woman. West Pillar, Makalu (8463m), Nepal, attempt, with Erik Decamp (reached 7800m).

1994: Bonatti Route (ED2/3, 1000m), north face, Matterhorn (4478m), winter solo ascent. Loretan-Troillet- Kurtyka Route (55 degrees, 2200m), southwest face, Shishapangma (8030m), Nepal, ascent, with Erik Decamp. South face, Annapurna (8091m), Nepal, attempt, with Erik Decamp. Namche Bazaar Icefall (WI5, 1000m), Nepal, first ascent, with Erik Decamp. Book Annapurna, Duo Pour un 8.000, with Erik Decamp, published.

1996: South Face (TD: V 5.10 50 degrees, 1500m), Peak 4111m, Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica, first ascent, with Erik Decamp. Suffers compound leg fracture in twenty- meter fall; fifteen-hour self-rescue follows. Children's book L'Apprenti Alpiniste, with Erik Decamp, published. Marries Erik Decamp.

1997: Son Victor born. Film La Cascade (first ascent of 1000-meter icefall in Nepal) released. Film Rock Queen (Old Man of Hoy climb, Scotland) released.

1999: Brandler-Hasse Route (ED-: 5.10c A0, 550m), north face, Cima Grande (2999m), Dolomites, Italy, solo ascent, first woman.

To read the full text of this article, DOWNLOAD the digital issue in our app or BUY THE BACK ISSUE in our online store. Or even better, SUBSCRIBE to join our community and get this "coffee-table book masquerading as a magazine" (Lynn Hill) four times per year.