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The Climbing Life: She Climbed Alone
Posted on: June 6, 2016
[Illustration] Leighan Falley
As a young climber in the 1990s, I developed a strange habit. Each year I found myself obsessively searching the American Alpine Club's Accidents in North American Mountaineering for entries about women. Why was I ogling these accidents?
Over time, I came to realize my impulse was about something more than mere voyeurism. I craved stories about women who played the lead role. In magazines, films and anecdotes, women who climbed in the mountains were often still portrayed as bit players, out of their depth, as powerless victims, or else as rare and uniquely talented exceptions (in the 1990s, Catherine Destivelle and Lynn Hill were sometimes spoken of in this latter way).
As the entries in Accidents try to take an objective voice, they are generally more straightforward in telling of women who made decisions that are ambitious, brave, strong, unlucky, and sometimes unwise—just as all people's choices can be. The accounts show women in a full range of human ability and experience.
Through the years, I've continued to read Accidents this way. I wanted to express what I felt while reading, so I compiled this piece only using quotes from Accidents, published every year since 1948. I found the phrases in the online edition using the search term "she climbed alone." I changed the women's first and last names to "she."
She planned to solo climb the Venusian Blind Arete route.
She thought it was safe to lower and stepped back to weight the rope. She thought that if she fell here she would die.
Her body was recovered Monday.
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