The following couple of articles on our blog will be
dedicated to female adventurers.
We will use this opportunity to closely introduce you to
female pioneers in outdoor activities. We will start
the series of articles with woman mountaineering
and will continue on other outdoor activities in time.
All of the women mentioned
in the articles to follow have
interesting stories to tell and we will represent just small portions of their
With their success,
they have proven that no boundaries exist when you are determined to reach your
goals and follow your dreams. We admire and congratulate them on having the
courage to do so in conditions that were often far from ideal ones.
If this topic sounds interesting to you, stay present on our
blog where we will in a couple of
following weeks publish several articles
regarding this topic.
We will start our series of articles by bringing you the story of one of the pioneer woman in mountaineering – Lucy Walker!
Lucy Walker was born in 1836 in Banff, Canada but afterwards moved to Liverpool with her wealthy merchant family. The Victorian period she lived in was characterized by a submissive female role. The woman was closely linked to the domestic sphere with her main goals and duties being taking care of her home and family. Women did not have the right to vote, sue or actually own anything. Also, upon marriage, they became husbands property. Everything, from the womans money to her body was available at a complete disposal of her husband.
Even though Lucy never got married, when at home, in England, there was not much difference between her and an average Victorian woman of the era. According to many resources, she entertained, embroidered and engaged in socially acceptable work. Knowing the backside of the society and the womens role in it, the hobby she learnt to love in her free time is even more unusual. Being advised by a family doctor to try walking as a possible cure for rheumatism she was struggling with, Lucy soon picked up on mountaineering and enjoyed spending every free moment discovering and reaching some of the highest alpine peaks.
As her father and brother were members of the Alpine Club, the worlds first mountaineering club founded in London, and often went on family climbing and hiking holidays in the Swiss Alps, Lucys mountaineering career started by joining the male members of her family and their favourite Swiss guide Melchior Anderegg on their adventures. In the Alps, she led a different life from the one at home. The mountains allowed her more freedom. She spent the days in touch with nature, climbing for hours, sleeping in barns, often close to men that formed her hiking party, all activities almost unthinkable for a woman in Victorian England.
Her climbing skills were a natural talent and notable results and success came soon. She was the first woman to the top of at least five Alpine summits and claimed another 10 first female ascents. What made her globally known is the fact that she was the first woman to reach the summit of Matterhorn (4,478m), only 6 years after it was done for the first time by male climber Edward Whymper. Before the end of her climbing career in 1879., she totalled 98 expeditions, which included 28 summits over 4,000 metres.
Lucy Walker © Alpine Journal Nr. 31
Contributing and making her success even more significant is not only the fact that she was one of the pioneer woman in mountaineering which was back then thought to a primary masculine activity but also the conditions the women were faced with when climbing back then. Unlike the professional outdoor clothes and equipment we have at our disposal nowadays, Lucy climbed in ankle long white print dress in accordance with heavy restrictive clothing present at the time. If we add all this to the social etiquette of a weak and submissive Victorian woman, Lucys achievement becomes even more important. Her brave, open and cheerful personality has helped paving the way for other women that would follow in her footsteps and set on an adventurous road of exploring the beautiful, remote landscapes and conquering mountain peaks.
Thank you, Lucy, for being brave enough to pursue your ambition and helping to awake the society showing that women are at least equally capable as men in their attempts to achieve big goals not only in mountaineering but also in other aspects of life.