Mountaineer. She is most notably known as the first woman to climb the Eiger (1864) and the Matterhorn (1871). Although born in Canada she was British and was raised in Liverpool. In 1858, following advice from her doctor to take up walking as a cure for rheumatism, she began climbing rather modestly. Joined by her father Frank and her brother Horace, both well-known climbers and early members of the Alpine Club, she spent every summer in the Alps, and is widely credited as being the first female alpine mountaineer. She scaled both the Theodul and Monte Moro passes and the following year, wanting to build upon these experiences, expressed a desire to climb the Altels, a 3,629m peak in Switzerland. Her father suggested Melchoir Anderegg as her guide, who later became the only guide she ever climbed with. The climb was a success and so began her mountaineering career that quickly progressed as she completed a number of significant routes, notably the Dufourspitze, Mont Blanc, the Eiger, Rimpfischorn and the first ever ascent of the Balmhorn (3,698m in the Bernese Alps). However, the Matterhorn was regarded as the most desirable trophy and she was not the only woman who dreamt of reaching its peak. Various women had made attempts, most notably Meta Brevoort, a New Yorker who had settled in England, who was making a name for herself and who, after reaching an altitude of just under 4,000 metres on her first attempt, was forced to turn back due to severe weather conditions. Two years later, in 1871, upon hearing that Meta Brevoort was going to have another go at it, she quickly assembled her own group, that included her father and Melchoir, in order to begin her ascent. On 22 August, while wearing a white print dress, she ascended the mountain from the Swiss side and became the first woman to stand atop the Matterhorn. By reaching the peak a mere six years after her fellow countryman Edward Whymper had first scaled the mountain, she gained world renown and became the most famous female mountaineer of the era. Also in that year she completed her fourth ascent of the Eiger during which she is said to have lived on a diet of sponge cake, champagne and Asti Spumante. Although she was an extremely capable mountaineer she was never allowed to join the male-only Alpine Club in London. She did however join the newly formed Ladies’ Alpine club in 1909, where she was acclaimed as the pioneer of women climbers, and in 1913 became their President. In all, she completed a total of 98 expeditions.
Bio by: Peter Cox