In the late 2000s to present day, the gap between men and women has narrowed to a sliver. Only a hundred years ago, women were fighting for the right to vote.

And while we’re currently experiencing political turmoil over women’s rights—among many other issues—in our country, there’s no denying we’ve come a long way. But let us NOT go backwards. Fight like your lives depend on it! IT DOES!

The 1960s ushered in the Golden Age of Yosemite Valley. In 1967, Liz Robbins, along with her husband, Royal, ticked the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, becoming the first woman to climb a VI big wall (photo above shows them on the summit after their climb). Liz also attempted the Nose in 1967 with Royal, but the pair rappelled after 600 feet due to heat and insufficient water. In 1971, Johanna Marte became the first woman to scale El Cap—as a non-leading client of Royal Robbins. The 1960s also introduced Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique, which inspired thousands of women to find fulfillment beyond the role of housewife. Until its release, women spent 55 hours per week on chores and child-rearing, and less than 10 percent of all doctors, lawyers, and engineers were women. The women who pursued climbing were on the fringe of an already-fringe society. They rejected cultural norms, put off children, and pursued life with their own sense of purpose. 

1970s: First All-Female Ascent of El Cap

Riding the wave of nonconformity that began in the 1960s, Beverly Johnson and Sibylle Hechtel made the first all-female ascent of El Cap via the Triple Direct (VI 5.9 C2-), in 1973. After seven days of learning how to haul bags that weighed more than both of them, throwing themselves into a sea of granite, and mustering every ounce of grit they had, the two topped out the 2,900-foot behemoth. While the women were on the wall, Valley climbers wagered for and against them. Their ascent marked a turning point for female climbers.

Around this time, in 1972, Title IX became law, making sports equal opportunity for men and women. Prior to its passing, only 294,015 girls nationwide participated in sports. According to the 2015-2016 survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations, that number has grown 1,030 percent to 3,324,326 female participants. 

1970s: Beverly Johnson and Ellie Hawkins, Yosemite

1980s: The Comp Era Begins; Women Tick Hard Sport Routes

The 1980s brought a new spin: competitions and indoor gyms. In 1985, the first SportRoccia event was held in Bardonecchia, Italy (it later became the Rock Master comp), and Catherine Destivelle, known previously for alpine climbing, took first place.

Mid-1990s: Third Wave Feminism; Women Shred in Droves

The Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993 and the Gender Equity in Education Act in 1994 allowed women to stand up for themselves in education and at work. Women’s numbers in the Senate doubled, Janet Reno became the first female Attorney General, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, women worldwide were working to abolish gender stereotypes and role expectations, creating the “third wave” of feminism.

2010s: A New Era—Sasha DiGiulian, Ashima Shiraishi, and Margo Hayes

And now it’s an Olympic sport, both teams and individual. Strong capable women are crushing it! And little girls the world over the planet are watching and dreaming. Last of the climbing posts, reminding us all, that we are strong and capable when we put in the work and are given the chances to thrive. 



Part Three – 1960s: The Golden Age and The Feminine Mystique of Climbing
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