The Chick History Thread


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Trad climber
Wheat Ridge
Jan 10, 2005 - 07:21pm PT
Herb and Jan Conn also have many very bold FAs in Big Bend National Park, TX. These are extremely run-out lines on poor rock (rhyolite) that have seldom seen repeat ascents. A friend of mine is a big fan of the Conn's and has followed their exploits, including some of their lines down that way. The Conns are mostly into caving these days. I've even heard that they took up residence in a a cave and are living off the grid. Very cool folks.

Trad climber
cayucos california
Jan 10, 2005 - 08:18pm PT
Sibylle Hechtel is one of the coolest people i have ever met. Not only has she climbed bigwalls and hard free climbing but she also has some awsome history in the himalayas as well.

One of the nicest in the world for sure.


Trad climber
the south
Jan 10, 2005 - 08:48pm PT
I have a friend who met the Conns in the early 90's/late 80's, I'll have to get him to repeat his stories and get back about em.

I do remember him saying that following any of their Needles SD routes was a challenge, and that they were very nice people.

Trad climber
All over
Jan 10, 2005 - 08:54pm PT

I think you have one of the most complete listings of female climbing accomplishments in the Valley on

Maybe you could take some submissions, like pics from Jody, or bits of history (stories) and put them up on that web site?

Not like you have the time, but you've already got something there that doesn't exist anywhere else, and will eventually be lost if someone with an interest, like yours, doesn't keep it organized and available.

The vagueness of the responses to this querry demonstrate that the history of women's climbing is murky to most. It will only get worse with time.

I'll help you if you want. I don't know Jack about the websites, but I could learn.



Jan 10, 2005 - 09:01pm PT
"Mari Gingery was an awsome climber and boulderer."
"I remember seing Mari float up sume stuff at J tree effortlessly 10 years ago or so."

I saw her at Rockreation in west L.A. cruising up and down the campus board and doing some hard boulding a only a couple years ago...very impressive, I'm sure she's still crankin hard these days too!

Big Wall climber
oakland, ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 10, 2005 - 09:02pm PT
Unfortunately, Kate, it wasn't that complete at all. I started that list a couple of years ago one weekend when I was rehabbing the knee and stuck in the city. I made a list from what I could find on the web, but I never even brought in my Reid Big Walls book to include the female FAist listed in the back. Not that there were a million female FAists, but it was a pretty greivous omission from the list. Then, as I asked around, it seemed that there were scores of women that I'd never even heard of who'd been doing walls, partnered with guys, gals, or solo, for a very long time. They never publicized their tick lists, so it's not data that gets entered into history. The other problem with the list was that it kind of pandered to 'all-women' climbs and FA's, particularly on big walls. Women that were climbing hard (free or aid), but with men, didn't turn up as much info, nor did women who were just sending, but not doing FA's.

I didn't feel good about declaring that one woman had done somethign 'first' when really what I meant was, "I couldn't google another example..." Also, giving a different distinction to a woman for doing a climb with a similarly skilled woman vs. a similarly skilled man seemed to me to imply that having the guy around was inherantly an advantage...and, of course, I don't think that it is.

Another issue that I had with "firsts" was that at some point, there were piles of undone female firsts that were at a level lower than the standard for the best women climbers of the day. There just weren't enough women playing the game to have had them all get ticked off in repeat ascents the way the boys had done. I wasn't sure how meaningful it was to say that someone did something first when the reality of it was that it was a goal that the more capable women just didn't care to persue. Doing a first ascent says that you went where no one had gone before. Bev Johnson and Sybille Hechtel went where no women had gone before. I'm not sure that if we found out that no all-women team had done Lurking Fear (Just as a bogus example...It's been soloed by at least one woman .) that doing one would be noteworthy...especially when it's been freed by a woman, and women have done other A4/A5 routes. I've got mixed feelings on this though...If firsts are motivating, then I think that it can be good to have the info available. Also, there's not much out there in the way of 'elite' female wall climber lore for us to get psyched seeing what Jill Everygirl is up to is still really appreciated (at least by me.)

Anyway, after I asked the question today, I went and looked at the list. I've never even looked at the visitor log. Whatdya know, but that site has gotten about 1000 hits in the last few months, mostly from people who hit it via google searching for the name of one of the people on it?! Embarassed, I was, that I'd left it up. Anyway, in that it was incomplete and potentially very inaccurate, I took it down today. It's a worthwhile project for someone who has the time to do it right though.

Somehow, though, the little story about Bev Johnson helping a brother OB camp whilst working the ranger desk is as interesting or more to me as anyone's ticklist. For me, already having a notion that nameless faceless women did hard things a long time ago, I'm even more interested in learning a story or two about them as people. Like, Russ' pictures of climbing at the height of 80's fashion creates this excellent sense of nostalgia for me for a time when I wasn't even around. It's a story that's told one way or another here almost every day, and part of the reason why I like this site the best. It's just that women are almost never part of that story.

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV
Jan 10, 2005 - 09:13pm PT
although not in the Valley, Joanne Urioste was one of the foremost climbers developing Red Rocks during the late 70's and early 80's.
Joanne and Jorge put up a huge number of classic routes in the area, many of them still well travelled today.

Larry D'Angelo and Bill Thiry's book Red Rock Odyssey relates the tale of a couple of first ascents (Cat in the Hat and Lady Wilson's Cleavage) in which Joanne was the driving force of the route's development.

and of course, Joanne was the author of the original Red Rocks guide book- The Red Rocks of Southern Nevada.

although I have not had the pleasure of meeting Joanne, I understand that she is still known for dragging the boys out with her as she tackles whatever climb strikes her fancy....(in fact, more than once, my meeting of Jorge Urioste was delayed due to Joanne's snagging him for another day on the rock)

Trad climber
the south
Jan 10, 2005 - 09:59pm PT
THere's a woman who climbs in the red, (KY), she's up with the access fund and stuff like that, also climbs hard sport, not sure about the trad or bigwall, I can't think of her name, but I met her at an SCC meeting several years ago.

Anyway if you were trying to put something together about women climbers, she should be in it.

And Melissa, I agree with you that it is pathetic that all woman stuff is given precedence over mixed teams. Hell MAYBE the woman was the better climber and did all the hard putches.

I know I've seen boulder chicks do stuff I'll never do.

Trad climber
All over
Jan 10, 2005 - 10:10pm PT
Shannon Stuart-Smith

The founder and (until recently) the executive director of the Red River Gorge Climbing Coalition.

Definately an excellent woman.

I'd love to hear some stories from the big-wall dudes around here about walls where your female partner did an equal share...of the hauling, of the leading, of the cruxing. Who were they? Any of you boys climb with the super strong women?

mike hartley

Jan 10, 2005 - 10:22pm PT
Back in the late 70's or early 80's I remember a nice woman who climbed at Smith often. One day she asked about a particular climb and whether I'd recommend it. I told her it was a great climb but a 5.11 handcrack and really strenuous. Of course what I meant was "fancy footwork won't help you up there. It ain't no girl's climb". Later I watched her cruise it no sweat. Catherine Freer forever changed my perception of what was and wasn't a "girl's climb".

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jan 10, 2005 - 10:25pm PT
The only reason Mari Gingery is not a household name in the climbing world is that she always remained in the background and never spoke much if ever about her many accomplisments. In the old days at Suicide, she often climbed the hardest routes a lot easier than we did. And out at Josh, where she and Mike Lechlinski have a crib, she's been ripping it up for going on 30 years. She's the stuff, alright.


Jan 10, 2005 - 10:28pm PT

There was Sue McDevit who did numerous walls with her husband Dan. She and Nancy Fagen did the first all female one day ascent of El Cap [Nose]. She could really hold her own with the guys.

Trad climber
cayucos california
Jan 10, 2005 - 10:28pm PT
Hey kate you ever hear of Chelsea Griffie?

She completly kicked my ass in boulder everytime we went. She hung out in yosemite for a long time. She taught me many of the free techniques i know today.

girl climbers kick ass


Jan 10, 2005 - 10:36pm PT

One more although I feel reluctant to say because it feels like spray. My wife Merry she was the first woman to do El Cap in a Day [Nose]. We did several other routes together on the big stone.

Trad climber
All over
Jan 10, 2005 - 10:54pm PT
Werner - It ain't spray if its the truth! Thats excellent. I'd like to meet you guys someday, maybe when I am lurking around I will find you.

Nope Ty, but strong free climbing isn't something I follow. If a woman can lead 10b/c, thats more than enough to evoke hero status. Thats the hardest I've ever seen a woman trad lead.

And I don't go near boulders after what happened to Aaron Ralston. Sheesh. Boulders are dangerous.


Mountain climber
Templeton, CA
Jan 11, 2005 - 02:47am PT
Brian in SLC wrote:"Jody wrote, I am sure I can get some Irene Ortenburger stories for you from the 50's.

My guess is that its been many years since Irene Beardsley has gone by that name...

First American and woman's ascent of Annapurna?"

She was Irene Miller at the time of the Annapurna ascent.

My dad climbed more with her husband Leigh...but he said one story about her that he remembers was when Irene and John Dietschy were putting up a route in Garnet Canyon there was a difficult section that, instead of aiding, John stood on Irene's shoulders to get past the difficult section. That would have been an interesting sight.

Trad climber
Newark, DE
Jan 11, 2005 - 09:49am PT
The Conns are indeed well known in caving circles, mostly for their efforts in exploring and mapping Jewel Cave in South Dakota (one of the longer caves in the US).

The Jewel Cave Adventure chronicles their exploits up to the mid-or late 1970's. It's a pretty good read, actually.

I've never met them personally, but I have numerous friends who have known them. Nothing but kind words and fond memories about the Conns from all of them.

And to answer an earlier query: Yes, the Conns put up numerous routes at Seneca Rocks, WV in the 1940s.

Burt Bronson

Jan 11, 2005 - 10:15am PT



Trad climber
San Rafael, CA
Jan 11, 2005 - 10:47am PT
One name not mentioned so far is Liz Robbins (Royal's wife). I believe she had the first female ascent on a couple of HD and El Cap routes with Royal. I believe they also did some FA's together as well.

I remember seeing a slide show by Royal and he casually mentioned that Liz was probably one of the best female wall climbers of her time.
The Schmutzvink

The WAY past
Jan 11, 2005 - 10:50am PT
Come on Ted. The only reason Royal said that is because Liz was in the audience, and he wanted to get laid that night.
More apt quote would be “casually mentioned that Liz was probably one of the best female wall jumarers of her time
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