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The Pinnacle Club: rock-climbing for women – archive, 1921

Editorial: rock-climbing for women

A club which was certain to come has come at last. A letter which we print elsewhere tells us that the Pinnacle Club, for women rock-climbers, was formed on March 26. Of course climbing on rock, snow, and ice has long been successfully practised by women. A Manchester woman was a member of one of the earliest parties to climb the Napes Needle; one of the most pleasant Alpine stories is that of the early traverse of the Sesiajoch, on Monte Rosa, by two resolute English spinsters, conducting a terrified “guide,” and rumour says that one of the most famous of Alpine pioneers used to divide peaks into three classes, in an ascending order of difficulty: (I) those which he climbed with other male amateurs, (2) those which he climbed by himself, and (3) those which he climbed with his aunt.

A long time ago a club for women keen on climbing in the Alps was founded as, we understand, a sub-division or annexe of the Lyceum Club in London. The usual experience of men who have climbed much rock with women is that a woman of any experience, climbing second on a rope, is usually quicker and neater than the average man in that position, and that their efficiency as leaders is not yet fully tested – which is not to say that it is rather low, but simply, that in mixed parties they have climbed in that position too seldom for their powers to be fully estimated.

Of course it is the idea of the new club to help women to do more climbing than ever, no matter whom they do it with. But it will necessarily lead women, directly or indirectly, to do a good deal more of leading on rocks, or, in other words, to become more complete climbers. It is also certain to lead to the appearing of a new club Journal, and human experience up to now goes to show that of climbing Journals there cannot be too many, though it is so easy for other periodicals to be superfluous.

Only this week the eyes of Manchester climbers have been gladdened by the appearance of the excellent Rucksack Club Journal for 1921, laden with delectable reading matter about climbing and mountain walking – the only tolerable substitute for climbing. It can hardly be long before a Pinnacle Club Journal enables us to assess the proper place of women’s climbing, as a distinct thing, in the sport as a whole. We can think of no British mountaineering or rock-climbing club that, once started, has ever failed, perhaps because there is no other sport the active pursuit of which does so much to make club comradeship at other times pleasant and helpful. The Climbers’ Club, the Scottish Mountaineering Club, the Yorkshire Ramblers, and the Fell and Rock Club of the Lake District have all had good careers, and the Rucksack Club has contributed enormously to make Manchester more interested, as we believe it is, in mountains and mountaineering than any other British city. From no other city will warmer good wishes go forth to the nascent Pinnacle Club.

The Guardian, 2 April 1921.
The Guardian, 2 April 1921. Photograph: Frank Baron/The Guardian

Emily ‘Pat’ Kelly was an early female rock-climber, while Eleanor Winthrop Young made numerous ascents in the Alps and UK

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