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A Summit of One’s Own: Women’s Mountaineering Writing

On November 7, 2015, Alpinist Magazine and Imaginary Mountain Surveyors co-hosted a panel on women’s mountaineering writing as part of the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. We called it “A Summit of One’s Own.” Writers in attendance were Angie Abdou, Bernadette McDonald, Margo Talbot, Jan Redford and Majka Burhardt.

In 1929 the British author Virginia Woolf–daughter of the great mountaineer Leslie Stephen–had famously declared that to become a writer, a woman needed a “room of her own,” a space away from the expectations and conventions of her society. During this panel, we talked about the various ways that women have created rooms for themselves as adventurers and as mountain writers in a genre largely occupied by men. Our panelists and audience members asked many questions, including these: How much has changed in women’s mountain writing since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century? What can be done to encourage greater female participation? What are examples of great female authors who have redefined what it means to roam and to write in the wild? And finally: What are some of the ways in which transcending masculine and feminine stereotypes can free people of all genders to experiment with new writing styles and subjects and to help foster richer, more diverse mountain stories in the future?

I was deeply moved by the stories the participants had to share that day–and by the sense of how urgent they felt these issues are to our community, to our mountain pursuits, our literature and our lives.

The audio file below is a recording of that discussion. Because of a lack of a microphone in the audience section, we weren’t able to record the audience stories. But I encourage readers to share their stories, now, in the comments section below. Or to email me if you have questions, queries or even pitches. We’ve love to add more diverse stories to our magazine from women and other under-represented groups.–Katie Ives, Editor-In-Chief,
Alpinist Magazine