14er Fun Alpinistic Tales Sneffels

Women Tribute

climbed: 9-6-2008

Pioneer Women Tribute Climb - Grays Peak

For some time now, I’ve had the idea of climbing a 14er that would honor the women who have climbed these mountains before us. These women had a deep love and respect for these beautiful mountains and with their courage and determination they played a big role in building a vigorous and diverse state of Colorado...

Pioneer Women Tribute - Old Postcard

I put together a group of friends and family members that feel the same way as I do. We decided to climb Grays Peak in the clothing the women wore in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Julia Archibald Holmes was one of the first feminists, unwavering in the face of criticism of her choice to wear bloomers instead of the more socially acceptable long skirts and corsets. For her, it was simply the more sensible choice of clothing for her mountain pursuits. Her historic ascent of Pikes Peak took place in 1858 with her husband and two friends. The supplies for their planned 6 day outing included among other things, 19 pounds of bread, 6 quilts, a pound of hog meat and a pound of sugar. Enjoying roaring campfires by night and the mountain’s glorious splendor by day, she said: "This we call our home….. The beauty of this great picture is beyond my powers of description".

The five of us: Denise, Melanie, me, Linda and Kay met at the Steven’s Gulch Trailhead on Saturday at 7:30 in the morning...

Pioneer Women Tribute Group - Grays Peak

We all felt great and were ready for our adventure. I had decided to start out in the vintage shoes my mother found for me...

Debby heading up Grays Peak on the Pioneer Women Tribute Hike

But unfortunately I only made it up about a mile and a half before I had to change into my 5.10’s because of early signs of blisters. Kay was wearing her grandmother’s coat which I know meant a lot to her...

Kay and her Grandma on the Pioneer Women Tribute hike up Grays Peak

There were many people on the trail asking us why we were dressed the way we were. Our explanations were met with genuinely enthusiastic and supportive responses. It made me feel so good to have the energetic encouragement of so many people that we had never met before.

Eleanor Davis Ehrman had a great love and passion for the Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. She would climb in jeans and slacks and also had one of her skirts converted into a pair of knickerbockers for riding and climbing. She was perhaps the favorite climbing partner of Albert Ellingwood, one of the technical mountaineering pioneers in Colorado. Jeff and I have become good friends with his son. On July 24th, 1916, she and Ellingwood became the first to climb the Crestones which were at the time regarded as unclimbable. In 1923, Eleanor became the first woman to climb the Grand Teton in Wyoming. Eleanor lived to be 107 years old, finally passing away in 1993.

I also crossed paths with an 11 year old boy and an 8 year old girl who were each climbing their first 14er. I tried my best to encourage them when really, they gave me strength. We only took a couple of short breaks just to get out of the wind for a minute or two...

Getting a break from the wind on the Pioneer Women Tribute climb of Grays Peak

My cousin Linda started to get altitude sickness at a little over 12,000 feet and had to descend. I later found out she cried for some time because she really wanted to be a part of this. She most definitely was an important part of it and she was with us on the summit in spirit.

The wind was howling on the mountain and a couple of times I thought I was going to lose my balance and fall over. None of the hats lost any feathers, thanks to my mother’s handy work with her hot glue gun...

Group of 4 on Pioneer Women Tribute climb up Grays Peak

After making it to the summit, we were tired but very excited...

Summit Group on Pioneer Women Tribute hike up Grays Peak

I would like to quote Julia Archibald Holmes, the first woman to climb Pikes Peak on August 5th, 1858 because after climbing all of the 14ers and then this tribute to the pioneer women, I can truly identify with her words...

"I have accomplished the task which I marked out for myself and now I feel amply repaid for all my toil and fatigue. Nearly everyone tried to discourage me from attempting it, but I believed that I should succeed; and now, here I am, and I feel that I would not have missed this glorious sight for anything at all”.

We were blessed with a clear day so one could see forever...

Debby on summit of Grays Peak during Pioneer Women Tribute climb

Chief, our K9 companion wanted to be in summit picture also...

Melanie and Chief on the summit of Grays Peak during the Pioneer Women Tribute hike

We started to descend and my sister in law Melanie, who came from 863 feet above sea level to do this climb with us was feeling great...

Melanie descending Grays Peak during the Pioneer Women Tribute climb

Jeff asked me if I wanted to climb The Rascal, a rock formation just off the trail. I said I would try, it was actually fun with one little class 3 pitch. The view from the top was thrilling with 1,000 feet of exposure on the back side, but I tore my skirt on the way down...

Debby on The Rascal during the Pioneer Women Tribute hike

This was one of the best days of my life. I was with friends and family who love the mountains as much as I do.

Agnes Vaille logged the first winter ascent by a man or woman of James Peak in 1923. She used her “lightweight” (7 pounds) sleeping bag and she did it solo. She was an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club and had also climbed with mountaineering pioneer Albert Ellingwood. She became the chosen climbing partner of Walter Kiener, a Swiss butcher for whom a route on Longs Peak is named. She met her fate upon descending what's now known as the Cables Route on Longs Peak after their historic winter ascent of the Notch Couloir on the east face. The stone shelter near the Keyhole was constructed in her memory.

I am grateful to these incredible mountaineers who didn't let anything or anyone discourage them from following their dreams. And we did this hike in their honor.

Thanks to Jeff, Steve, Gary and Don for accompanying us and to Bev for helping find our pioneer women’s clothes.

A special thanks goes out to my mother for not only helping with the clothes, shoes and hats but for her love and never ending support.

One of the primary sources of both information and inspiration for this event was The Magnificent Mountain Women by Janet Robertson. It is an informative and entertaining book that I strongly recommend.

While I can't recommend vintage leather shoes for anything more than a couple hundred yards or so, I am sold on the Exum Guide Multisport Shoe by Five Ten. A lightweight approach shoe with mid-high ankle support, Stealth C4 rubber on the soles and enough rigidity for lightweight crampons, it makes an excellent all around Colorado 14er shoe.

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