1,339 forum posts
In his autobiography, mountaineer Conrad Kain (who did first ascents of most of the peaks in the Canadian Rockies), talks about taking young ladies mountain climbing there and in the Alps.
In his younger days, it seems the Victorian tradition permitted women to indulge in that kind of activity, on the basis that it involved 'nature walks' rather than physical activity (as long as they brought back sketches of the flowers). In fact, as now, many women became good climbers and tackled some rather strenuous routes.
In consequence, the mountains during his time were a place where athletic women could get away from the constraints of society, and sometimes from the bonds of family or their marriages. He mentions spending afternoons 'napping' with female clients on top of mountains, and of occasionally leading lesbian clients on some of the more challenging routes.
In Canada's Rocky Mountain Parks, some of the early trailblazers included people like Mary Schaffer, a Quaker widow from Pennsylvania, who was first to explore the Maligne river drainage in 1907, and did extensive hikes at Yoho and in the Kootenays. Caroline Hinman, from 1915 to 1960, made it her purpose in life to guide groups of young ladies in the Rockies.
When challenged about her exploratory trips as not being appropriate for a 40 year old 'lady', Mary Schaffer answered,
"Can the free air sully, can the birds teach us words we should not hear, can it be possible to see, in such a summer's outing, one sight as painful as the daily ones of poverty, degradation, and depravity of a great city?"
But comments have been made on another thread about the changing face of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking and climbing. Go to any rock-climbing gym and you'll see that women are both good climbers and actively involved in the sport, and this site has a number of female members who are active hikers and campers. It still seems, however, that the predominant group that is involved in outdoor activities (especially in leadership roles) consists of men. I fall into that group, as a male leader guiding groups that are mostly women.
The stereotype is that woman only go camping or hiking to make their mates happy, and that without that motivation they wouldn't go at all. I'm sure some of our TS members would disagree! My hiking groups are about 80% female, though, so I wonder if it's a question more of HOW women choose to get outdoors (such as in a social group rather than as solo campers) rather than that their desire to do so has changed.