The 100% Women initiative was successfully launched on International Women’s Day 2021 to give women visibility in mountaineering and outdoor sports, create role models, and inspire women to try something new. Despite the pandemic, women from over twenty countries came to Switzerland to participate in the Peak Challenge, and around 700 women climbed all 48 of Switzerland’s 4,000m peaks in all-female teams. This was the first time that female mountaineers and guides had undertaken a concerted effort of this kind anywhere in the world.
Yet the plans for the next step in the 100% Women initiative are even more ambitious in 2022. This June, Switzerland Tourism (ST) plans to set a unique world record in conjunction with the Swiss Alpine Club, the Swiss Mountain Guide Association, Saas-Fee/Saastal Tourism, and the outdoor brand Mammut. Some 60 women from around the globe will form the world’s largest all-female rope team and tackle the 4,027m Allalinhorn in Valais.
Both the Swiss Alpine Club and the Swiss Mountain Guide Association, not to mention some prestigious women’s mountaineering experts, all agree that mobilizing such a sizeable all-female team is unprecedented. Historian Marie-France Hendrikx agrees: “To my knowledge, never before in the history of mountain sport have so many women teamed up to climb a peak together. It is all the more pleasing that this record is being set in Switzerland.”
Championing greater diversity on the mountain
The Swiss mountains are accessible to all women, and the 100% Women initiative is seeking to highlight this fact using the largest, most diverse all-female rope team. Women from all cultures, age groups, and walks of life, with the basic level of fitness required for a three-hour ascent, can register online to claim one of ten places. Another forty or so places will be allocated to journalists and specifically selected women from Switzerland and abroad. The aim is to create a group as diverse as possible.
During the ascent, around 15 experienced female mountaineering guides will take charge of the safety of four participants per rope. The Allalinhorn was selected as a 4,000m peak that is suitable for all, even with limited mountaineering experience. For some of the women, this would be their first attempt at a 4,000m peak.
The record attempt will take place between 15 and 17 June 2022. Depending on the weather, the climb will take place on Thursday or Friday. Saas-Fee will serve as the base camp, thus making it a hub for women’s mountain sports.
It should be noted that this event is not just about the mountain climb itself, but also about shared experiences. The accompanying program includes workshops, training opportunities, relaxation for body and soul, plus a celebratory dinner after the successful climb.