GRIT&ROCK reports that 99% of first ascents on high-altitude peaks are done by men. Its First Ascent Expedition Prize seeks to lower that percentage.
Historically, it’s no secret that alpinism is a male-dominated sport. This February, one U.K.-based charity is organizing a grant program to fund women alpinists on the world’s biggest climbing objectives.
GRIT&ROCK’s First Ascent Expedition Prize started along with the organization itself in 2016. Each year since the program has distributed $10,000 in grants to selected majority-female alpine climbing expeditions.
This month, it puts another $10,000 on the table.
First Ascent Expedition Prize Categories
A panel of judges will review applications to decide on winners in three categories.
The “Performance” category prioritizes ambitious, high-altitude ascents on the basis of difficulty and skill demonstrated by the team. In 2021, Nancy Hansen and Ralf Dujmovits secured a Performance grant for their first ascent bid on Biarchedi I (22,342 feet) in Pakistan’s Karakorum.
“Exploration” award winners design ascents that GRIT&ROCK describe as “beautifully crafted and well-thought-out projects on a smaller scale.”
First ascents or in remote areas, for instance, fall into the category. The organization last awarded an Exploration grant in 2020, for Natalia Martinez and Camilo Rada’s exploration project in rarely visited regions of southern Patagonia.
“Apprenticeship” awards aim to advance the skills and independence of new women alpinists in the early stages of their careers.
In 2021, GRIT&ROCK awarded general funding for female members of the Young Alpinist team through an Apprenticeship grant.
Application Details: How to Apply
Past grant winners have come from all over the globe, at all experience levels. Objectives from Canada to Pakistan to Nepal have been funded. Note that Performance and Exploration grants apply to first ascents only; if you have a previously-climbed objective in mind, you can only apply under the Apprenticeship category.
The application process is straightforward, but the window to apply in 2022 is closing fast. Review the requirements to apply. Hopefuls meeting the criteria must submit documents including a project description, budget, logistical plan, and CV for each team member, by February 15.
Check out GRIT&ROCK’s Facebook page to track past projects and successful ascents funded by the First Ascent Expedition Prize.
Masha Gordon, the organization’s founder, said the program’s increasingly competitive applications in 2021 indicated progress toward its end goal: elevate female alpinists.
“The [selection process] in the past 2 years has proved to be very difficult, if not impossible, for expedition alpinism,” she said. “In that context, we were pleased to see the continued drive of many female alpinists. The jury was inspired by the ambition of presented projects, where the skill matched the difficulty of routes.”
She signed off by wishing each team a safe trip.