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Presumptuous Pinnacle Ladies

A selection from the early journals of the Pinnacle Club

Before the First World War, rock climbing was strictly for men. Women who swapped their long skirts for ‘unwomanly rags’ to tackle the crags were objects of derision and disapproval. But things were changing. In 1921 the Pinnacle Club was founded, the UK’s first all-female rock climbing club. With support from the Manchester Guardian, the Fell and Rock and the Rucksack Club, it attracted plenty of talented and enthusiastic recruits. Their climbing flourished and their ambitions grew.

Presumptuous Pinnacle Ladies is an absorbing collection of articles from the first six journals of the Pinnacle Club (1924–1938) with an introduction by the club archivist Margaret Clennett. The book demonstrates women climbers’ determination to find their own way and their own voice. Focusing mainly on North Wales, the Lake District and Skye, but with one Alpine episode, it presents the unfolding story of women on rock with fluency, intelligence and self-deprecating humour:

Then things began to be slightly uncomfortable. We were forced on to a perpendicular arete of unstable rocks, loosely cemented together with wet turf. Presently one of us dislodged a large block, seriously alarming our Teutonic friend, whose nose it missed by less than an inch. We longed to regain the safety of our delightful gully, and the only possible way was by a funnel-shaped groove of restricting dimensions. It ended in an easy grass ledge. I wriggled up and the lean man followed. There was a furious scraping of boots, a blond head poked out of the groove, and a dismayed voice enquired: ‘Please, what must I do next? I cannot gom up, but I can fall down.’ Then a more poignant appeal: ‘Please, I am slipping, help!’ Our courageous second threw himself full length in the mud and tried to fish up the victim. Immediately a muscular arm freed itself from the crack to cling with an octopus-like grip round his neck. It was perfectly obvious that it wouldn’t be long before he was dragged down, head first, so I had to take a roll in the mud, too, and attach myself firmly to his ankles. There were a few minutes of horrid suspense. Then, snorting and puffing, and accompanied by a loud noise of grating … the German managed to haul himself out of the hateful groove. He staggered over our prostrate bodies to the furthest corner of the shelf, murmuring, ‘Tank Gott, I am safe!’ and began to devour lettuce sandwiches with silent ferocity.

Daloni Seth Hughes,‘Early Days in the Welsh Hills’, PC Journal No 5, 1932–34

170x120mm, xviii + 176 pp
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978 1 902173 290