What's the best training for motherhood? How about scaling mountains, redpointing first ascents, and hauling gear over rugged terrain? We want to take a minute at Backpacker to look at some of the coolest moms history has witnessed.
The following mothers made family dinner on a cook stove, cleaned house by shaking out the tent, and chased away grouse instead of bullies. When their kids went out to face challenges and find adventures, these moms went with them.
1. Lucia Pychowska and her daughter Marian Pychowska bushwhacked their way into White Mountains fame, naming and trailblazing many paths in the Presidential Range and the Mahoosucs–all while wearing floor-length wool skirts.
2. Miriam Underhill famously led many of the world’s most difficult climbs in the early 1900s. She and her husband Robert were a “climbing power couple” who helped begin the ‘Four Thousand Foot Club’ in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and shared their love of the mountains with their two sons.
3. Ruth Dyar Mendenhall was an accomplished first ascender of many mountains in the US and Canada during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. She and her husband John Mendenhall had two daughters in the 1940s, and took them climbing and skiing throughout their childhoods.
4. In 1955, Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, told her 11 children she planned to go for a walk—and became the first solo female thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail at age 67.
5. Teddi Boston first heard about thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 1972, while she was taking her daughters’ Girl Scout group on a fall John Muir Trail backpacking trip. In 1979, the 49-year-old mother of four became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail southbound.
6. Carolyn Ravensong Burkhart was the first woman to solo thru-hike the PCT northbound and has spent much of her life hiking and backpacking, raising her daughters to love the mossy wild of the Pacific Northwest just as much as she does.
7. Sally Jewell is the former CEO of REI and current Secretary of the Interior, but she is also an accomplished mountaineer and mother. Known for her environmental advocacy and conservation efforts, she has tried to share this love of the mountains with her two children. On her son Peter’s 16th birthday, she took him up Kilamanjaro, and on her daughter Anne’s 16th the two of them hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc together through France, Italy, and Switzerland.
8. Lynn Hill has won more than 30 international climbing competitions, completed some of the world’s most difficult first ascents, and most famously was the first person to free-climb The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite in a single day – to many, the greatest achievement in climbing. In Lynn’s words, “mothering is more challenging than any climb I’ve done, but there’s nothing greater than the sense of love I feel for my child.”
9. Jenn Pharr-Davis Jenn Pharr-Davis holds the record for fastest assisted thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, traversing the entire 2,185 miles in just 46 days and 11 hours during the summer of 2011. With three thru-hikes and one big record under her belt, she recently hiked over 550 miles in the Spanish Pyrenees and the Laugavegurinn in Iceland – during her second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
10. Heather ‘Mamma Bear’ Burror helped her daughter Sierra ‘Monkey’ Burror accomplish an unusual dream for an 8-year-old: becoming the youngest person to thru-hike the PCT. The mother-daughter pair also hiked the 500-mile Colorado trail in 2013 and a large section of the Continental Divide Trail in 2014.
11. Trish Herr wrote the book Up after hiking all 48 4,000-foot peaks in New Hampshire with her two daughters, Alex and Sage. By the time they were six, each of the girls were in the 4,000-footer club. Since then, they have hiked the Camino De Santiago in Spain, the John Muir Trail, and gone on numerous other peakbagging and hiking adventures.