'Winter 46' women thrive on peak performance
A new book is high on climbing
(October 30, 2005) —
Being a woman in high places doesn't necessarily have anything to do with climbing the corporate ladder.
Holly Sullivan, a senior planner with the Hudson River Valley Greenway, was climbing Allen Mountain in the Adirondacks with the Rochester Winter Mountaineering Society when her stove developed a mind of its own.
"Holly's tale about setting the tent on fire became something of a legend," says Carol White, who documented that and about 200 other adventures in her new book, Women With Altitude: Challenging the Adirondack High Peaks in Winter (North Country Books, $19.95).
White wrote the book, due out in November, after becoming the 20th woman Winter 46er in 1997.
Women With Altitude tells the stories of 33 of the 36 women who became Winter 46ers during the canister era. Summit canisters, where climbers signed a register, were removed in late spring 2001.
"I'm the oldest woman to have started the Winter 46," says White, who began when she was 54 and finished at the age of 56. One woman finished at the age of 62.
"I'm still climbing the high peaks of New Hampshire this winter. I'll be 65 on Nov. 10 and am no athlete. But one gets into great shape in this very accessible sport."
White and her husband, David, took up climbing in the Northeast after accepting an invitation to hike up Mount Marcy in 1989. Carol quit smoking the previous year.
"We had never heard of the High Peaks," says Carol White, who lives in Clinton, Oneida County. "We hiked and camped in the Finger Lakes area with our children a lot of fun swimming and hiking. Now our children are grown. We thought climbing New York's highest mountain was strange, but, of course, we said yes.
"That climb and the hour on Marcy's summit changed our lives. Dave and I have hiked every weekend since then."
The couple took up winter climbing in order to become Catskills 35ers. The Catskills' club is similar to the Adirondack 46ers hikers are required to climb all 35 mountains that are 3,500 feet or taller, but four must be done in the winter.
"'Wow,' we thought. But we bought crampons and snowshoes," Carol White recalls. "It (winter) became our favorite season to hike."
They finished the 46 in two winters and two months. After registering their feat with the 46ers' office of the historian, they received a list of all the Winter 46ers.
"That was what gave me the idea of writing a book," White says. "I could contact everyone on the list."
In Women With Altitude, White writes, "Many of us have characterized climbing the Winter 46 as the most adventurous thing we ever did, one of the happiest times of our lives, not only physically rewarding but emotionally fulfilling. We are spiritually nourished in the wild world. As one of us said, it is the most spiritual thing I do outside of church. Many speak of feeling a closeness to God out there.
"Winter climbing becomes almost addictive. There is no better high, many of us say."
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