Wednesday 4th March 2020, 3:56pm
When Muriel Gray burst onto the TV screen back in the 1980s she was an explosion of colour and irreverence, determined to upset the perception of hillwalking as the pastime of people with beards, wearing lots of fleece.
It’s true that, back then, women were a lot rarer in the hills and, when they were encountered, were generally expected to be dutifully following a man.
Even in the 1980s that stereotype was being challenged more and more often. And today, though attitudes remain to be challenged, women are very definitely doing it for themselves in Scotland’s mountains – and are as likely to taking a leading role as to be content to follow others.
So to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, here are just a tiny taste of some inspirational Mountaineering Scotland members playing positive roles in all aspects of mountaineering, from hillwalking to climbing - and who just happen to be women.
With a lifetime's experience in the mountains, Heather is a qualified Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and has instructed and coached for 30 years at a variety of outdoor centres including both the National Centres (Glenmore Lodge and Plas y Brenin). She holds a BA Hons degree in Recreation & Community, a Post Graduate Certificate in Outdoor Education and a Masters degree in Sustainable Mountain Development. In her spare time she is an active mountaineer, climber, sea kayaker and mountain biker. Heather was an active member of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team for 16 years.
Caitlin Connor won the inaugural ClimbScotland Young Climber of the Year Award in 2016, when she was just 13, and has continued to climb and compete at a high level, as well as having been a youth ambassador for the Urban Uprising charity and a charity fund-raiser. Last year she competed in the World Youth Ice Climbing Championships in Finland, competing in the Under 19 category and coming in 11th in the world for lead climbing and 7th for speed. Caitlin is also a keen outdoor climber.
In the last week Lucy was announced as the first ever female president of Ramblers Scotland, an appointment which met with much approval in the outdoor community. A full-time freelance Mountain Leader, she loves sharing her love of nature and the hills with others. “The mountains give me peace, direction and help me feel at ease with myself. I'm fitter in my 40s than I was in my 20s, and a lot happier too. All this comes from being in the hills.”
Iona’s Adventures just under a year ago. It’s a Facebook group dedicated to encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the Scottish mountains and the countryside. With over 2,200 members it has grown into a community that fosters friendship, support, inspiration, health and wellbeing and, most importantly, fun. Iona is now doing her Mountain Leader training, and continues to dedicate her time and energy to supporting the group and developing opportunities for group members to get more involved in mountaineering. Iona said: “When I first lived in Aviemore I remember feeling intimidated by all the ‘outdoorsy people’ I used to see around the area. I never thought I could be that kind of person. I’ve proved to myself and others that the outdoors is for everyone and an adventure is just what you make it.”
It’s not just on the hills that women can make a difference in the great outdoors. Mountaineering Scotland currently has four female directors (not quite 50:50 – there are five men).
Being Mountaineering Scotland's Treasurer allows Jennifer to combine her profession with her love for the outdoors. Professionally she works for the accountancy firm Leiper and Summers in Fraserburgh. Away from the office, she compleated the Munros in 2015, and gets away up the hills whenever she can. Usually when she turns up at a meeting she’s left home early to grab a hill on the way to the venue!
Lucy is an IT consultant, with a Masters degree in Engineering from Cambridge University, but her passion is climbing. She grew up walking, cycling and sailing and moved to Scotland in 2003, partly to spend more time having outdoor adventures, but became involved in climbing as a parent. Her daughter is now a successful youth competition climber, while Lucy has been a regular volunteer with ClimbScotland since 2017. “I have spent my adult life volunteering, including eight years as a Director and Company Secretary of Bannockburn Riding for the Disabled.”
Jo is a keen skier, climber and hill walker. Working in events, with communities, and across both the charity and commercial sector, gives her the knowledge and experience to share ideas and collaborate on the growth and development of Mountaineering Scotland’s affiliated clubs and their members.
Kat’s interest in mountains and climbing began as a teenager with the DofE Award, which led her onto a gap-year expedition to Svalbard and to become an obsessive member of her university climbing club. As a mum of two kids, her interests changed towards hill-walking and ski mountaineering. She is a passionate believer in public access to the mountains and countryside. Professionally, Kat has worked in communications with Scottish Natural Heritage, where she would deliver briefing and advice to Scottish Ministers, and RSPB Scotland.