JACKSON, Wyo. — As a mother to a 3-year-old, a full-time conservationist and a committed alpinist, Sheila Walsh Reddy knows that balancing work and family with big goals in the mountains is not easy. As a board member of The Teton Climber’s Coalition (TCC) in a community like Jackson, even she needs external motivation sometimes.

In winter 2021, she was looking for alpine inspiration, so she started reading about the history of climbing in the Tetons in early 2021. She came across an October 2015 Jackson Hole Magazine article called “Women on the Tetons,” by local climber Molly Loomis. It described Eleanor Davis’ first female ascent of the Grand Teton on Aug. 27, 1923.

“When I saw it was 1923, I realized that was coming up soon, so I used that as a reason to set a goal for myself, to lead a route with only another woman,” Reddy said. While backcountry skiing with a friend a few days later, she suggested the idea, so they decided to do their own all-female ascent on the centennial in August 2023. A few months later in 2021, Reddy got invited to be on the board of the TCC. Her first order of business: suggest a year-long centennial celebration for the entire community.

“I said, ‘Let’s use it to connect women to pursue whatever it is that’s important to them in their personal journey,’” Reddy said. “The celebration is a unique way to engage the community in a conversation about women in the Tetons. A lot of us are looking for that community support and that connection to keep trying [to get outside] even when it’s not the easiest moment.”

When she suggested the idea to Christian Beckwith, TCC’s founder and board chair, he had already been toying with the idea of bringing an alpine-focused film festival to Jackson. They decided to use this weekend’s AlpinFilm as a kickoff for the celebration.

A Timeline of Women Crushing in the Tetons

  • Aug. 23, 1923: Eleanor Davis becomes first woman to summit the Grand Teton with Albert Ellingwood
  • 1926: Davis becomes the first woman to climb Mount Moran
  • 1930s: Irene Ayres completes first ascents with brother Fred Ayres, Traverse Peak, Rock of Ages, Bivouac Peak’s West Ridge, West Horn; as well as first female ascents of Disappointment Peak, Mount Owen, and Mount Moran’s Skillet Glacier
  • Aug. 3, 1939: Margaret Smith (now Smith Craighead), Margaret Bedell, Ann Sharples and Mary Whittemore complete the first “manless” ascent of the Grand Teton
  • 1940s: Elizabeth Cowles does the first female ascents of Buck Mountain and Veiled Peak, and first ascents of Mount Moran and Grand Teton via the north ridges
  • Early 1940s: Betty Woolsey skis Teton Pass and opens many of the runs, shuttling and guiding ski clients through her outfit Trail Creek Ranch
  • 1965: Irene Beardsley (who was pregnant at the time) and Sue Swedlund complete first all-female ascent of the North Face of the Grand Teton
  • 1970s: Jane Baldwin becomes first backcountry ranger for Grand Teton National Park in 1974; Patty McDonald becomes second in 1975; Anne-Marie Rizzie becomes first Jenny Lake climbing ranger in 1977; Jean Dempsey becomes the second in 1978
  • 1980: Barb Eastman and Anne Macquarie complete the first all-female ascent of Mount Moran’s Direct South Buttress, becoming Jenny Lake climbing rangers the same year
  • 1981: Catherine Cullinane (now Cullinane Jackson) becomes the first female Exum guide and the first female guide in the Tetons
  • 1997: Kristen Ulmer makes first female ski descent of the Grand Teton
  • 1999: Georgie Stanley and Supy Bullard lead an all-women’s team from the Tetons to climb Cho Oyu, becoming the first American women’s team to climb an 8,000-meter peak without supplemental oxygen or Sherpa support
  • 2004: A.J. Cargill makes the first female telemark ski descent of the Grand Teton
  • March 7, 2007: Julia Niles and Lisa Van Sciver make the first all-female ski descent of the Grand Teton
  • 2010: Dani DeRuyter makes first female snowboard descent of the Grand Teton
  • 2012: At 18, Morgan McGlashon becomes youngest female to ski the Grand Teton
  • June 6, 2013: Kit DesLauriers becomes first female to solo ski the Grand Teton (In 2006, DesLauriers was the first person, man or woman, ever to ski the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent.)

*The above list was compiled with help from Christian Beckwith, who is currently writing a book and publishing a podcast about the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division called Ninety-Pound Rucksack, and Molly Loomis’ 2015 article “Women on the Tetons” in Jackson Hole Magazine.

Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

A Lifetime of Building Community

“It’s always been about community,” Beckwith said. “How do you build community in a place that deserves community?” When he arrived in the Tetons in 1993, there was no hub for climbers. “I couldn’t understand why.”

Before moving here, Beckwith had read about the peaks of the Tetons in an old magazine while bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas, for the winter. Living as a climbing bum with nowhere else to go, he hitchhiked to Jackson the following spring. When he realized there was no organization for mountaineers, he decided to start one himself.

The Wayward Mountaineers connected climbers through a physical book, where climbers would write down their name, phone number and what they wanted to climb.

“I knew I would die in the mountains if I didn’t learn something,” Beckwith said, “so we started offering instructional workshops. I was just going up to people like David Carman, who did the first winter ascent of the North Ridge of the Grand and the first alpine-style ascent of Cerro Torre, and asking them to teach.” Beckwith decided to start a speaker series and heard that Yvon Chouinard lived in the area, so he looked him up in the phone book and gave him a call. “He immediately invited me to his house for dinner.”

Beckwith went on to start The Mountain Yodel, a climbing ‘zine that featured “the art, writing and photography of climbers of Jackson Hole.” Later he coordinated the Teton Boulder Project, a bouldering park and commemorative site for Teton climbers, and developed the Town Pump bouldering series, which gives climbers a weekly opportunity in the summer to connect with each other and make plans to get out together.

Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

The TCC hopes events of the 100-year anniversary of the first female ascent of the Grand Teton will provide opportunities and connection for the women climbers in and around Jackson. On Friday, Jan. 13, Reddy will moderate the “Moving Mountains” panel discussion about women in the Tetons, which features Cullinane Jackson, McGlashon and Madison Rose Ostergren, a professional skier.

“The film festival gives us a chance to interact with the community. It’s a way for us to laugh and drink beers and talk smack and hang,” Beckwith said. “We’re hoping ideas will come from the gathering this weekend; we want to hear from the community on what they want.”

In addition to AlpinFilm, possible celebration ideas include a guided all-female trips up the Grand, women’s trips to nearby climbing areas, scholarships for women to go climbing and mentorship opportunities.

“The centennial is a moment for us to pause and celebrate, but it’s not about one woman at one time,” Reddy said. “It’s about all women making their own journey—and celebrating that experience.”

Share your input here through a TCC survey about how the community should celebrate the centennial.

Buckrail @ Julie

Julie Ellison is a writer and photographer based in Victor, Idaho. She seeks out stories that reflect the unique social issues of this region and elevate the fascinating individuals who live here. Her favorite things are coffee, reading, climbing, bikes, and dogs.