44-year-old Sydney mountaineer and mother of two children, Monique Forestier became the first woman in history to achieve what has been called one of the world’s most difficult rock climbs when she reached the summit of The Governor General in Tasmania.
After three grueling months that included completing a climb to Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand; almost dying on Pakistan’s K2; and scaling 40-meter ice walls in freezing conditions at Australia’s Blue Mountains it was no feat for Ms. Forestier who has built a reputation for her intense, focused and very physical climbing. She says that while she was extremely happy to have reached the summit of The Governor General, she never dreamed it would be such an issue. “I just climbed it because I thought it would be fun,” she said.
Ms. Forestier, who is the only Australian women to have achieved ascents of these two peaks (K2 & Governor General) said despite making history she did not realise how big an issue this climb would become. “It all happened so quickly; one day I popped into Crag X to buy some chalk bags and next thing you know there are media everywhere.”
The climber’s ascent has sparked debate between mountain guide companies about discrimination in favor of female mountaineers. Crag X owner, Mark Gray said, “Monique is a very determined woman and well known to us as she usually climbs with her husband Alain. Although we do not actively promote this climb as a women’s only event it has been done that way for 20 years.”
“I made the ascent because I enjoy the challenge of climbing but also because I’m a good climber and I can climb well – there is no other reason,” Ms. Forestier said “It should be about what you can achieve instead of who you are”.
Commenting on the Governor General climb earlier this year, world-renowned mountaineer Ed Viesturs who has climbed all 14 mountains over 8000 meters said, “This isn’t a woman’s mountain – it is a man’s mountain. It might not be the hardest climb in the world, but it is one of the most dangerous”.
Starting at Crag X, just off the Lyell Highway east of Derwent Bridge on Saturday 21 November Monique climbed all day to reach The Governor General early that evening. She then spent Sunday night camped below the steep east face before climbing to the summit through heavy snow and very strong winds early Monday morning. Upon reaching her bag which had been left stashed about 10 meters from the summit she radioed base camp where journalists were waiting for confirmation of her success. “This was definitely one tough climb,” said Ms Forestier who has now begun planning an ascent of Mt McKinley in Alaska. “But if I can do it anyone can.”
Ms. Forestiers ascent of The Governor General was the first time any woman has achieved this rare feat on what is widely considered one of the world’s toughest climbs, with only four men having achieved the feat. However, due to a clause in its rules Crag X Adventure Guides owner Mark Gray last month made a call for women to take up the challenge. Citing his reasons as being that he was sick of people assuming his business discriminates against female climbers. The climb usually attracts a total of six mountain guides from various companies every year but at least 10 were expected to take the challenge this year.