This past weekend marked a historic milestone as the Centennial Celebration commemorated the first known female ascent of the Grand Teton. Hosted by the Teton Climbers’ Coalition and various partners, the event saw over 40 remarkable women undertake the same journey up the Grand, in honor of Eleanor Davis and all the women who have made their home in the Tetons. Among the notable participants were Wanna Johansson, recipient of the Grand Scholarship, Sheila Walsh Reddy, a determined alpinist, Marian Meyers, a seasoned Teton climber since 1977, and Morgan McGlashon, a mountain guide realizing her dream of leading all-female trips up the Grand.
The inspiration for this event traces back to the winter of 2021 when Sheila Walsh Reddy, a sustainability professional and aspiring alpinist, delved into the history of climbing in the Tetons. She discovered a magazine article detailing Eleanor Davis’ groundbreaking ascent of the Grand Teton in 1923. Recognizing that the Centennial was just two years away, Sheila set a goal to lead the Grand with another woman by this significant date. This initiative aimed to create a platform for women to conquer the challenges they face in the climbing world, where role models and mentors have often been scarce.
The Grand Scholarship played a pivotal role in encouraging diversity in the mountains. Wanna Johansson, an advocate for inclusion and a backcountry enthusiast, applied for the scholarship to address the underrepresentation of women in the alpine environment. The scholarship enabled her to participate in the all-female guided expedition up the Grand Teton, and Wanna’s presence itself became an inspiration, breaking down stereotypes and fostering a more diverse climbing community.
The climb culminated in a touching moment as the climbers converged on the Grand Teton. Sheila Walsh Reddy, true to her mission, led her team upward while Wanna Johansson descended from her successful summit. The paths of these two teams of determined women crossed at the perfect juncture, a testament to their shared aspirations.
The tribute to Eleanor Davis’ historic climb extended beyond the ascent itself. The surrounding week included events like speaker series, film nights, and a ‘Beers and Banter’ gathering hosted by the Jackson Hole Historical Society. The festivities reached their peak during Tuesday’s official Centennial Celebration event at the Grand Teton Climber’s Ranch, attended by over 125 people from Jackson Hole and the surrounding areas. The night included a heartwarming slideshow video (viewable below!), featuring photos by local community members of their most beloved moments in the Tetons.
The panel discussions that followed the event highlighted the need for ongoing authenticity and vulnerability in climbing spaces, paving the way for growth and inclusion. The legacy of Eleanor Davis, who defied norms and redefined mountain climbing’s boundaries, serves as a beacon for aspiring climbers, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or background.
This year’s Centennial Celebration marked an extraordinary milestone in the world of climbing. By commemorating the first known female ascent of the Grand Teton, this event not only celebrated the past but also propelled the climbing community toward a more inclusive and diverse future. The celebration sparked authentic conversations about access, identity, and belonging within the climbing community. The efforts of Sheila Walsh Reddy, Wanna Johansson, and countless others emphasize the importance of breaking barriers, finding common ground, and ascending new heights together. And as we look ahead, we hope that a hundred years from now, a new group of women will summit the Grand in honor of all who conquered it this weekend.