Woman on the Rocks: Ruth Dyar Mendenhall

In 1937, climbing mountains was thought to be an activity reserved for men only. Ruth Dyar Mendenhall broke that barrier to become one of California’s first and most important women mountain climbers. The letters collected in this book document her fifty-year mountaineering career.

Ruth first saw the Sierra Nevada from the Eastern California town of Independence. Impressed by the Sierra’s powerful scarp, she imagined what one might find on those seemingly impenetrable granite walls, little realizing that she would make many of the first ascents of those very mountains and that mountain climbing would become her life’s passion.

As a member of the Sierra Club’s Ski Mountaineers and Rock Climbing Section, Ruth became an accomplished backcountry skier and rock climber, documenting her climbing experiences in articles and personal letters. For forty years, she edited the Ski Mountaineers’ newsletter, Mugelnoos. She also edited the American Alpine Club’s American Alpine News.

In 1987, Ruth wrote, Women on the Rocks, Way Back Then, an article about the history of women climbers in California. She noted that with the passage of time, she had advanced in status from climber to pioneer woman climber. She wrote, “We didn’t think of ourselves as women climbers, but as women who liked to climb.”
Woman on the Rocks © 2012 Spotted Dog Press
Woman on the Rocks:
The Mountaineering Letters of Ruth Dyar Mendenhall
Valerie Mendehall Cohen
352 pages, 5.5″x8.5″
ISBN 978-1-893343-15-3