To mark International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March, the UIAA dedicated the latest instalment of its Passion for the Mountains series to exploring how, and when, a lifetime relationship with the mountain environment commenced for a number of women with close ties to the UIAA. Uniting all of these entries is the importance, and influence, of family and friendships.


Hilde Aass

President, Norwegian Alpine Club – Norsk Tindeklub, Norway

Growing up in Norway, the mountains and nature have always been close and part of my life. I think my passion for the mountains was fostered early, through ordinary outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and wild camping. Often with trips lasting several days. In Norway the nature is very accessible and there are few regulations. I have learned to appreciate this freedom in every way. It wasn’t until later I was introduced to climbing. Together with a friend at university, we started to go climbing on nearby cliffs. We were two girls with no experience and became self-taught by listening and watching others, and most of all we had the confidence to just go and try. The first multi-pitch routes we achieved were in the mountains in our “back yard”, but we soon decided to travel and climb the world for a year. We had a lot of fun learning the intricacies of climbing together. I’ve have taken on different types of climbing, such as ice, sport, aid, alpine and trad, from single pitch routes to multi pitch routes. Thanks to low cost airlines, I have been able to go climbing in many different places in the world.  

Even though I am fascinated by all the different types of climbing, it is the long routes and days in the mountains, I appreciate the most.

The adventure that comes with new places and mountains makes me continue to plan and go on new climbing trips. (Hilde Aass is photographed in the cover picture to this article). 

Dr Carolina Adler

NZAC, New Zealand
UIAA Mountain Protection Commission President

My love for the mountains goes back to my childhood. I was born and grew up in Santiago, Chile, and lived with my family on the outskirts of the city bordering the Andes. My father was then – and still is – very fond of the mountains and mountaineering, and this was a passion passed on to me. Almost every weekend, we would venture into the mountains to do treks with my family, and so I spent a great deal of time in my childhood playing outdoors and appreciating nature in the mountains. Many memorable instances left a life-long impression on me, for example once when venturing deep into the Maipo Valley and touching snow for the first time or when witnessing the mighty and powerful flight of a condor over the peaks.

The ‘loud’ silence that engulfs all the senses when standing amongst that magic landscape, a sense of awe at the expanse and greatness that leaves a deep sense of self-awareness and humility.

Also the appeal of mountaineering, the challenge of climbing a mountain and the enduring mark that experience leaves, knowing that the effort is rewarded with an incredible view and a sense of personal achievement that promotes self-improvement and development. My career choices were also very much shaped by these experiences, deciding from a young age that I wanted to study geography, geology, and anything related to the understanding of these places and its people. These are the impressions that mountains have left and continue to leave in me, and a life-long passion to live, work and play in that space.

Dr Marija Anđelković

PSS, Serbia
UIAA Anti-Doping Commission President

Friendship makes life worth living, equally friendship reveals hidden ambitions and opportunities and provides the strength and freedom to realise them. That’s exactly why I started to love the mountains – because of wonderful friends who took me there. It was love at first sight. As a true amateur, the first mountain I climbed – Beljanica (Homolje region in eastern Serbia) was located at a simple 1339m and soon I took on other beautiful mountains and gorges in Serbia, even entering a skyrunning race. If I had to choose my greatest mountain moment, which is at the same time was a significant life moment, it was climbing with my friend Nenad Dikic (Anđelković’s precedessor as UIAA Anti-Doping Commission President) to Margarita Hut in the Italian Alps last year. It’s not just an amazing feeling being at over 4500 metres but everything else that nature brings at this altitude – beauty, freedom and awe.


Even when mountains leave our mind reflecting on climbing being the easiest and most beautiful activity in the world reminds us that we need to respect nature in order to truly enjoy it.

All those wonderful fairytale scenes, the magic of taking on summits and the feeling of ultimate excitement should be possible for all climbers, and at the same time we should be aware that mountains allow us to use them.

And for me those are lessons for everyday life. We need to learn that pleasure should be an outcome of our effort to live in harmony amongst ourselves and with nature. Mountains are the best teacher for those lessons and that is why I will always have respect and love for them.

Anne Arran

BMC, United Kingdom
UIAA Management Committee Member
(Continental Representative – Europe)
UIAA Rock Climbers’ Award Assessment Team

My parents took me from a young age to Dartmoor, the Lake District and North Wales. From the age of five I loved trying to climb and play around on granite tors or rock outcrops on Dartmoor, running amongst the pink heather and yellow gorse bushes. We later built up to more strenuous days full of adventure in North Wales such as the Snowdon horseshoe, an exhilarating and magical ridge which felt like a really big achievement at the time (aged 7). I remember loving the shape of Castell y Gwynt or “castle of the winds,” appearing and disappearing in the mist on the Glyders, somehow its jagged rocks placed there by time in an erratic and alluring way. We got cold and wet sometimes, huddling behind walls in very British weather, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Later at around 12 or 13 years old we started going hut to hut in Austria every year in the Stubaital, Lechtal or Zillertal with my brother – a chance to meet marmots, eat kaisersmarren and hide unwanted sauerkraut! Mostly this passed by pleasantly and uneventfully and it was fun making friends from other countries and to be on a journey. That was until I managed to persuade Dad to try to climb the Wildspitze, the second highest mountain in Austria because it looked amazing. We didn’t make the top though as I fell down a crevasse on the way up, self-saving by throwing out my arms, straddle jump style. Dad pulled me out by the rucksack, understandably upset. “Best not tell your mum,” he said, and we agreed to keep it a secret – quite an emotional experience though! I think he was more upset than me. 

All this did give me the taste for more adventures though and I saw that people carrying ropes around seemed to be able to do more things in the mountains. 

So that was it – climbing course – more climbing – lots more adventures. Something I am very grateful to my parents for encouraging me to take up.

Hélène Denis

FFCAM, France
UIAA Executive Board Member

When I was a child, my family spent summer holidays in the mountains every two years. I appreciated the walks, the wilderness, the scenery and liked to climb on the smallest rocks.  Later as a teenager, I spent many winter holidays in Switzerland with lots of young girls travelling from Paris to a military camp in Goms, Valais. I loved being fully surrounded by nature and learnt to ski there (without the need for a ski lift) taking on my first small ski tour when I was thirteen. I also went to summer camps in Engadine. For me it was a paradise!  When I was twenty, I was invited to join a ski tour around Val d’Isère (Haute route), it was my first experience and I was captivated, going on to climb Gran Paradiso (with skis), and fostering a desire to learn more about alpinism. I enjoyed two summer alpinism camps, climbed extensively in the Massif des Ecrins and across France, spending every weekend in Fontainebleau. On joining FFCAM I participated in many ski tours in most alpine massifs of Switzerland and Austria. One of my best memories is a ski tour in the Berner Oberland, alone with my son. The weather conditions made it possible for us to go to the top of Finsteraarhorn and enjoy a fantastic view. I haven’t achieved many difficult climbs, my pleasure was, above all, gained in reaching summits in my own way.  

I transmitted my passion to my children and above all to my grandchildren among whom some are very good climbers.


Lucia Foppoli

CAI, Italy
UIAA Management Committee Member
(Largest Federation Representatives)

My passion for the mountains was transmitted to me by my father, Edgardo, with whom, when I was a teen, and after many hikes, I climbed my first true summit, Mount Cristallo in the Ortles-Cevedale group. This was with an alpine guide, my father’s friend, Aristide Compagnoni (twice bronze medalist in the 4x10km at the Nordic Ski World Championships (1937 and 1939); third in 1935 and first in 1938 at the Mezzalama Trophy, and a participant at the demonstration event for military patrol (precursor of the biathlon) at the 1948 Olympic Winter Games.

It all started from there, and it seems like only yesterday.

Afterwards, my father started me on ski-mountaineering, since then my favourite and preferred approach to the mountains. Living in the heart of the Italian central Alps, the mountains are for me much more than a place where to simply practice an outdoor activity.  

They are my home, they are an almost existential condition and, like my father, they are teachers of life.

They are a place of majestic beauty, to protect, and the origin of unique emotions and sensations. They, the mountains, are my passion.

Christine Kyungmi Pae

KAF, South Korea
UIAA Management Committee Member (Continental Representative – Asia)
Director of Korean Alpine Federation, International Relations
General Secretary, Union of Asian Alpine Associations, UAAA

Like for many mountain friends, mountain climbing is part of my daily life. I climbed mountains in my childhood with my father. He likes hiking and I was always with him. When I entered university, I joined the alpine club and became more familiar with mountain climbing. My university was located near Mt. Bukhan and I was able to easily enjoy rock climbing there – my first rock climbing experience was on the the white granite of Insubong in December 1983. I was totally captivated by it. During my time at university, I also graduated from the Korean Alpine School. I later married a climber and we spent lot of time together in the mountains, climbing Mt. McKinley (Denali), Mt. Rainier in Seattle, the Northern Alps in Japan, Jade mountain in Taiwan, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. 

Mountaineering and climbing is part of my everyday, family and business life.

My first expedition was to Mt. McKinley with an all-Korean women climbers expedition in 1988, the second in 1993 with my husband and again in 2003 as team leader of an all women group. I like Mt. McKinley. Why? It is a pure mountain, achievable without any help from sherpas, you carry your own load and in the process keep the mountain environment clean. I climb mountains every weekend, but today most of my energy is focused on the UAAA, and international relations in the mountain community.

Angelika Rainer

Alpenverein Südtirol, Italy
UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup competitor (multiple World Cup winner – lead World Tour winner in 2012 and 2015).
First woman in the world to climb D15 (November 2017)

I grew up in South Tyrol, a mountain region in northern Italy. 

When I was a child, my mum took me hiking in our home mountains every weekend. This is when my love for the mountains started.

As a child I always enjoyed being outdoors, where every day presents a new adventure. When I was 12 years old, a climbing gym was opened in my hometown of Merano and I immediately took advantage of the opportunity to learn this sport which had always fascinated me. In the 20 years I have been climbing, I always took part in competitions, first in sport climbing, then in ice climbing, but I always have always loved climbing outdoors and in the recent years my projects have shifted more to that, as I want to spend more time in the mountains.

Hannarai Song

KAF, South Korea
UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup competitor (multiple World Cup winner – lead World Tour winner in 2017)

As a youngster I was sensitive to the cold and often ill, which left me feeling lethargic and not wanting to do anything. 

Climbing helped me become physically and mentally stronger – ‘making me feel alive, free and calm’.

Away from competitions, I love climbing on Mount Seoraksan, appreciating the huge waterfalls and amazing views from the summit.

Marjorie Van Strien

External Expert, UIAA Mountain Protection Award Assessment Team

My first introduction to mountains was during a family holiday in the Alps and Pyrenees at the age of ten. Coming from a rather flat country (the Netherlands), I was impressed by the magnificence of these rugged landscapes, making me feel so small, and I enjoyed the elements of adventure and “play” they offered. Memories of conquering small slopes, curiously following endless trails, and rafting down babbling rivers on an old inner car tire with my sister and brother still bring a smile to my face. I have felt attracted to mountains ever since.

In more recent years I have come to appreciate mountains from a different perspective, living and working as a tourism expert in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region. Also here I feel drawn to adventures in these beautiful and diverse mountains and I enjoy interacting with the people residing here.

Their determination and sense of community have inspired me, especially in the face of extreme events, such as the Gorkha earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015.

Already Published:
Tom Nakamura
Jason Williams

A second version of this story will be published later in 2018.

Images courtesy of interviewee.
Angelika Rainer/copyright: Jensen Walker
Hannarai Song/copyright: Monica Dalmasso


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