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Reaching New Heights: Fay Fuller, 1800s Mountaineer

When it comes to the Victorian era, women undoubtedly had their challenges establishing autonomy and freedom in many aspects of their lives. Yet despite those challenges, there were women who defied the norm and took on amazing feats which span time and still hold the power to inspire us today...and for generations to come.

Fay Fuller, first woman to climb Mount Rainier

Fay Fuller was one of those women. As a young girl in Tacoma, Washington Fay enjoyed exploring the wilderness and by the time she was just 18, she had already made her first attempt at climbing Mount Rainier. On this first climb, she reached an elevation of approximately 8,600 feet and set herself with the challenge to someday “climb to the summit of the great peak”.

Just three years later, Fay joined a climbing party and on August 10th, 1890, she reached Rainier’s highest summit, known as Columbia Crest. She set a lofty goal and defied all odds to make it a reality. At just 20 years old, Fay Fuller became the first woman to climb Mount Rainier.

“I have accomplished what I’ve always dreamed of, and feared impossible. And for my experience nothing would be taken. To the four gentlemen who so kindly guided me, I owe the deepest gratitude. It is a trip never to be forgotten, and it has been my happiest experience! I expect to have my example followed by a good many women. What one woman has done, women can do.”

—Fay Fuller

Later on, she channeled her love for the outdoors into a career as a journalist for the Tacoma Ledger where she wrote a column called “Mountain Murmurs” which focused on mountaineering events and stories of past climbers of Rainier. She was also instrumental in establishing the now-renowned climbing community of the Pacific Northwest and by 1894 she was a founding member of the Washington Alpine Club, the Tacoma Alpine Club, and the Mazamas Mountaineering Club.

Looking at the photo of Fay, equipped with her belt full of climbing gear, looking ahead with steely determination, one can’t help but appreciate the strength and grit it must have taken to establish herself as an accomplished and prominent figure in the climbing community during a time when women were more likely to be found in parlors than on mountaintops. Thank you, Fay Fuller, for being an inspiration to women across generations!

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