Grit and Rock Announces Winners of 2018 First Ascent Awards

The award aims “to encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents and to further the understanding and exploration of the unclimbed peaks.”

Member Exclusive

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great benefits.


Already a member?

Sign In

Grit and Rock—a UK-based organization that promotes female-led climbing expeditions aimed at bagging first ascents—has announced its second-ever slate of recipients of the First Ascent Expedition Award. The award aims “to encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents and to further the understanding and exploration of the unclimbed peaks.”

Notably, and unlike many regional grants, the First Ascent award is open to climbers of any nationality (so long as their expeditions have “majority female participation”). The Award allocates funds to winners in three different categories (Performance, Exploration, Apprenticeship).

In 2017, the inaugural class of winners—Maryna Kopteva, Natalya Martinez, Galina Chibitok, Christina Pogacean, Anastasia Petrova, Nasim Eshqui, Dawa Sherpa and Elisabeth Revol—attempted first ascents on peaks in China, Nepal, Argentina and India.

Below are the 2018 winners of Grit and Rock’s 2018 First Ascent Expedition Award, chosen by a jury made up of the Grit and Rock founder Masha Gordon, Lydia Bradey, Christian Trommsdorff and Victor Saunders.


Two teams won money in the Performance category to attempt cutting edge new climbs in the greater ranges.

Mugu Peaks. Photo: Courtesy of Grit & Rock.

Anna Torretta of Italy; Cecilia Buil of Spain; and Ixchel Foord of Mexico received $4,000 to attempt the first ascent of Mugu Peaks (5,340 meters) in Karnali area of Nepal. The Grit and Rock press release announcing this year’s winner states, “The team’s objective [is to become] the first humans to stand on the twin summits [of] Mugu Peaks  [by] a technically challenging big wall ascent of the Mugu Eye.”

Torretta has completed expeditions to Afghanistan, Nepal, South Korea, Iceland and Turkey among other countries, and, in addition to her high-altitude exploits, has opened ice lines as hard as WI 6 and onsighted mixed routes up to M11. Buil has a stellar high-peaks resume with expeditions to places like Pakistan and Patagonia, but is also an extremely gifted big wall climber, having scaled El Capitan a dozen times and established landmark climbs on Mexico’s massive monolith El Gigante. Foord is also highly adept, having climbed technical peaks, rock and ice the world over.

Mount Arjuna. Photo: Courtesy of Grit & Rock.

Josie McKee and Whitney Clark, both of the United States, and Caro North of Switzerland received $3,000 to try a new route up Mount Arjuna (6,230 meters) in Kishtwar Province, India. The mountain was first climbed in 1983 by a seven-man Polish team, and has one other route that reaches the summit.

McKee is a longtime Yosemite climber, and in 2016 she and her partner Quinn Brett completed seven grade-V or VI Yosemite big walls in seven days. Clark has made prior trips to India, completing multiple first ascents in Himachal Pradesh. Clark is also a past recipient of the American Alpine Club’s Copp Dash Award and the Club’s 2018 Cutting Edge Award. Caro North, according to the press release, “is an aspirant guide and has done 14 expeditions in the last 10 years ranging from Iran to India.”


In the Exploration category, the American alpinists Katie Bono and Ilana Jesse received $2,000 to try “a virgin ascent in the Hayes range in Alaska.” In June 2017, Bono set the women’s speed record on Denali, racing up and down the mountain in a blistering time of 21 hours 6 minutes. Bono has also climbed technical mixed grades as high as M13. Jesse has climbed major routes in the Alps, including on both the Eiger and the Matterhorn, in addition to WI 6  ice climbs.


Chon-Tor. Photo: Courtesy of Grit & Rock.

Finally, the jury awarded the apprenticeship award, for up-and-coming women alpinists with a fierce drive for exploration, to Alena Panova and Nina Neverov of Irkutsk, Russia. Panova and Neverov received $1,000 to attempt a new line on the 4,180-meter Chon-Tor in Kyrgysztan. The Grit and Rock press release says, “In the summer of 2017, Panova and Neverova made an ascent of challenging Kupol and have been nominated for the ‘Steel [Angle]’ prize.”

To learn more visit