In September 2016 GRIT&ROCK Foundation, a UK-based charity, established an annual international expedition grant award to promote female first ascents. The aims of the First Ascent Expedition Award are to encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents and to further the understanding and exploration of the unclimbed peaks. The Award is open to individuals and climbing teams of any nationality with a majority female participation.
Since its inception four years ago, the foundation has contributed grants towards 20 female led expeditions totaling USD 40,000.
On March 6, 2020, the jury, consisting of Christian Trommsdorff, Lydia Bradey, Helias Millerioux, Masha Gordon and Victor Saunders, reviewed applications and chose the winners of the 2020 Award in the following three categories.
—Marina Popova, Nadya Oleneva and Maria Dupina for their project on the unclimbed 4818 peak in Kyrgyzstan
—Chantel Astorga and Anne Gilbert Chase for their project in Alaska
—Lindsey Hamm and Nicole Lawton for their project on an unclimbed peak in Kange Valley in the Ladakh region of India
—Natalia Martinez and Camillo Rada for their exploration project in Southern Icefield of Patagonia
—Holly Rowland for a first ascent project on the Peak H-16 located in the Haptal Valley in the Ladakh region of India
The team of Marina Popova, Nadya Oleneva and Maria Dupina hail from Russia’s region of Siberia, where the team’s leader Marina Popova works as a climbing instructor in the city of Krasnoyarsk. In the fall of 2019 she became a recipient of the the Russia’s top alpinism award ‘Golden Iceaxe’ for the her climb of Tangra Tower in Pakistan. Nadya Oleneva is a founder of a climbing school in Perm. She has made a number of first ascents and has won the Steel Angel award in Russia that recognises top female ascents.
Chantel Astorga and Anne Gilbert Chase need no introduction in the climbing community. They have done a number of groundbreaking ascents and have been recognised with a Special Mention of Piolet D’Or in 2018 for the best female ascent of the year.
American Lindsey Hamm works for Sierra Nevada Guides and is working towards her IFMGA certification. American Nicole Lawton hails from Telluride,CO, and is a certified climbing instructor. This expedition to Zanskar region will be a second on for Hamm.
A mountain guide Natalia Martinez and a geographer Camillo Rada have been climbing together for many years. They love to visit and climb in the most unexplored and remote areas of Patagonia. However, the lack of modern maps for these areas presented a barrier to planning was an obstacle for accurate reporting in the past, so they have decided to combine research, publishing and climbing.
Their project UNCHARTED contributes to the community by making all the research available, as well as the maps gathering the history of exploration on each area and a truthful revision of the geographical names that puts an end to the confusion existing in many of these remote areas. The pair were a recipient of the inaugural GRIT&ROCK award in 2017 and went on to make a first ascent of Cerro Enroque in the Aysén Range, Northern Patagonia Icefield that they have reached after some 14 day skiing to base camp.
A recipient of the Apprenticeship grant this year is 21-year-old Holly Rowland who a member of the British Young Alpinist team coached by Tom Livingston.