Sunday, March 25, 2012

Marguerite "Meta" Brevoort ~ Mountaineer

Meta with Christian Almer (L),
his son Ulrich, her nephew
William (R) and Tschingel
Marguerite "Meta" Brevoort (1825–1876), an American mountain climber, spent her early years in a Paris convent school. She made a number of important ascents in the Alps in the 1860s and 1870s, but was thwarted in her two greatest alpine ambitions: to be the first woman to climb the Matterhorn, and the first person to climb the Meije in the Dauphiné.

Her role-model and rival was Lucy Walker, who began her considerable mountaineering career at the age of 28 in 1859, and it was Walker who, hearing that Meta planned an expedition to the Matterhorn in 1871, quickly assembled a party that included the famous guide, Melchior Anderegg and made the summit a few days before Meta arrived in Zermatt. In contrast to Walker, who always wore dresses, Meta was the first female mountaineer to wear trousers.

Meta was the aunt of William A. Coolidge, whom she brought to Europe in 1865 and introduced to alpine climbing. Coolidge eventually became an outstanding mountaineer, with over 1,700 ascents in the Alps, and the greatest alpine historian of the Victorian age. The two climbed together for over ten seasons, and were joined in many of their adventures by "Tschingel", a small dog their guide Christian Almer gave to William. Later, she would proudly refer to their canine companion as the only "Honorary Lady member of the Alpine Club".

She and Coolidge journeyed to the Dauphiné several times in order to attempt the Meije, but encountered bad weather each trip. In 1876, she had her final opportunity for a first ascent, but instead stayed in the Oberland in order to give more money to her nephew in support of his efforts in the range. A few months later she died.

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