‘Woman on the Rocks’ Author Speaks at Mountaineers

Valerie Cohen at Desolation Canyon in Death Valley will speak at the October meeting of the Los Alamos Mountaineers. Courtesy photo


At the Oct. 16 meeting of the Los Alamos Mountaineers, author Valerie Mendenhall Cohen will read from her book about her mother, Ruth Dyar Mendenhall – Woman on the Rocks: The Mountaineering Letters of Ruth Dyar Mendenhall.

Ruth Mendenhall (1912-1989) began rock climbing in Southern California in the 1930s, in an era when women weren’t supposed to do such things. Climbing mostly with her husband, John Dale Mendenhall, she completed a number of first ascents in the Sierra Nevada, including Mt. Sill’s Swiss Arete, Mt. Whitney’s 3rd Needle and Southeast Buttress, Temple Crag’s North Peak, Lower Cathedral Spire in Yosemite, and the North Face of Mt. Williamson. 

In the Canadian Rockies, they made major first ascents of Confederation, Mt., Lowell’s North Peak, Aiguille, Sunge, Midway, Palmer, Great Rock Tower, and Mt. Temple’s North Ridge. Mendenhall wrote lovely narratives of these expeditions, yet also described the difficulties of being both an ambitious mountaineer, and a dutiful housewife and mother. 
Cohen will accompany excerpts from her book with historical black and white slides from that period. She also will talk about what it was like to grow up in that “climbing family,” and conclude her presentation with her own images of mountain landscapes.
The Mountaineers meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Great Room of Fuller Lodge with trip reports and trip planning, followed immediately by Cohen’s talk.

Impression of Yosemite by Valerie Cohen, a nationally-known watercolor artist. Courtesy photo


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