News : Alpinism: Dörte Pietron promotes young women in mountain sports
About a hundred years ago, Eleonore Noll-Hasenclever from Frankfurt climbed 21 four-thousand-meter peaks and led other women to peaks. A novelty at the time, when women were only just gaining the right to vote in Germany. It remained lonely for the pioneer for a long time. “Women’s alpinism is a century behind,” says Dörte Pietron on a walk near Isny in the Allgäu. The 40-year-old has lived here for two years. Pietron was only the sixth female mountain guide in Germany. Now she is promoting young women in alpinism with the German Alpine Association (DAV). “Since the girls’ expedition squad has existed, the number of German female mountain guides has more than doubled,” says Pietron.
Alpinism, that is the core competence of the Alpine Club. “But mountaineering has become more and more unpopular,” says Pietron. People flocked to the climbing and bouldering halls more than moving around in snow, ice and rock. You can also tell from the fact that there are fewer international inspections of importance in which Germans have been involved. The alpine training program of the expedition team addresses this problem. The men celebrated their 20th anniversary last year. In 2003, Dörte Pietron was the first woman to make it into a mixed team. Since 2011 there has also been an all-women squad on her initiative.
In October 2020, Pietron and her team selected the current expedition squad from 30 applicants – six women. The training usually lasts two years, this time even three years due to the pandemic. So far the women have completed two training courses; Ice climbing in the Dolomites and climbing technique in the Allgäu. “We are all very motivated,” says Pietron.
If you look at the pictures of the new squad and their coach, you don’t know who Pietron is at first. The 40-year-old fits perfectly into the group of 18 to 26-year-olds with her slim, sporty figure and her hair tied up in a braid. She recently climbed her first route with difficulty 11, which corresponds to a professional level.
A young, dynamic woman in a male domain. On the one hand, she thinks the “women’s issue” is very important, says Pietron. But actually it is “very annoying to her”. Her interests have “always tended to fit the male stereotype.” When she began studying physics in her home town of Heidelberg in 2000, she began climbing and mountaineering. From the beginning she was more with men – normal for them, something special for others. “But if you don’t talk about it, nothing will change,” she says. In every sport you separate between the sexes. But alpinism lags so behind that it is not even possible to say for sure whether women are even physiologically ahead of men when it comes to mountaineering.
Young women who want to get fit for the next training cycle should pursue their current strengths, but also try to become all-rounders
In any case, Dörte Pietron is now training the next generation of strong alpinists, also to create new role models. The training lasts up to 50 days a year. “This is where the foundations are laid, and you then have to consolidate the knowledge yourself,” says Pietron. The conclusion is a month-long expedition outside the Alps, i.e. a large project in which the young women have to prove their knowledge and skills as a team. With the current squad, the strengths are more in climbing. Although there are still differences in the focal points. That is also good because the women can learn from each other in this way. Ultimately, as a team, they should learn to use the strengths of each individual to realize projects that they could never manage on their own. The team aspect plays a major role in the selection.
The subject of risk management is also important. “Alpinism at a high level remains dangerous,” says Pietron. The alpine combined terrain is extremely complex and it is impossible to assess everything 100 percent. “Our goal is to release mountain climbers who are responsible for themselves and who learn to recognize and assess potential risks,” she says. The topic of sustainability also plays a major role within the DAV, especially with regard to the management team. The expeditions take place in India, Kyrgyzstan or Pakistan. Are the flights to the destination justified? Yes, thinks Dörte Pietron. “When you come to another country, get to know the culture and see first hand the effects of climate change, the willingness to do something also increases,” she says.
Young women who want to get fit for the next training cycle should pursue their current strengths, but also try to become all-rounders. “You definitely have to have well-founded alpine experience,” says Pietron. It’s easy to get to the sporting level. However, being able to move quickly in snowy terrain is more valuable in alpine terrain than being able to climb a 10 meter. She herself began mountaineering three years before joining the roster in 2003. “But I used every minute and was on the road a lot,” says Pietron. The next course is due at the end of June. Eleonore Noll-Hasenclever would be happy about the fellow campaigners.