Catherine Destivelle

A Legend in Her Own Time

“I always follow my instincts and they rarely let me down. ” Is it instinct alone that brought her this far this fast, with many dazzling successes and the good sense to abandon the occasional project?

Catherine Destivelle was born and raised in Paris and was introduced to climbing at a young age in the Forêt de Fontainebleau on the outskirts of the city. By the time she was 15 she could climb the toughest rocks. At 17 she was spending her weekends scaling the highest peaks in the Alps. Around the age of 20, she settled down to a career as a physiotherapist, but after five years the lure of the mountains proved too much and she started competing in international climbing competitions. From 1985 to 1988 she was considered the world’s best woman climber. In 1990 she made her mountaineering comeback with a series of incredible climbs, including solo winter ascents of the three most legendary Alpine walls – the Eiger, the Grandes Jorasses and the Matterhorn – making her the outstanding female climber of all time. In 2020, Catherine Destivelle was awarded the Piolet d’Or Carrière for her lifetime achievements and contributions to the world of mountaineering. She is the first woman to be honoured with this award.