Fay Fuller, 1890 – first woman to climb Mt. Rainier
This is a new postcard made from an 1890 photograph of Fay Fuller who was the first woman to climb Mt. Rainier. We found the card at the Visitor Center at the campground and trailhead to Silver Falls in the Mt. Rainier National Park. It is produced the R. & B. Warfield Photography of Eatonville, Washington. The number stamped at the upper right on the reverse of the card is D10692. The photograph is from the Washington State Historical Society.
In the picture Fay Fuller is wearing her climbing garb consisting of heavy flannels (the bloomers and skirt), woolen hose, warm mittens and goggles. To make the climb she blackened her face with charcoal to reduce glare from the sun, drove brads into her shoes, and is carrying two rolled blankets and provisions for 3 days. Her “trekking pole” is an “alpenstock” made from a shovel handle. She had resolved to climb until exhausted. It is hard to nearly impossible for me to think of climbing a mountain or even hiking a trail in this outfit.
The late 1800s and early 1900s was an era of intrepid women explorers and adventurers and Fay Fuller seems to fit the mold of such an individual. This remarkable woman was born 1869 in New Jersey. When she was 12 years old her family moved to Tacoma, Washington where she began to explore the wilderness. After completing high school she started to teach school at age 15. It was while she was teaching in the town of Yelm that she met P.B. Van Trump, one of the first climbers of Mt. Rainier, who encouraged her to climb the mountain.
In 1887 she made her first attempt to climb Mt. Rainier and reached about 8,600 feet or 2,600 m. She set a goal to make to the top and in 1890 she was invited by Van Trump to join a climbing party for second try at it. On August 10, 1890, Fuller and four other climbers reached the highest summit; Columbia Crest, and she became the first woman to have scaled the 14,400 ft mountain. She refused any special help and spent the night in the steamy summit crater. When the next climbing party found some of her hairpins they joked that the pins proved that a woman had really made it to the summit. She is reported as saying. “I have accomplished what I have always dreamed of and fearer impossible.”
Fay gave up teaching to become a journalist and was the first female reporter for the Tacoma Ledger. After her successful climb of Mt. Rainier she had wrote a column, “Mountain Murmurs,” that covered mountaineering social events near Paradise, Washington, and featured accounts of early Rainier climbers. She helped found the Washington Alpine Club, 1891, the Tacoma Alpine Club, 1893, and the Mazamas mountaineering club in Portland, Oregon, 1894. She became an editor for Tacoma papers and in 1900 moved on to Chicago, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and New York City to continue her newspaper career. While in New York she met and married Fritz von Briesen, who was an attorney. They later moved to Santa Monica, California where she died in 1958. Fay Peak in Mt. Rainier National Park is named for her.
For more information, see:
Bragg, Lynn (2010) More than Petticoats: Remarkable Washington Women, (2nd ed.). Globe Pequot.