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Boulaz, Loulou (1912—)

Boulaz, Loulou (1912—)

Swiss climber. Born in Avenches, Switzerland, in 1912.

Made first ascent of one of the classic routes on the big cliff, Les Paturages in the Salève; first ascent by women (withLulu Durand ) of the Southwest Face of the Dent du Géant (1933) and the Dent du Requin (1932); first all-female traverse of the Southwest Face and the Northwest Ridge of the Grands Charmoz (1935), and the Droites (1935); first female ascent (and second ascent by anyone) of the North Face of the Petit Dru with Raymond Lambert (1935); first ascent of the North Face of the Velan and the north shoulder of the Rothorn in the Valais (1941); first female ascents of the North Faces of the Schreckhorn, the Studerhorn, and the Jungfrau in the Bernese Oberland; Montagnes de 'Air, including first ascent of Tour Loulou (1977).

Born in Avenches, Switzerland, in 1912, Loulou Boulaz went to live in Geneva when she was nine. She loved skiing as a child, and in her 20s she was a member of the Swiss national team (1936–41). In 1936 and 1937, Boulaz was the international champion of France, and in 1937 she came in third in the World Slalom Championships in Chamonix.

She started climbing at age 20. In 1930, the last great Alpine challenges included the North Face of the Matterhorn (the Cervin), the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses, and the North Face of the Eiger. The North Face of the Matterhorn was conquered by Franz and Toni Schmid in 1931. The Grandes Jorasses continued to withstand attacks: a 1928 attempt by the legendary Armand Charlet had failed, a 1931 German team failed, and a few days later two Germans trying the same route were killed; in 1933, two great Italian climbers faltered; in 1934, there was another death and Charlet failed again.

In June 1935, an Italian expedition of six set out that included 23-year-old Loulou Boulaz and experienced mountaineer Robert Lambert; two in the party retreated early, one with a dislocated shoulder. After two days and one night, battled by a storm, they reached the summit by way of the Central Spur, only to find that two Germans had been there two days before. Boulaz, however, had become the first woman to make the ascent.

Loulou Boulaz made four attempts to conquer the North Face of the Eiger (1938, 1942, 1958 and 1962) but never succeeded. In 1982, she told her interviewer, "Four times we tried the Eiger, four times we had to retreat. But, I'm still alive!"


Birkett, Bill, and Bill Peascod. Women Climbing: 200 Years of Achievement. London: A. & C. Black, 1989.

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