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Morin, Nea (1906–1986)

Morin, Nea (1906–1986)

British mountaineer. Born Nea Barnard in 1906; died in 1986; father was a member of the Alpine Club; married Jean Morin (a mountaineer), in 1928 (killed on a mission with the Free French forces in 1943); sister-in-law of climber Micheline Morin; children: Denise (b. 1931); Ian (b. 1935).

Made first all-female traverse of the Meije (1933); made first all-female ascent of the Aiguilles de Blaitière (1934); made first ascent of "Nea" on Clogwyn Y Grochan; was president of Ladies' Alpine Club (1947); was president of the Pinnacle Club (1954).

Arguably one of the greatest British female mountaineers between World Wars I and II, Nea Morin grew up climbing the nearby rocks of Tunbridge Wells. In 1926, she made her first trip to Chamonix with Winifred "Jo" Marples to traverse the Grands Charmoz and Aiguilles du Mummery-Ravanel, ascents of the Grépon and the Dent de Requin. After her 1928 marriage to mountaineer Jean Morin and a short stay in London, she joined the "Bleau" group, climbers who frequented the rocks at Fontainebleau, just outside Paris. Her sister-in-law Micheline Morin trained there, along with Alice Damesme , who would be a lasting friend.

In 1933, Nea, Micheline, and Alice set out en cordée féminine (women-rope only) to successfully traverse the Meije in the Dauphine Alps (the last major peak in the Alps to be climbed). But two recent deaths in the attempt had their husbands only reluctantly giving their consent, which was still a necessity for wives in 1933. Attempting to climb manless was "by far the most difficult and trying part of our programme," wrote Nea. In 1934, the three friends ascended the Aiguille de Blaitière together, conquering all three peaks.

After the death of her husband during World War II, Morin stayed closer to home, climbing the rocks of Wales. In 1941, with J. Menlove Edwards as second, she had made the first ascent of Clogwyn Y Grochan; the route, which is 230 feet high and graded Severe, is now named Nea. She also led on an ascent of Curving Crack on Clogwyn du'r Arddu (the Black Cliff).

Morin's children, Denise and Ian, began climbing with her in 1947, and Denise and Nea Morin became one of the most successful mother-daughter teams in climbing history. In 1953, they climbed the North Face of the Cima Piccola di Lavaredo, the Traverse of the Vajolet Towers in the Dolomites, and the Traverse of the Weissmies, by the North Ridge and the Ordinary Route. In North Wales, they continued their assault of the classics.

Morin's last big Alpine climb, with Janet Adam Smith (Janet Carlton), was the 1958 Traverse of the Meije, guideless. In 1959, she joined Emlyn Jones' expedition up the North East Ridge of Ama Dablam in the Himalayas. The group retreated when two men disappeared in heavy flurries. Though Morin had now developed osteoarthritis in her hip and underwent an operation in 1963, she could still make climbs of Hard Severe grade. She returned and ascended "Nea" at age 70. In 1982, when she was 76, a stroke put an end to her distinguished career.


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

suggested reading:

Morin, Nea. A Woman's Reach (autobiography). Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1968.

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