Brede Arkless

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Brede Arkless (née Boyle) (10 August 1939 – 18 March 2006) was a leading female climber and mountaineer, and was actively involved in the all-women's climbing movement. She was born in Manchester, England, of Dublin parents. In 1964 she married fellow mountaineer Geoff Arkless, and together they started a mountain school in Wales. She made several all-women trips to the greater ranges, while still being able to rear eight children. She also organised women-only climbing courses, together with the noted climber and feminist Jill Lawrence. She was only the second woman to qualify, in the 1960s, as a British Mountain Guide, and was the first woman to hold the badge of the UIAGM as an international mountain guide.[1] Increasingly involved in all-women climbing and guiding, she eventually separated from her husband, moved to New Zealand in September 1990 and became a New Zealand citizen in 1995. While in her fifties she guided a total of 22 ascents of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

In 1998, an expedition party of five including a 59-year-old Arkless succeeded in crossing the Garhwal region of the Indian Himalaya between the Hindu temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath, a feat that had only been accomplished once before, in 1934.[2] In 2000 Arkless tried to become the oldest woman to ascend Mount Everest but failed when she had to abandon her attempt at 8,500 m (28,000 ft) due to severe altitude sickness. The experience left her disillusioned: "Everest is full of non-climbers and rich people. Everest is all about summit fever and people who shouldn't be where they are. One guy said 'How many 8000m peaks have you climbed?' When I said 'One', he turned away."[3]

Arkless died of pancreatic cancer, aged 66. After being diagnosed Arkless rode her bicycle more than 150 miles over high mountain passes from her home to a hospital in Christchurch for exploratory surgery, which revealed that her illness was inoperable.[4]

Brede Arkless is commemorated in the naming of an outdoor activities centre in East London. Run as a social enterprise by east London Charity Community Links"The Brede Arkless Outdoors in the City centre" recognises "...the inspirational way in which Brede introduced disadvantaged and often disaffected children and young people safely into the challenges and joy of the mountains".[5]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Independent: "Brede Arkless. Eyebrow-raising mountain guide" by Stephen Goodwin, 10 April 2006; last accessed 29 December 2009.
  2. ^ The Glasgow Herald, "Moran leads a Himalayan epic", by Tom Prentice, June 20, 1998.
  3. ^ The Christchurch Press, "Mountain of cash", by John Henzell and Brede Arkless, February 24, 2001.
  4. ^ The Daily Telegraph, "Obituary of Brede Arkless Climber and mother of eight who became only the second woman to qualify as a British Mountain Guide" April 15, 2006. Sources differ on the actual distance.
  5. ^ Jenkins, Kevin. "About Brede Arkless". Community Links. Retrieved 8 May 2012.