Beverly Johnson (climber)

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Beverly Johnson
Bev johnson low res .jpg
Johnson with a video camera, roped to a rockface (Mike Hoover)
Personal information
Nationality USA
Born (1947-04-22)April 22, 1947
Annapolis, Maryland
Died April 3, 1994(1994-04-03) (aged 46)
Ruby Mountains, Nevada
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)[1] (1979)
Weight 120 lb (54 kg)[1] (1979)
Climbing career
Known for
  • first woman to solo Dihedreal wall, El Capitan
  • first all female climb of El Capitan (with Sibylle Hetchel)
First ascents Grape Race, El Capitan (with Charlie Porter)

Beverly Johnson (22 April 1947 – 3 April 1994[2]) was a pioneering rock climber and adventurer.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Annapolis, Maryland and as the daughter of a Navy Officer travelled significantly in her early years. They settled in Arlington, Virginia and she attended Yorktown, Virginia High School, graduating in 1965, later attending Kent State University where she trekked with the mountaineering club and the University of Southern California.[3][4] After graduating from college her first job was making parkas in Sun Valley, Idaho later doing cross country ski instructing.[1] Later she moved to Yosemite working on firefighting and search and rescue[1] she was the first woman to lead a firefighter crew in Yosemite.[3]


At the age of 24, Beverly Johnson was already an established member of the Camp-4 community in Yosemite in 1971. She was part of the first all female climb of El Capitan with Sibylle Hechtel and the first woman to solo climb Dihedral wall of El Capitan over a period of 10 days in October 1978.

Johnson first met her future husband Mike Hoover in about 1967[1] when he accidentally hit her with a rope whilst climbing different routes in Yosemite[4] but they fell in love on a climbing expedition to Venezuela.[1] They climbed Mt. Vinson in Antarctica for their honeymoon.

She was the leader of a six-member female team who parachuted into the New Guinean highlands and climbed back out, filmed by Hoover.[1][3]

Other activities[edit]

Johnson participated in many adventurous activities, many of them firsts including being the first person to solo cross the Straits of Magellan in open kayak.[3] She also skied across Greenland[3] and windsurfed across Bering Straits.[3]

Johnson flew fixed-winged planes and helicopters and was the first person to pilot an autogyro in Antarctica[3]

Both Johnson and her husband were makers of award winning documentaries, Hoover winning an Academy Award in 1984 for Up. The couple also explored and filmed around the Palmer Peninsula in Antarctica using dog sleds.[1] They were both filmcrew on the 1979 Transglobe Exhibition which circumnavigated the globe via the poles.[5] Johnson and Hoover filmed the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.[6]


Johnson was an advanced skier and was on a two-day Heli-ski trip in the Ruby Mountains in 1994. The helicopters returned to take the party back off the mountain in bad weather and Johnson's 206B3 Jet Ranger helicopter had to land and wait 2 hours for the storm to subside.[7] After taking off again the helicopter developed engine trouble and crashed in Thorpe Creek Canyon, around five miles south of Lamoille.[6] Johnson was killed and her husband Mike Hoover was critically injured in the same crash but survived. The pilot and Disney president Frank G. Wells were both also killed in the crash.[6] Hoover later sued the helicopter manufacturer and reached an out of court settlement due to a fault with the engine design relating to snow ingestion. The legal case was a finalist for the Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award by the American Association for Justice.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Kalter, Suzy (June 17, 1979). "Beverly Johnson: From High Society to High Adventure - Rome News-Tribune - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Beverly Johnson (II) - Biography". 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "HOF - Beverly Johnson". 2007. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Remembering Bev Johnson – One of America's Greatest Climbers/Adventurers :". 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Transglobe - News". 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "Disney President Wells Killed in Copter Crash : Accident: Executive was among three who died on Nevada skiing trip. He is credited with helping firm achieve new prosperity. - Los Angeles Times". 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Survivor | Outdoor Adventure |". 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Aviation Crashes | Robert P. Schuster". 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.