Celebrating Marie Paradis, the First Woman to Climb Mont Blanc
Today we celebrate the 215th anniversary of Marie Paradis’ incredible first female ascent of Mont Blanc in 1808. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps at an elevation of 4,810 meters (15,777 ft) and its peaks are some of the deadliest in the world. Paradis' ascent was only the 8th successful summit in history after Jacques Balmat and Michel Piccard were the first to summit 22 years earlier. In accomplishing this feat, Paradis defied social norms and transformed herself from an illiterate maidservant to the world’s first female mountaineer, forever leaving her mark in the history of the sport and blazing a trail for future women to follow.
On July 14, 1808, at the age of only 18, Paradis set out on her 3-day expedition alongside seven men, including Jacques Balmat. Paradis was wearing a heavy winter dress, leather town shoes, and whatever itchy, long undergarments women wore at the time (most likely her attire was 12+ pounds!) Battling freezing temperatures, high altitude nausea, and extremely technical and crevasse-ridden terrain, Paradis displayed remarkable perseverance. The expedition was physically grueling. When Marie Paradis reached the summit, she evidently was so spent that “she begged her male companions to throw her into the nearest crevasse to end her misery.” (Girl, we feel you!) Thankfully, Paradis persisted and made it down safely. Upon returning to Chamonix (a town at the base of Mont Blanc), the residents celebrated Paradis’ record-breaking expedition. Following her achievement, Paradis became an innkeeper in Chamonix and was known as "Maria de Mont Blanc." She left treats for other climbers attempting the peak and congratulated the next woman to summit, which did not happen until 30 years later.
Marie Paradis' pioneering spirit inspires us daily to tackle challenges, break barriers, persist and persevere. We named our company Paradis Sport in honor of this remarkable woman. We want all women to be able to trailblaze and go after their goals in comfortable undies that don’t hike up when you hike!
We are also celebrating a more recent remarkable mountaineering feat: on June 13, 2023, Hillary Gerardi set the fastest known time (FKT) on Mont Blanc (beating the previous record set by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg), literally running up and down Mont Blanc (12,500 ft elevation gain from Chamonix) in 7 hours 28 minutes, and 27 seconds. What an amazing accomplishment – congrats Hillary! Originally from Vermont, but now living in the French Alps near Chamonix, Hillary is a friend of Paradis Sport and connected us to CREA Mont-Blanc, the non-profit where we donate 1% of our annual profits. Hillary is a modern day record-setting, barrier-breaking, trail-blazing woman that we think Marie Paradis would have been thrilled to celebrate and serve a meal to at her inn!
The only known portrait of Marie Paradis, the first woman to summit the highest mountain in Europe.
Paradis was wearing a heavy winter dress, leather town shoes, and whatever itchy, long undergarments women wore at the time (most likely her attire was 12+ pounds!)
Hillary Gerardi during her incredible FKT (fastest known time) on Mont Blanc June 13, 2023, photo by Seb Montaz-Rosset
Gerardi, upon her return to Chamonix, after having run up and down Mont Blanc in only 7:25:28. Photo by Davina Montaz-Rosset.