Karen McNeill was someone who would tell you, “I love adventure and being in the mountains.” But it was the way she said it and the way she looked at you that made you realize how much she actually did.
Karen grew up in Taihape, a small rural town in New Zealand, where her family owned a sheep farm. She got her first big mountain experience on a trek with the late Gary Ball and the late Rob Hall in 1989. Karen was hooked and immediately began climbing in the Alps of New Zealand.
One year later, she chose a fairly ambitious peak in Peru called Alpamayo as her first international expedition. This was an extremely technical mountain, though she had no problem meeting the challenge and summitted. Four years later, Karen moved to Canmore, Alberta and began to focus her energy on climbing. Karen went on numerous expeditions, putting up first ascents that took her to China, Patagonia, Alaska, and India.
Karen loved adventure and being in the mountains. But she also loved passing on her knowledge and skills. Karen had almost as much passion for teaching as she did for adventure. When she wasn’t out climbing, she taught on a North American First Nations Indian reservation as a substitute. Here is where she found balance in her life. How best to mix the two? Why by instructing rock and ice climbing clinics such as Women that Rock and Chicks with Picks.
We will always remember Karen for a number of reasons; her black curly hair, the sparkles and crazy pants she wore, but especially for the huge heart she had and the support she gave to others.
- 2004: 1st female ascent of Cassin ridge, Denali (with Sue Nott)
- 2004: 1st ascent of unclimbed peak Dos Cuernos in Patagonia
- 2001: Established new routes on Trillingerne, and in Fox Jaw Cirque, Greenland
- 1992: Organized 1st expedition
- 1986: 1st Canadian women’s expedition to Cho Oyu, climbed Ama Dablam