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Rock Queen


About this book:

  • ISBN: 978 191 023 7076

  • Paperback

  • Published October 2015

  • Price £12.00 + postage

  • 228 pages

  • Illustrated with eight full colour photographs

  • Translated by Marguerite Wright

  • Jacket illustrations: Catherine Destivelle climbing Pichenibule, in the Verdon canyon by Robert Nicod.

About this book:

In English at last, the autobiography of Catherine Destivelle is full of Gallic charm – the drama and wit of
her writing show why she took the climbing and media worlds by storm. In 1990 she made a series of incredible climbs, including solo winter ascents of the three most legendary Alpine walls – the Eiger, the Grandes Jorasses and the Matterhorn – making her the outstanding female climber of all time.

The book finalists for the 2016 Banff Mountain Book Competition have been described as “irreverent”, “intoxicating”, and “magical”, and were picked from a longlist of finalists to compete for the Grand Prize, announced on November 3 at this year’s Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.
Chosen from the best in mountain and adventure literature, mountain fiction, mountain image, mountain articles and mountaineering history, and guidebooks, 147 book submissions from authors in nine countries were honed down to a longlist of 27 finalists and from that list our 2016 jury determined category award winners.
“The book jury had a tough job whittling the long list down, given the high caliber of entries in every category this year,” said Joanna Croston, Programming Director for the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. “We are thrilled that the finalists for the 2016 Book Competition’s Grand Prize continue to represent the very best in mountain literature from around the world.”
The 2016 Book Competition jury members are Paul Pritchard (UK, climber and author), Hilaree O’Neill (USA, athlete), and Harry Vandervlist (CAN, Associate Professor, English, University of Calgary).

About the Author:

Catherine Destivelle was born and raised in Paris and was introduced to climbing at a young age in the Forêt de Fontainebleau on the outskirts of the city. By the time she was 15 she could climb the toughest rocks. At 17 she was spending her weekends scaling the highest peaks in the Alps. Around the age of 20, she settled down to a career as a physiotherapist, but after five years the lure of the mountains proved too much and she started competing in international climbing competitions. From 1985 to 1988 she was considered the world’s best woman climber.


Rock Queen: This short but intense book is a very welcome translation of Ascensions', first published in Paris by Flammarion in 2012, and charts the climbing initiation and development of an exceptional woman who needs no introduction. Catherine Destivelle, the author, was a girl from a large, boisterous, Fontainbleau family who dreamt of being a shepherdess. Now think role-reversal, and this book amusingly chronicles how an aspiring shepherdess becomes the boldest of sheep, with no need of rescue as she nimbly wanders onto the highest and most precarious of rocky ledges.
Her Big Three outstanding adventure solo climbs, the Grandes Jorasses, the Eiger and the Matterhorn, as described in these pages have all the ingredients of a mentally exhausting, ‘edge-of-the-seat’, Herman Buhl epic tale. But what this book really conveys, bravely and as never before, are the depth and range of emotions that are a vital part of climbing. The author does not try to hide her driven and competitive nature but exposes her fears and the vulnerabilities that run alongside. Tears are not uncommon.
In relating her achievements, Destivelle is grateful to those who have paved the way for her, modestly paying tribute to them and their legacy. But she is not spared from running the gauntlet of criticism for having had more than a brush with commercialism. What we read of, however, is her skilful and stoic navigation through the realms of commercial and pure mountaineering, from which we come to understand and judge that she remains a climbers’ climber.
Rock Queen is accessible to non-climbers too. Technicalities and mechanisms are described in simple and interesting terms. Cams are ‘sugar tongs’. Yes, the many references to food are part of a brave revelation of a sometimes difficult relationship with eating. But, as with many things, she overcomes her problems and finds a point of balance.
This is a sensitive translation of not only the French language and all its nuances but the French psyche as well. Marguerite Wright has ensured that Catherine’s great sense of humour shines through, leaving one almost believing that she could be an honorary Brit! –
Ruth Love, Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal, 2016

Catherine Destivelle has become one of the most famous women climbers in the world. It’s not just that she is a female climber; she has done things that no-one has done before and, in her own right she is a brilliant climber.
Certainly I'll remember 1992 and the solo of the Eiger’s north face in seventeen hours – it was just amazing …
Doug Scott, CBE

This is one of the best climbing books that I have ever read; quite different from the endless gripping stories of other great tales. It deals openly with those small personal feelings we have all experienced with the dangers of climbing such as fear, insecurity and sometimes the thrilling anticipation of reaching the top. She is without doubt the most accomplished female climber of all time and her list of achievements is the envy of most male climbers. Geoff Birtles.

‘La Belle Catherine’, has deservedly become one of the world’s most famous climbers. The following pages tell you why. She tells her story with becoming modesty and I encourage you to read this book. Jim Curran


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