Born in Providence, Rhode Island, during the 1850s, Annie Smith Peck acquired a competitive attitude that drove her to accomplish great things in her lifetime.
In 1885, Peck traveled from Germany to Athens, Greece, where she planned to study classical literature. On the journey, she glimpsed the Matterhorn, a 14,692-foot mountain in the Swiss Alps. The rocky, snow-crusted peak gripped her imagination. She longed to climb it.
After returning to the United States, she began practice climbs on small mountains. In 1888, she climbed 14,162-foot Mount Shasta in California. She returned to Europe and climbed the Matterhorn in 1895, becoming famous.
Peck gave up her teaching career and concentrated on mountain climbing full-time. Two years after conquering the Matterhorn, Peck climbed Mount Orizaba, a volcano in Mexico that rose more than 18,406 feet.
It was the highest point in the Western Hemisphere reached by a woman. But Peck wasn’t satisfied with being the first woman to reach the top of a mountain. She wanted to be the first person to reach a summit. She traveled to South America, where many peaks had not yet been explored.
In 1908, 58-year-old Peck and two Swiss guides struggled through snowdrifts to reach the 22,205-foot summit of Mount Huascaran in Peru. When they reached the top of the mountain, Peck thought joyfully that she would be the first person to climb the peak. But one of her guides dashed past her and ran to the summit.
Peck could only claim to be the first woman to the top. Despite the disappointment, Peck continued climbing mountains, scaling her last peak at the age of 82. In 1927, the Lima Geographical Society honored her by naming the north peak of Huascaran Cumbre Ana Peck.