For many climbers, the sport of mountaineering is about conquering peaks and valleys, pushing your body to the limit.
It’s about the physical, instead of the mental and spiritual.
But for Eva Capozzola and Pascale Marceau, it’s almost the opposite.
“For me, it’s developing self awareness, the internal growth and learning, being in that journey mindset,” said Capozzola.
“It’s not about the peak, it’s about the grade of the pitch you’re climbing. It’s really embracing the effort and being honest in that.
“The connect that I feel in just knowing myself better, because it’s such a deeply personal space.”
“For me it’s the exploration of being somewhere so special,” added Marceau.
“When you focus, the world melts away and you become a part of the terrain, you and nature in sync. That’s the goal for me, is to reach that feeling.
“It’s not about getting to the top, to conquer, to tick off another item on the list. It’s to feel one with the terrain in our most natural state.”
The pair made headlines in early May, when they completed a 21-day climbing expedition to the summit of Mount Lucania, Canada’s third highest peak located in Yukon’s St. Elias Range.
The trip was originally Marceau’s idea, which had been in the works for years. Originally, she planned on embarking on the trip in 2020 with her partner, but had her permits revoked due to COVID-19.
A year later, she was able to complete the project with Capozzola by her side, making them to their knowledge the first all-woman group to summit the mountain.
The appeal came from the peak’s remoteness, making it the perfect destination to the sense of exploration and rugged terrain that draws Marceau to climbing in the first place.
Marceau first became involved with climbing as a natural progression, first starting as a hiker, before moving on to backpacking and into mountaineering.
From the Ottawa area, the controlled atmosphere of the east coast quickly paled in comparison to the mountains of the west, which led her to settle in Canmore, where she and her partner are now based
Capozzola, who is originally from New York, grew up skiing and in nature as well.
She moved to South Asia after university to pursue social work and photography, and actually grew to resent mountaineering.
“Being embedded in those cultures and communities, where daily life is so demanding, it felt superfluous and frivolous to seek out that risk,” Capozzola said.
It took moving back to North America for her to fall in love with the sport, where she discovered the joy of reconnecting with your body and allowing nature to connect her with other people in a healthy way.
“It was something that I found deeply fulfilling, with that single focus,” she said.
Capozzola is now based in Golden with her partner.
Both women say the experience of working with other women on this trip was unique, as most of their projects they undertake with their climbing partners.
However, they’re both glad for the experience, citing how well they worked together and the trust they had while on the mountain. They had only met in-person once prior to embarking on their expedition, but just clicked right off the bat. Their relationship helped forge their experience on Mount Lucania, which they both called incredible.
“I was curious to see what would happen in an all women environment, as it was something I had actually shied away from in the past, because everything I did was always to fit in with the guys, just be a guy,” said Marceau.
“This experience was do different. I didn’t have to put on this persona to fit in with the boys. You could be who you were. And I wish that upon everyone. Every woman needs to experience that.”
“It was so special,” echoed Capozzola.
“I think we both had moments when we were out there, where we really had those opportunities and seized those opportunities to step up and to take those leadership roles in moments where if the dynamic was different, maybe would have stepped back, and then to see what we can do and to see what we’re capable of.
“It’s profoundly empowering.”
Both are hoping others will look to their experience together and be inspired for more women in the sport and all-women expeditions.
“Something we both talked about quite a bit was the importance of representation, I think it’s different when you see someone you can relate to doing something that you may think is scary or out of reach,” said Capozzola.