Patagonia pro mountaineer talks success, teaching and the summits that lie ahead
By Bella Butler EBS EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
BIG SKY – Eleven years after her introduction to climbing, Anne Gilbert Chase reached the 21,640-foot summit of Nilkantha in the Himalayas. Following five days of ascending several thousand feet of grueling snow, ice and granite, Gilbert Chase, her husband Jason Thompson and climber Chantel Astorga celebrated the first ascent of the peak’s southwest face, a route they dubbed “Obscured Perception.”
The summit success was a long time in the making, and not just because the team was shut down on the same mission two years prior by an electrical storm. Gilbert Chase began climbing in college at the University of Georgia. After moving to the West, first to Bend, Oregon, and then to Bozeman, she began honing her abilities, eventually applying her self-taught climbing skills to mountaineering. She says climbing gave her direction, identity and focus as someone who otherwise struggled in those departments, and Nilkantha trip was a milestone in what had evolved into a successful climbing career.
“All the years I’d put into climbing sort of culminated into this moment [where I realized] I have the skillset, I have the knowledge, I have the motivation,” Gilbert Chase said.
Despite being raised in Virginia, Gilbert Chase came to love raw, untouched land and rugged mountains in her adult life.
“As a kid growing up playing in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, I didn’t know the mountains would be such a huge part of who I am today,” she said in a short film Thompson made about their Nilkantha expedition.
Gilbert Chase is now an alpine climbing ambassador for both the outdoor clothing company Patagonia and climbing gear company Petzl. Her ambassadorship allows her to exchange exposure and education for resources for her climbing trips, but her relationships with her sponsors have also provided an avenue to discuss and advocate for the causes nearest to her heart.
This past May, Gilbert Chase hosted an event in cooperation with Patagonia to discuss access to public lands, a topic she is passionate about. She was pleased with the turnout and credits some of that not to her own popularity in the sport’s ranks but to that of Patagonia’s.
In addition to advocacy, Gilbert Chase is also focused on progressively transitioning from athlete to mentor.
“I realize that the type of climbing I do, spending months on glaciers and [other] remote places, you can’t do it forever; it’s not sustainable,” the 34-year-old climber said. “I’ve wanted to get the younger generation of climbers psyched and give them the skillset and the knowledge that they need to pursue their own dreams.”
Gilbert Chase enjoys traveling to climbing festivals and teaching as well as working with local groups like Bozeman’s Junior Mountaineering Team to share her own experiences.
While she gets excited about passing the torch, she isn’t ready to retire from climbing yet. On Aug. 8, Gilbert Chase will depart her home in Bozeman along with Thompson and Astorga for Pakistan. With the help of a grant from the American Alpine Club, the trio will attempt a new route on Pumari Chhish, a nearly 25,000-foot peak in the Karakoram range. After a year hiatus from climbing in the mighty Himalayas, they beckon, and Gilbert Chase is ready to tackle yet another monumental summit.