Grace Hoeman, M.D., 1921–1971

Publication Year: 1972.



The most active climber in Alaska, Grace Hoeman, died at age 49 on April 12, 1971, in an avalanche on Eklutna Glacier near Anchorage. One companion perished with her; another survived.

Grace Hoeman was born in Silver Beach, Washington, but was taken to Europe at age four. She lived in Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. She gained a bachelor of medicine degree from the University of Berlin in 1944 and a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Utrecht in 1948. Returning to the United States in 1950, she was active in phthisiology, preventive medicine and finally anesthesiology, whichshe practiced in Anchorage from 1965 until her death. She is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren.

In her twenties she survived diphtheritic myocarditis and two bouts of tuberculosis. Later migraine, anemia, acute mountain sickness, and thrombophlebitis hampered but rarely defeated her intense mountaineering efforts. Her first husband was killed in World War II. A second marriage ended in divorce. Her third husband was famous young naturalist-geographer-climber Vin Hoeman. He was killed in an avalanche on Dhaulagiri in Nepal almost exactly two years before Grace met a not unwanted similar death.

In five years’ time Mrs. Hoeman climbed more than 120 peaks in Alaska, many of them with her husband, Vin Hoeman. She made approximately 20 first ascents in Alaska, five of them solo. Notable first climbs include: 1967, Hoary Peak, 6057 feet, Talkeetna Mountains; 1968, Igikpak, 8510 feet, Brooks Range; 1969, Paradise Peak, 6050 feet, Kenai Mountains; Mount Wickersham, 7415 feet, Chugach Mountains (solo), Mount Kimball, 10,350 feet, Alaska Range; 1970, Mount Palmer, 6940 feet, Chugach (solo). In 1970 she led a party of women to the summit of Mount McKinley, 20,320 feet, by the West Buttress route. She ascended Mount Rainier, 14,400 feet, in Washington in December, 1969, and climbed Orizaba, 18,700 feet in Mexico and Chimborazo, 20,561 feet and Illiniza, 19,733 feet in Ecuador.

Grace was a member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska. She was Alaskan correspondent to Mountain. She was particularly skillful and imaginative in the description and naming of Alaskan peaks. At the time of her death she was compiling the voluminous writings of her beloved Vin for the Club and was writing her own guide to the Western Chugach Mts. She was on the editorial staff of the American Alpine Journal.

Grace was aggressive; Grace was sometimes abrasive. Her sense of right and wrong was peculiarly hypertrophied. She fought battles which did not need fighting. But she knew serenity; she knew love. She was an unusual and extraordinarily gifted person.