Georgia Engelhard Cromwell, 1906-1986

Publication Year: 1987.


Born in New York City, November 19, 1906, Georgia was an adept photographer, her father having achieved considerable prominence in the field. She practiced her profession for various commercial entities, on both sides of the camera.

Georgia Engelhard took up serious alpinism in 1926 and joined the American Alpine Club two years later, the youngest age of admission for a woman to that date. She continued a very active climbing career with lengthy visits to the mountains of western Canada—specializing in the Rockies and Purcells— almost every summer until interrupted by the American involvement on World War II. Her record of thirty-two first ascents is one of the most outstanding ever developed in that area.

Her record of ascents in the Alps was longer lived, but started with her spectacular performance in 1935 when she made forty-four ascents, many of them guideless and all of prominent peaks. Most of those ascents were traverses of the summits, some multiple.

Georgia did not neglect the more prominent peaks of the United States. She did several of the “Fourteeners” of Colorado and most of the Cascade volcanos; Mount Baker in 1929 and the others in 1937 (back when St. Helens was a longer and more legal trip).

Just prior to American involvement in World War II, she met and later married Oliver Eaton Cromwell, an equally distinguished alpinist who participated as deputy leader in the, ill-fated, 1939 American expedition to K2.

Georgia was a great favorite with the Swiss guides employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway, in particular Ernst Feuz (1889-1960), with whom she made a number of her better climbs and several first ascents. In their reminiscences, it appears that she was regarded as a difficult, but distinguished client—difficult because she would carry as much as any man in the party and often showed up the less sturdy male members of any party; and distinguished because she was unique in this attribute among the women climbers of the day.

She died two months before her eightieth birthday, in Interlaken, where she and Tony Cromwell had lived for the past thirty years. Georgia is survived by her husband, who now resides in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and two stepchildren, O. Eaton Cromwell, Jr. of Haverford, Pennsylvania and Camilla C. Anderson of Noblesville, Indiana.

William L. Putnam