Annie Smith Peck

Biography of Annie Smith Peck

Annie Smith Peck (19 October 1850 in Providence, Rhode Island – 18 July 1935 in New York, New York) was an American mountaineer.

Peck was born into a wealthy family, which made it possible for her to get a good education. She attended the Rhode Island Normal School, graduating in 1872. She enrolled at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1878 with a major in Greek and Classical Languages, after which she went to Europe, where she continued her schooling at Hannover and Athens. In 1885, she discovered her enthusiasm for mountaineering. From 1881 to 1892 she was a pioneering professor in the field of archaeology and Latin at Purdue and Smith College. She began to make money on the lecture circuit, and by 1892 she gave up teaching and made her living by lecturing and writing about archeology, mountaineering and her travels. She scaled a number of moderate-sized mountains in Europe and in the United States, including Mount Shasta. In 1895, she climbed the Matterhorn and suddenly became quite well known.

She began to climb, lecture and explore in Latin America. She promoted Pan-Americanism (peace between the Americas) and geographic education through her lectures, articles and books. She was fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and French.

She climbed Mount Orizaba and Mount Popocatepetl in Mexico in 1897. Although, already over fifty years old, Peck wanted to make a very special climb. She travelled to South America in 1903, looking for a mountain taller than Aconcagua in Argentina (6960 m). She climbed Mount Sorata in Bolivia in 1904, and in 1908 she was the first person to climb Mount Nevado Huascarán in Peru (6768 m) (she climbed the north peak, the south peak is actually taller and was first climbed by Germans in 1932, fourteen years later Yungay,Peru ), accompanied by two Swiss mountain guides. She wrote a book about her experiences called The Search for the Apex of America: High Mountain Climbing in Peru and Bolivia, including the Conquest of Huascaran, with Some Observations on the Country and People Below. Due to a severe snowstorm, Peck misjudged the measuring altitude by about 600 m, calculating it as 7300 m high. She was later shown incorrect from a recalculation done by Fanny Bullock Workman.
The 6648 m northern peak of the Huascarán was named Cumbre Aña Peck in her honor in 1928. Peck scaled mountains into her old age, including a first ascent of one of the peaks on the five peaked Mount Coropuna in Peru in 1908. After her return she wrote two books, Industrial and Commercial South America and The South American Tour: A Descriptive Guide. Both books were quite popular with diplomats, businessmen, corporations, politicians and tourists.

In 1929-30, Peck traveled by air around South America in order to show how easy and safe it was for tourists. Her journey was the longest by air by a North American traveler at the time. She published her fourth and last book after her return Flying Over South America: Twenty Thousand Miles by Air.

Peck started a world tour in 1935 but after visiting Greece she became ill and returned home to New York City. She died in 1935 and is buried in Providence, Rhode Island.

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