The Sharp End of Life published by Mountaineers Books is available wherever books are sold.

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"[A] memoir about her metamorphosis from a self-effacing wife in an unhappy marriage to a confident athletic role model for her generation…Wolownick fights her way through…to find a place to breathe, as both a woman and mother. The challenges she overcame seem…as challenging as any rock wall.” Outside

“At times, [Dierdre Wolownick’s] story is one of pain and loneliness…of putting the needs of others first to such an unfathomable degree that she was nearly friendless well into adulthood, sacrificing her sense of self in the process.  But then…there was liberation, reached through a deep and abiding resilience brought to the surface when Wolownick…starts following Alex up the walls of Yosemite.” —Adventure Journal

“Moving…Dierdre Wolownick is every bit the adventure badass her world-famous son is. In her new autobiography, “The Sharp End of Life: A Mother’s Story,” Wolownick recounts not only her role as matriarch to the climbing world’s king but also as a daughter and wife who struggled to find her own idea of happiness.” —Gear Junkie

A testament to the transformative power of outdoor adventure.” —Alex Honnold

A motivational tale of a woman who overcame her biggest critics, including her inner self, to achieve one dream after another."Kirkus Reviews

"Honnold fans who enjoyed his memoir Alone on the Wall or saw the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo will appreciate Wolownick's intimate stories. Others will find inspiration in her record as the oldest woman to climb El Capitan." —Library Journal

“The Sharp End of Life is a story of mother-love, self-determination, and the refusal to simply endure. The world is well aware of the superhuman climbing feats of her son, Alex; now we can witness the awe-inspiring feats of his tenacious sixty-something mother. This is a story of unwavering belief: in one’s children, in one’s self, in the possibility of an extraordinary life.” —Jan Redford, author of End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood

Wife and mother. Teacher and musician. Marathoner and rock climber.  

At 66, Dierdre Wolownick became the oldest woman to climb El Capitan in Yosemite--and in The Sharp End of Life: A Mother’s Story, she shares her intimate journey, revealing how her climbing achievement reflects a broader story of courage and persistence.

Dierdre grew up under the watchful eyes of a domineering mother and realized early on that her parents’ plans for her future weren’t what she wanted for herself. Later, what seemed like a storybook romance brought escape, with new experiences and eye-opening travel, but she quickly discovered that her husband was not the happy-go-lucky man he had first appeared. Adapting as best she could, Dierdre juggled work and raising two young children, encouraging them to be fearlessly confident. She noted with delight how her “little lady” Stasia took it upon herself to look out for her baby brother, and watched in amazement as Alex started climbing practically before he could crawl.

After years of struggle in her marriage and her ultimate divorce, Dierdre found inspiration in her now-adult children’s passions, as well as new depths within herself. At Stasia’s urging, she took up running at age 54 and soon completed several marathons. Then at age 58, Alex led her on her first rock climbs. A world of friendship and support suddenly opened up to her within the climbing “tribe,” culminating in her record-setting ascent of El Cap with her son.

From confused young wife and busy but lonely mother to confident middle-aged athlete, Dierdre brings the reader along as she finds new strength, happiness, and community in the outdoors--and a life of learning, acceptance, and spirit.

A portion of Dierdre’s royalties are being donated to The Honnold Foundation. Learn more about the foundation’s work to promote the use of solar energy at