Probably the next best thing to taking on a big adventure is hearing about another person’s adventure. And no, I’m not just talking about someone taking on a mighty mountain which is of course impressive, however, the story of how someone took an epic journey, about the trials and tribulations that led them to achieve something so immense, now that is an enthralling experience in its own.
So, let’s meet Junko Tabei. She was the first woman to climb Mount Everest in 1975 and then the first woman to complete the Seven Summits in 1992, i.e., the seven highest peaks in each of the continents. She faced an avalanche but climbed even after that! She was diagnosed with cancer but continued to climb! In totality, she climbed 150 peaks in 76 countries in her lifetime.
After being lauded the world over to be the first woman to ascent Everest, she did initially mention that she would prefer being recognized as the 36th person to climb the world’s tallest peak. However, in time she realized the impact she could have and the literature graduate went onto form the Ladies Climbing Club in 1969, thereafter, taking them on their first climb to Annapurna in Nepal. She even led a team of 15 women to climb Everest in 1975. While it sounds thrilling, the truth is was not easy in the least. Not just because of the climb itself but also because of societal stigmas. At that time women were not considered suitable for jobs, forget being equals and absolutely forget about them being seen as outdoor sports people. Their pitches for funding were often met with advices to bear children and manage households. Nevertheless, defying all norms and notions, Junki had her tribe of women with grit summitted Mount Everest and proved each of the naysayers to be incorrect.
Unfortunately, when they had reached an altitude of 9,000ft they faced an avalanche. It swept them away so ferociously that they got buried in the snow. Fortunately, there were no casualties. Buried under the thick white freezing snow, Junko was pulled out by a guide. While the rest of the team did not continue with the climb, there was no stopping this 4ft 9in of fire! She alone along with her guide Sherpa Ang Tsering proceeded with the feat at hand, just after a mere 3 days of rest. The wonder woman that she was she obviously made it to the summit just 12 days after the natural disaster.
She came out to openly state that even a natural disaster could not stop her. She did acknowledge how calamities and losses can leave one shaken up and shock them but for her nothing could stop her from climbing. This fact held true even as she came to be diagnosed with ill fated cancer. Even after the diagnosis she continued to climb. Mount Fuji was her last and 150th climb.
Junko went onto even become an advocate for sustainable mountaineering. Having done the extraordinary by climbing Mount Everest herself, she did go on record in 2003 to say how the mountain needed to be left alone to breathe. As the chairperson of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, she extensively campaigned and started youth groups so as to impart the information and need of sustainable climbing. Her efforts are said to have benefitted Nepalese villagers who are dependent on the same mountains that people climb for their own water requirements.
Just think, the alpinist went climbing for the first time during a school trip to Mount Nasu back when she was just 10 years old. At that time, she was unaware that in the 77 years of her life, climbing would continue to be her unburning passion that she saw through as a leader, as an individual and most of all as a mountaineer who could not turn away mountains even in the face of anything that life threw her way.
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