Sad news for the mountaineering community, as the story broke late last week of the passing of Japanese climber Junko Tabei. While not as well known as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Tabei left her own mark on the world of mountaineering by becoming the first woman to summit Mt. Everest back in 1975 – some 22 years after Hillary and Norgay. She was 77 at the time of her depth.
Tabei was instrumental in opening up the sport of mountaineering for other women to follow, both in her home country and internationally. Back in 1969 she established a ladies-only climbing club back in Japan and began promoting the idea of women-only mountaineering expeditions. At the age of 35 she led a squad of Japanese women to Everest in an attempt to make the first female ascent of the highest mountain on the planet, proving that women could indeed reach that point in the process.
Throughout her climbing career, Junko visited more than 60 countries, scaling the highest peaks in each of those nations. In 1992 she became the first woman to complete the Seven Summits as well, as she stood on top of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Despite being diagnosed with cancer four years ago, she continued to pursue her dreams in the mountains right up until the end.
My condolences go out to Junko’s friends and family. She was a towering figure in the mountaineering community who broke new ground for female climbers everywhere. Her visionary approach to climbing helped open the door for many other ladies to follow, and she will be missed.
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