Junko Tabei: the first woman to top Everest

Junko tabei has been a lover of the mountains since her early years, so much so that went down in history as the first mountaineer to reach the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest in 1975 and that he also climbed the highest mountains in more than seventy countries. An intrepid Japanese woman who had a life full of adventures.

She was a woman who fought against the impositions and cultural norms throughout her life, strong, persistent and determined, she managed to complete in 1992 the Seven Summits or the highest peak of each continent. Do not miss this fascinating journey through the life of one of the most remarkable mountaineers in the world, Junko Tabei.

A determined woman

Junko Ishibashi is her name, she hails from Miharu, the Japanese prefecture of Fukushima in Japan, came to this world on September 22, 1939. She was the fifth daughter of seven siblings, always showing strength and recklessness, she attended a climbing trip organized for her class to Mount Nasu, when she was only 10 years old, an experience that was decisive in developing his passion for mountaineering for the rest of his life.

She graduated from Showa Women’s University in Tokyo in 1962 with a BA in English Literature and maintained her passion for mountaineering. Junko Ishibashi was active among her mountaineering studios and clubs, improving her climbing skills on the peaks of Japan, including the highest, the famous and imposing Mount Fuji.

She met her husband, Masanobu Tabei, while climbing a mountain in 1965, they married a year later and had two children, Noriko and Shinya. Mr. Tabei still lives.

She worked at the Japan Physical Society, editing the Journal of European Physics and after marrying her mountain companion, she established Japan’s first Ladies Climbing Club (LCC) with the motto “We go alone on an overseas expedition.” The LCC included a unit called the Japanese Women’s Expedition to Everest that would attempt to reach the top of that mountain.

In 1970, Junko Tabei joined an expedition of women led by Eiko Miyuzaki to climb the 24,787-foot Annapurna III in the Himalayas.. Of the eight climbers who started the ascent, only she reached the top.

But it was her determined effort to climb the highest mountain in the world that cemented her reputation as one of the world’s most remarkable mountaineers, male or female. She spent years preparing for her Everest expedition, funding much of it through her work as a technical editor, giving piano lessons, and teaching English.

Ms. Tabei defied the expectations of traditional Japanese society by organizing an all-female climbing team, and while traveling to the Himalayas in Nepal, she left her 3-year-old daughter at home with her husband in the suburbs of Tokyo. .

Each plan and each achievement required a great sacrifice in a country where what is expected of a woman is not exactly to be an outstanding mountaineer. When she asked for financial support for the Everest expedition, they answered her on more than one occasion that women should not climb that mountain., but take care of their children. Something that did not persuade her at all.

In 1975 she reached her dream summit and after that she traveled often to Nepal, where she was honored for her mountaineering feats and for being a strong critic of the crowded conditions on Everest and the commercialization of climbing.

On some occasions, he suggested that, for reasons of safety and preservation of the environment, only a few well-organized and managed groups were allowed to enter the mountain annually. In 1994, he was able to install a garbage incinerator at an Everest base camp to consume the waste left behind by hikers.

In 2000 she received a master’s degree in social culture from the University of Kyushu in Japan, specializing in the ecological cost of mountaineering on Everest and was the director of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan association, aimed at the preservation of the places of Mountain.

Tabei continued his mountaineering expeditions around the world for decades, after Everest he climbed the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, in 1980.. He reached the top of Aconcagua in Argentina in 1987, followed a year later by Mount McKinley, now Denali, in Alaska. He climbed the highest peak in Europe, Mount Elbrus in Russia, in 1989.

In 1991, he climbed the Vinson Massif of Antarctica and then finished the last of the Seven Summits in 1992 by ascending the Carstensz Pyramid, also known as Puncak Jaya in Indonesia.

Over the years, Ms. Junko Tabei climbed many of the most storied mountains in the world, including Annapurna in Nepal and Mont Blanc in the French Alps. In his later years, he led an annual high school student trip to the top of Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji and continued to climb mountains around the world, adding peaks in Luxembourg, Belgium and Niger to his personal list.

He once stated that life is not forever and that when he dies he just wants to keep in mind that his life was interesting. He died on October 20 in a hospital near Tokyo, at the age of 77 of stomach cancer.

The ascent of Everest

Junko Tabei, an editor of a scientific journal and founder of a women’s climbing society, planned a 1975 ascent of Mount Everest. Tabei, as climbing leader, and Miyazaki, as overall leader, decided to follow the same route to ascend Everest that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had taken in 1953.

However, when they sought the endorsement of the Japanese business community, some told them that the expedition was insane, that the highest mountain in the world was subject to frequent storms, and that it would be a race against time due to the upcoming monsoons.

Undeterred by the negative comments and logistical challenges, she managed to secure funding from the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and the Nippon Television network, launching the first ever women’s expedition to Everest. It was made up of 14 mountaineers, 23 Sherpas and 500 porters.

The entire expedition was organized by the Tokyo Women’s Mountaineering Club with the aim of climbing the south face of the highest mountain in the world. Like his fellow Everest climbers, Tabei was no ordinary mountaineer.

He had fallen in love with the mountain at a very young age and had always fought against the prevailing prejudice that it was a sport for men, who barely recognized, and generally completely rejected, the idea that women could also be highly successful mountaineers.

Needless to say, the task at hand was far from easy. On May 3, 1975, they retreated to Camp II due to bad weather and on May 4, while she and her team were sleeping in their tents at an altitude of more than 21,000 feet, an avalanche at nearby Nuptse it swept the whole place.

Miraculously they all survived, although Junko Tabei and Yuriko Watanabe were almost killed and injured, when the Sherpas unearthed them, she had bruises on her legs and the expedition seemed to be heading for ruin, as most of the team was carried away by snow and in this stage all seemed lost.

However, after three days, Tabei decided to continue his attempt to climb Everest. Against all odds, the team decided to give him one last chance. Junko Tabei recovered in record time and with Sherpa Ang Tshering installed Camp 6 on the ridge.

On May 10, she and Sherpa Ang Tsering resumed their ascent and after three days of weathering a storm, the two left for the summit at 5 am on May 16, 1975. At 8:30 they reached the Summit. South, while after four hours of battling soft snow, they finally reached the top.

Despite the injuries to her back and legs, Mrs. Tabei with her 1.52 centimeters, reached the top of the mountain, on many occasions on her hands and knees, becoming the first woman to climb Everest, reaching 8848 meters in height of this majestic and dangerous place, she was 35 years old at that time.

He unfurled a Japanese flag and stood on top of the world for 50 minutes before beginning his descent, which was as treacherous as the climb.

In an interview, she assured that, after the avalanche, knowing that everyone was alive, she was determined to continue. But the male journalists narrating the journey wanted to back down, and she had to take the lead in order to continue. “I am the leader and I determine it, even if you are the sponsor” were his words.

Junko Tabei assured that he only wanted to focus on climbing and had to deal with these issues that disturb him. Since then he decided that he would not seek sponsors, without them he was much happier.

Twenty-two years after Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay first climbed Everest in 1953, Tabei became the first woman to accomplish the feat.

Interesting facts surrounding Junko Tabei

After her historic ascent of Everest, many interesting facts have surrounded the life of Junko Tabei, however, numerous statements revealed that she was a passionate mountaineer and a humble person. Here are some interesting facts about his life and adventures:

  • She stated that she did not wish to be known as the first woman to climb Everest, she wanted to be remembered as the 36th person to accomplish the feat.
  • They are named after the asteroid 6897, a google doodle and in 2019, a mountain range on Pluto.
  • She founded the Ladies Climbing Club motivated by the way some male mountaineers of the time looked at female mountaineers and underestimated their abilities and seriousness towards adventure activities.
  • When trying to find sponsors for the Everest expedition, Tabei said they often told her that women “should be raising children.”
  • The ascent from Tabei to Everest was done with the use of supplemental oxygen, something normal for those years. The first ascent to this mountain without oxygen supply was made only three years later by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler in 1978.
  • A few days after the important ascent of Tabei, on May 27, 1975, the second woman to reach the top of Everest was the mountaineer Phanthog, who was part of a gigantic Chinese military expedition that ascended the north side of the mountain. The third was the legendary Polish mountaineer Wanda Rutkiewicz in 1978.
  • This mountaineer designed and made her clothes to go to the mountains with recycled fabric.
  • After the avalanche on May 4, 1975, Tsering the Sherpa guide rescued Tabei when she had been buried in the snow for more than five minutes.
  • Two weeks after her descent from Everest, she was decorated in the palace of King Birendra of Nepal, who hoped to exchange words in Japanese with the mountaineer. The king studied at the University of Tokyo.
  • The required permits for the Tabei expedition to climb Everest took four years to arrive.
  • Upon completing the descent and back to Kathmandu, she was greeted with a parade in her honor.
  • Junko Tabei was the first to make the Seven Summits, as the highest peaks on each of the continents are known.
  • HONORING HIGH PLACES: THE MOUNTAIN LIFE OF JUNKO TABEI, is a book that brings together the most emotional and outstanding of the mountaineer’s life, a very interesting story for those who love mountaineering culture.

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