Google has dedicated a doodle to celebrate the 80th birth anniversary of Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the summit of Everest. Here are some details about the historic ascent completed on 16 May 1975.
Junko Tabei, a former teacher from Tokyo, formed part of the first ever female expedition to Everest. Consisting of 14 mountaineers, 23 sherpas and 500 porters, the entire expedition was organised by the Tokyo Women's Mountaineering Club with the aim of climbing the south face of the highest mountain in the world. The climbers planned to ascend via the same route used by the first ascentionists, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who had reached the summit 22 years earlier on 29 May 1953.
Just like her Everest climbing partners, Tabei was no ordinary mountaineer. She had fallen in love with the mountains at a tender age, and had always fought hard against the prevailing (above all male-dominated) prejudice that hardly recognised - and at times completely rejected - the notion that women could also be highly successful mountaineers. Her founding of the all-female mountaineering club in 1969 should be seen in this light. In 1970 she climbed Annapurna III (7.555m). And in 1975 she was the driving force behind the Everest women's expedition that eventually led to her standing on the summit.
It goes without saying that the task in hand was anything but easy. On 4 May 1975 an avalanche on nearby Nuptse swept through Camp 2. Miraculously everyone survived, although Junko Tabei and Yuriko Watanabe almost died and were injured. Most of the gear was taken away by the avalanche and at this stage everything seemed lost.
Against the odds, the team decided to give it one last go. Junko Tabei recovered in record time and with Ang Tshering Shrpa installed Camp 6 on the ridge. After 3 days of weathering out a storm, the two set off for their summit bid at 5 am on 16 May 1975. At 8.30 they reached the South Summit, while after 4 hours of battling against the soft snow they finally reached the top. Junko Tabei had become the first woman to reach the 8848m high top of the world! 35 years old at the time, Tabei dedicated her entire life to the mountains before passing away on October 20, 2016.
For the record, Tabei’s ascent of Everest was made with the use of supplementary oxygen. This was absolutely normal for those years, since the first ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen was carried out only three years later, by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler in 1978.
A few days after Tabei’s milestone ascent, namely on 27 May 1975, the second woman to reach the summit of Everest was Tiebt’s Phanthog who formed part of a mammoth Chinese military expedition on the North side of the mountain. The third, in 1978, was legendary Polish mountaineer Wanda Rutkiewicz, while the first Italian to summit Everest was Olympic cross-country skiing medalist Manuela Di Centa (23/05/2003, with supplementary oxygen). Worth remembering is the ascent of Italy’s
Nives Meroi who, with her husband Romano Benet, in addition to Everest has climbed all 14 x 8000ers without supplementary oxygen.
This article first appeared on http://www.planetmountain.com. The original can be read here.