Junko Tabei is a distinguished Japanese mountain climber, who is the first female to reach the summit of Mount Everest. She was only four foot, nine inches, but it was her sheer fortitude that made her dream come true, of conquering the world famous “Seven Summits.”
Early life and career
Born on September 22, 1939, Tabei has always nurtured the desire of climbing mountains since her childhood. At the age of ten only, accompanied by a teacher, Tabei climbed Mt. Nasu during a school excursion. She admitted that she enjoys climbing especially, for it is not a competitive sport.
In1962 Tabei acquired a degree in English Literature from Showa Women’s University. After graduation, she sincerely pursued her mountaineering career and formed the “Ladies Climbing Club: Japan” in 1969. She has climbed Mt. Fuji and Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps and by 1975, she was an accomplished mountaineer and now she aimed for the Mount Everest, 29,029 feet on the border of Tibet and Nepal.
It was a turning point in Tabei’s career, when she was selected among the fifteen women team out of hundred aspirants and was send to Nepal by the Yomiuri newspaper and Nihon Television to succeed Mount Everest.
Completing the rigorous training session, the team set for the expedition, early in 1975, from Kathmandu, guided by nine local Sherpa people. In early May, within a few days of their journey all the mountaineers along with the nine Sherpas, unfortunately got buried beneath the snow, when they were camping at a height of 6,300 meters. Tabei also became unconscious for at least six minutes, until the Sherpa guide rescued her. However, Tabei instead of retreating went ahead with her indomitable nature, leading her team, sometime even crawling on her hands and knees. Eventually, twelve days later she succeeded in conquering the summit of Mount Everest, on May 16, 1975.
The Seven Summits
Tabei also aspired to conquer the “Seven Summits” - the highest mountains on seven continents and she materialized her dream by 1992 and is regarded as the first woman to accomplish such a difficult task. The “Seven Summits” are:
- Mt. Everest with an altitude of 29,029 feet on the border of Tibet and Nepal.
- Mt. Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America with a height of 20,320 feet.
- Mt. Elbrus - 18,442 feet - an inactive volcano in Russia
- Mt. Aconcagua - 22,841 feet - the Andes, South America.
- Mt. Carstensz Pyramid - 16,023 feet - Indonesia
- Mt. Kilimanjaro - 15,092 feet - Tanzania, Africa.
- Mt. Vinson - 16,050 feet - Antarctica
Tabei, at 71 is currently serving as the Director of Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, an organization dealing with the preservation of the mountains. At this age, she has slowed down her climbing but is still working on environmentalism.
Tabei has been called a “housewife climber” and an “Everest mommy.” But, in her own words, “Call me the free spirit of the mountains.”