Junko Tabei Dies, age 77
Junko Tabei, the first women to summit Everest dies age 77, after a life filled with ground-breaking mountaineering achievements. At the age of 35 Junko Tabei sumitted Everest, the first woman to set foot on the summit of the world’s tallest mountain, and at the age of 53 she became the first women to complete the ‘Seven Summits’ – topping out on the highest summit in every continent of the world.
Junko Tabei growing up
As a child, Junko was considered weak and did very little climbing after her first trip at age ten, until her latter teenage years. She completed a degree in English Literature at Showa Women’s University and then moved into climbing and mountaineering.
First Woman to Summit Everest
The Everest summit attempt of Tabei and her team wasn’t a straightforward affair; the cost to each participant was equal to a year’s salary and during their ascent the party was struck by an avalanche at their 6,400 metre camp, with the team being dug out by a Sherpa guide. Nevertheless, 12 days later, she emerged on the top of Everest, the first woman to stand aloft the world’s highest mountain.
First Woman to Complete Seven Summits
It wasn’t until her 50’s that she completed the Seven Summits, again, a first for her gender.
“Most Japanese men of my generation would expect the woman to stay at home and clean house,” she said in a 1991 interview….”even women who had jobs – they were asked just to serve tea. So it was unthinkable for them to be promoted in their workplaces.”
Life away from the Mountains
Tabei was a beacon of modernity, an activist and environmentalist. As well as having two children, she continued mountaineering. She challenged the tight and demanding social norms in Japan, starting Japan’s LCC – Ladies Climbing Club when she finished her university degree. Throughout her life her work was committed and she continued mountaineering even in the light of a cancer diagnosis in 2012.
By this time her unconventional career choice had become more widely accepted in Japan and she received worldwide acclaim for her summits and tireless work to clean up Everest.
On 20th October 2016 Junko Tabei passed away in a hospital in Kawagoe. A legendary mountaineer, celebrated around the world and revered for her outstanding life achievements.