Who was the first woman to climb Mount Everest?

The first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest is Junko Tabei. She reached the summit of Everest on May 16, 1975. She was a Japanese mountaineer, author and teacher. Junko Tabei was born on 22 September 1939 in Miharu, Fukushima, Japan. Her father was a printer and she was the fifth daughter among seven children.

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At the age of 10, she attended a class climbing trip to Mt Nasu. She made a few climbs during her high school. Climbing was her hobby but her family could not support her to do so. Tabei also worked as an editor for the Journal of the Physical Society of Japan for funding her climbing. She developed a lifelong passion for mountaineering and climbed all the major mountains in Japan, including Mount Fuji.

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Tabei graduated in English literature and education and then planned her career as a teacher. She graduated from Showa Women’s University in Tokyo. Later, after completing her graduation, she followed her passion. She joined several men’s mountaineering clubs and kept sharpening her climbing skills.

At that time it was a male-dominated sport of climbing. She was not treated well by male climbers. Male Mountaineers refused to climb with her. As a result, she established the Women’s Mountaineering Club only for women in 1969 and name it the Joshi-Tohan Club which was the first of its kind in Japan.

Tabei married at the age of 27 a mountaineer Masanobu Tabei. She met him during a climbing excursion on Mount Tanigawa. They had two children Noriko Tabei(daughter) and Shinya Tabei(son).

Tabei and Hiroko Hirakawa made their expedition to Mount Annapurna III in Nepal on 19 May 1970. After this success, the Joshi-Tohan Club made a team the Japanese Women’s Everest Expedition (JWEE) with 15 members. They began to raise funds for the expedition. During fundraising, they were told that the women should be raising children instead of climbing. Tabei helped to find sponsors for the expedition and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and Nippon Television funded them but it was not enough. Each group member still needed to pay 1.5 million yen (US$5,000). Tabei taught piano lessons to collect additional funds. It helped her to save money for the expedition.

Finally, on 16 May 1975, Tabei made the Everest expedition and became the first woman to reach the summit of Everest. She received messages from the King of Nepal and a parade was held in honor of Tabei in Kathmandu. Tabei was welcomed by thousands of people on her return to Japan. In 2005, she also participated in 44 all-female mountaineering expeditions.

She climbed the Puncak Jaya in Indonesia to become the first woman to ascend the Seven Summits on June 28, 1992.

The Seven Summits Tabei had scaled, the highest peak on each continent.

  • Mount Everest (1975) – the world’s highest mountain in Nepal, 8848m (29,029 ft). The new height of Everest is 8,848.86 meters (29,031.69 feet).
  • Kilimanjaro (1980) – in Tanzania of Africa, 5963m (15,092 ft)
  • Aconcagua (1987) – a part of the Andes in South America, 6959m (22,841ft)
  • Denali(1988) – the highest mountain in North America, 6193m (20,320ft)
  • Elbrus (1989) – an inactive volcano in Russia, 5642m (18,442 ft)
  • Vinson (1991) – in Antarctica, with a height of 4892m (16,050 ft)
  • Puncak Jaya (1992) – in Indonesia, 4883.4m (16,023ft)

An astronomer had named asteroid 6897 Tabei after her. She died on 20 October 2016 in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan at the age of 77.

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