“Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the willpower that is most important."
Junko Tabei (1939-2016) was a Japanese mountaineer, author, teacher and known for being the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest on May 16, 1975. Her interest in mountain climbing began at an early age when she was ten years old and went climbing on Mt. Nasu with a teacher. She continued climbing through college and then after graduating, formed the Ladies Climbing Club: Japan. She did not accomplish this without much controversy and pushback from society. At this time in Japan’s history, women were still largely seen as forces of indoor activity, and were discouraged from doing more traditionally male activities, of which climbing certainly was. Tabei refused to let traditional gender roles stop her, embarking on a 15-member, all female expedition to the Himalayas in an attempt to scale the highest mountain in the world. After facing hardships such as being buried underneath an avalanche and losing consciousness for six minutes, Junko reached the peak and proved that those who had doubted her were wrong. She was also the first woman to reach the summit of the highest mountain on all seven continents and continues to climb 3-4 mountains a year, despite being over 70 years old. Junko is currently director of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, an organization dedicated to preserving the mountain environment.