EVEREST SUMMITEER AND AUTHOR MATT DICKINSON CELEBRATES THE LAUNCH OF ‘NORTH FACE’--- THE SECOND BOOK IN THE ‘EVEREST FILES’ SERIES WITH THIS EXCLUSIVE BLOG POST FOR ‘QUEEN OF TEEN FICTION’
WOMEN (AND GIRLS) OF EVEREST!
One of the main characters in ‘North Face’ is a Tibetan girl aged 16 called Tashi. She is tough and determined, climbing high on the mountain on a quest to rescue her brother, a mission which will test her to the very limit. As today is International Women’s day I thought it might be interesting to look at the history of the Women of Everest.
1975. That was when it began. A Japanese climber called Junko Tabei became the first woman in history to reach the summit of Mount Everest. It was an important moment for high altitude climbing which had previously been an almost exclusively male sport. Her climb was extremely tough, her team were pounded by an avalanche on the way up and they were fortunate to survive. It’s interesting to note that Junko’s ascent actually came before the first ascent of a British citizen of either sex---Doug Scott and Dougal Haston didn’t reach the top until six months later!
The first British woman to ‘top out’ was Journalist Rebecca Stephens (17th May 1993). Hers was a gutsy performance to say the least, she got very close to the summit, went back down and then tried again with a positive result. To go back up after the exhaustion of a previous attempt required huge reserves of raw courage and strength. Rebecca wrote a brilliant book about her expedition, ‘On Top of The World’, a great read for anyone who fancies an armchair adventure! Rebecca later went on to become the first British woman to climb the ‘7 summits’, another notable achievement.
Next up was legendary climber Alison Hargreaves. Not content with doing it the ‘easy’ way, Alison became only the second climber in history to ascend Everest with no supplementary oxygen and building her own camps (ie; totally unsupported). Her 1995 achievement was followed by tragedy when she was killed the same year while attempting K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Media attention was focussed on criticism of the fact that she had left her children at home with her husband while going off to do these adventures---a curiously sexist attitude given that male climbers do the same and never come in for such nasty jibes.
Four years later another woman climber scored a great Everest ‘first’. South African Cathy O’Dowd managed to summit from BOTH sides of the mountain. Her book ‘Just for the Love of It’ is another classic Everest read.
Finally, in 2015, Malavath Purna from India became the youngest girl ever to ascend Mt Everest at the age of 13. Her plucky climb was on the North Face, one of the coldest and hardest routes.
What will be next? Is there an eleven year old girl out there with dreams of the ultimate summit?
A nine year old with attitude ready to try her luck?
My character Tashi is of course a fictional invention but I like to think she would be inspired by the above stories of the real life Women of Everest.
Good luck! The mountain is waiting!
Thanks so much to Matt for stopping by with this epic post! My review of North Face will be published on the blog later this week, and you can read more about The Everest Files on the official website.