Avenger of the Week | Junko Tabei, Mountaineer

Mount Everest sherpa Kami Rita is receiving a lot of well-deserved recognition for summiting the mountain twice in one week, and this made us wonder about the first woman to climb Mt. Everest.

Junko Tabei. Photo credit: Jaan Künnap [ CC BY-SA 4.0 ],  via Wikimedia Commons  (cropped)

Junko Tabei. Photo credit: Jaan Künnap [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

Meet Junko Tabei.

Japan’s Junko Tabei began mountain climbing at the age of 10 and did a few climbs during her childhood, despite the fact that she was considered to be a frail child. Tabei continued to buck convention and formed the women-only Ladies Climbing Club after college graduation because of the way she was treated by other climbers who were men. Some men outright refused to climb with her, while others accused her of climbing just to find a husband (which, ironically, did end up happening).

The Ladies Climbing Club, consisting exclusively of women with full-time jobs, two of whom were also mothers, set their sights on Everest and began the climb in early 1975. On May 16 of that year, only 12 days after she was buried in an avalanche and lost consciousness, Junko Tabei became the first woman to summit Mount Everest. And, as if that weren’t enough of an achievement, Tabei went on to climb the highest peak on every continent.

Alfred Lõhmus, Jaan Künnap, Kalev Muru, Junko Tabei, Ilmar Priimets, and two Japanise alpinists in front, Nobuko Yanagisawa and Mayuri Yasuhara on Communism Peak (Ismail Samani Peak) in 1985. Photo credit: Jaan Künnap [ CC BY-SA 4.0 ],  via Wikimedia Commons  (cropped)

Alfred Lõhmus, Jaan Künnap, Kalev Muru, Junko Tabei, Ilmar Priimets, and two Japanise alpinists in front, Nobuko Yanagisawa and Mayuri Yasuhara on Communism Peak (Ismail Samani Peak) in 1985. Photo credit: Jaan Künnap [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

Junko Tabei was told she was just climbing mountains to find a husband, so the Japanese mountaineer created the women-only Ladies Climbing Club and went on to become the first woman to summit Mt. Everest. #AvengerOfTheWeek #GenderAvenger https://www.genderavenger.com/blog/avenger-of-the-week-junko-tabei