Trailblazing Women You May Not Know (But Should): Junko Tabei

Each week, the Lean In tumblr will spotlight women who made a lasting mark on the world — yet didn’t always end up in the history books. This week we celebrate Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb to the top of Mount Everest.

On May 4, 1975, Junko Tabei and her all-female climbing team were 21,326 feet above ground, scaling Mount Everest’s icy peaks when they heard the rumble: Avalanche. ”I had never felt that tense in my entire life, ” Tabei said. “I felt all my hair standing on end.” 

Pummeled by the snow and ice, Tabei lost consciousness and awoke covered in welts and bruises. It took two days for her to walk again. But she refused to give up her job leading the group — Tabei took her place at the front of the line, often crawling when she was too exhausted to walk. “As soon as I knew everyone was alive,” she told Sports Illustrated, “I was determined to continue.” 

Twelve days later, Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. 

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