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First woman to climb Everest dies

Junko Tabei
AP

Junko Tabei, the Japanese mountaineer, became the first woman in 1975 to conquer Mt. Everest.

Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest, died of cancer on Thursday, Japanese media reported. She was 77.

Tabei touched the summit of the world’s highest mountain in 1975. In 1992, she also became the first woman to perform the “Seven Summits,” scaling the highest peaks of the seven continents.

She achieved world fame after climbing Everest, but played it down, telling Sports Illustrated in a 1996 profile: “I was the 36th person to climb Everest.”

Tabei scaled peaks in more than 60 countries. Japanese public broadcaster NHK said she continued climbing even after being diagnosed with cancer four years ago. The Fukushima native continued to climb into her 70s, climbing mountains in over 60 countries and regions.

Before attaining fame, Tabei, a graduate of Showa Women’s University, trained as a member of a Mountaineers’ club that was established to promote climbing abroad by women.

Talking about the challenges she faces in the seventies, in 2012, Tabei told the Japan Times, “Back in 1970s Japan, it was still widely considered that men were the ones to work outside and women would stay at home.

To me, there was never a question in my mind that I wanted to climb that mountain, no matter what other people said.”

In 1995, she was honored by Japan’s prime minister, and in 2008, she was awarded the 2008 Mountain Hero Award by the Mountain Institute in Washington, according to her website.

In an interview with AFP in 2003, she said: “I don’t have the desire to climb Everest again anymore. If I had enough time and money to do so, I would rather climb other mountains that I have not attempted before.”

To help lift the spirits of survivors of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Tabei promoted climbing in the mountains of Fukushima Prefecture, one of the hardest hit areas in the disaster.

She authored some books which includes one about aging and an autobiography where she wrote about her journey to conquer mountains as a housewife.

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