A Woman's Place
by Arlene Blum
My older sister is a climber, and she gave me this book for Christmas. It felt quite fitting to be reading it during the first substantial snowfall of the year in Baltimore. I could look out the window at white coldness and imagine being among the Himalayan heights. Annapurna tells of the American Women's Himalayan Expedition that in 1978 attempted the summit of Annapurna I, the world's tenth highest peak. At the time, no woman had ever climbed a 8,000 meter peak (26,200 ft. Annapurna is 26,540 ft.)
I really had no idea what mountain climbing is like before reading this book. The amount of planning, logistics, manpower and supplies was staggering. The ten-women team had to overcome male prejudice, disagreements amongst themselves, fatigue, frostbite, altitude sickness, and disgruntled porters. The colorful character of Nepal contrasted sharply with the austere beauty and danger up on the mountain. The last twenty pages were particularly gripping. I was frightened just reading about the dangers they faced. Why exactly do climbers put themselves at such risk? Blum makes it clear that mountain-climbing is not just about the challenge, thrills or proving that women can do it. There is a serenity and peace to be found at high altitudes- they climb because they love to do so, in spite of how difficult it is. I particularly liked this quote at the front of the book:
You never conquer a mountain.
You stand on the summit a few moments,
Then the wind blows your footprints away.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 247 pages, 1980