It did not exactly rival George Mallory’s epic rejoinder when the British mountain climber was asked why he wanted to scale Mount Everest: “Because it’s there.”
But the slogan that Bay Area women who were part of an American climbing team splashed on fundraising T-shirts for the first all-female assault on one of the world’s tallest peaks captured the spirit of the feminist movement – and their expedition – in 1978: A woman’s place is on top/Annapurna.
Just as women were beginning to test the so-called glass ceiling in the workplace, 10 intrepid women broke through the ice ceiling, ascending one of the 8,000-meter peaks that beckon many serious climbers. The expedition was led by Arlene Blum, a biochemist at UC Berkeley, and when the summit was successfully scaled, one of the two women on top was Irene Beardsley, then a physicist at IBM in San Jose. They were not only the first all-female team to climb an 8,000-meter mountain, but they also were the vanguard of the first American team to conquer mighty Annapurna I in the Himalayas…Bruce Newman