While I was in Nepal, I read an incredible book by climber/journalist Jon Krakauer called Into Thin Air. It chronicles the events of an infamous Everest expedition in 1996 that left half a dozen people dead shortly after reaching the summit. Super sad, super amazing adventure story. One of the climbers who died was a 47-year old petite Japanese woman named Yasuko Namba. She was a graduate of Waseda University and worked on the business side of FedEx in Japan, but her real passion was climbing. That spring, she left her husband behind and took off to climb Everest on the same expedition with Krakauer, led by a famous guide who also died on the mountain.
Did you know that the first two women in the world to successfully climb the Seven Summits were both Japanese? The first was Junko Tabei, who climbed Everest with an all-female expedition sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Nihon Television. She passed out unconscious for several minutes before arriving at the top of Everest in 1975. Tabei is still alive today; she doesn’t climb as much as she used to, but she’s the head of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan.
Namba was the second woman to complete this feat, but she didn’t make it back alive. In fact, she died lost and alone in a freezing cold blizzard. Her death is written about in a lot of detail in Into Thin Air. She obviously had an amazing spirit and an incredible amount of guts. I’m sure everyone who ascends Everest does so knowing that they may not make it down alive. Still, I finished the book wishing someone had made a better effort to save her.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer