A little adventure

I had a thing, some years ago, for armchair adventure books and I revisit this non-fiction genre periodically.  I think it started with someone giving me a copy of

The original cover

Annapurna: A Woman’s Place. Before a reading this book, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would climb an insanely tall mountain…someday. It wasn’t a goal or anything, so yeah, probably not. But high peak mountaineering seemed like a possibility, however remote, until I read about the journey of 13 woman who were strong and adventurous and had a feminist agenda to boot.  By the time I finished this book, my perspective had completely changed – and not because only 11 woman made it down the mountain alive.

 No, the realization that I wasn’t going to climb anything “because it’s there” came to me earlier in the book, well before the triumphs and tragedies took place. The women were still hiking through the jungle, on their way to the mountain base – somewhere between starting out and setting up base camp – and, if I remember correctly, had already been pelted with stones by a dangerously grumpy bunch of monkeys – when one climber called for help from the brush she had gone behind to relieve herself. Other climbers ran to her aid, and the aid she needed was pulling a slew of aggressive leeches off her bare bum. Aggressive leeches.

The famous t-shirt that helped raise an unexpectedly large amount of money for the 1978 expedition

 I remember the clear realization that I would never do something like this. That I could admire these women and be fascinated by their story without having any part of the climbing life they’d chosen – it was like a revelation. I suppose it was a kind of loss of youthful possibilities or at least pretensions, but it felt freeing. Arlene Blum, the woman who conceived of and organized the expedition – and wrote the wonderful book recounting it, was inspirational, but she did not inspire me to climb, but rather to believe in oneself to take risks in whatever one is passionate about. I feel like I should break into song now….

 …but read the book and you’ll know what I mean.

Annapurna: A Woman's Story, the 20th Anniversary Edition

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