Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Annapurna aka "Every Chick's Got One"

This beauty came in the mail the other day:


In internet parlance: ZOMG!!!

This isn't just any old badass T-shirt - this is a replica of the badass T-shirts sold to raise funds for the first successful American expedition to the summit of Annapurna (Annapurna I, if you're being technical), the 10th highest mountain in the world, back in 1978.

The woman behind the expedition - and the badass T-shirt - is famous mountaineer/scientist/environmentalist Arlene Blum, and the reason I'm mentioning any of this and the reason why I'm so excited to sport my very own replica T-shirt is because she wrote a book called Annapurna: A Woman's Place that I just finished reading. You see, not only was her expedition the first American team - and only the third team in history - to reach the Annapurna summit, but they were also the first women to do so, during a time that was less than hospitable towards female climbers or adventurers of any sort.

I saw the T-shirt in a photo towards the front of the book, and for all of the obvious reasons (mountains! double entendres!), I had to have it. But since finishing Annapurna, that tee seems a bit more symbolic. There's a reason Maurice Herzog famously (well...famously to mountaineering nerds) said: "There are many Annapurnas in the hearts of men" - this mountain has the highest percentage of fatalities (the ratio of fatalities to summits) of any of the big dogs - yep, even more than Everest and K2 - and if you want to translate his sentiment into non-mountain dork parlance, it basically means we all have our own crap to conquer.

In her book, Arlene recounts the struggles of being a female mountaineer in the 70s - that's to say, the struggles of dealing with all of the sexist bull that came both from outside and within the patriarchal mountaineering community at the time. To add to that the daunting task of organizing an expedition up the most dangerous, and at the time, only barely explored, of the 8000ers is a helluva challenge. I ended the book gutted by the fatalities that occurred during the expedition, but in awe of the strength of this team of women.

So hell yeah, Arlene - a woman's place is definitely on top.

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