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The story of the first American ascent of Nepal's 26,540 foot high Annapurna (the world's tenth highest mountain), by the leader of the 1978 American Women's Himalayan Expedition. All-female expeditions to major Himalayan mountains are still uncommon, and Blum's account makes it clear that women climbers face special problems--from the Sherpas' paternalistic attitude toward memsahibs to dumb press-coverage (one German article was entitled ""What Will Their Husbands Think?""). On the other hand, if you finance the climb by the sale of T-shirts reading ""A Woman's Place Is On Top,"" you are probably asking for a certain amount of trouble. Blum succeeds in fusing her personal narrative of a women's expedition with an old-fashioned adventure story about a long and difficult climb--only the second ascent of the Dutch Rib route--that ends in triumph (Irene Miller and Vera Komorkova on the summit) and tragedy (the death of the second summit team). But two factors weaken the narrative. First, the story is told largely through Blum's own recollections--there is relatively little use of other team members' letters and diaries, which might have rounded out their portraits. (One would especially like to know more about Irene Miller, who still had children at home, had curtailed her really serious climbing for over a decade, and yet made it to the top.) Second, Blum herself spent little time high on the mountain and, amid the drudgery of digging out after storms and plotting logistics, seems to have lost enthusiasm for the climb about halfway through. The account, then, just sort of tails off. . . but outdoor-minded women, if not all climbers, will still find much here to engage them.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1980
Publisher: Sierra Club--dist. by Scribners