What was a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest doing atop the mighty mountain Denali?
In 1970, Blum (Annapurna, 1980) climbed Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley, to show just how high a woman could go. She scrambled her way to the summit, leading a posse similarly bent on high adventure. At a time when women first broke through the glass ceiling at work, Blum penetrated altitude levels while leading assaults on Everest and Annapurna. (Her team’s slogan was “A Woman’s Place Is On Top…Annapurna.”) The names of the places to which she went, from Bhrigupanth to Zanskar, Phalgam to the Vale of Kashmir, Kristwar to Trisul, would thrill Kipling. Danger on the mountains—crevasses, avalanches, snow, fog, ice, wind and cold—killed several of her fellow climbers along the way. For some, Blum’s mountaineering jargon may be off putting. Of her first climb on Annapura she writes: “Attaching my jumar ascender to the yellow polypropylene fixed rope left by the others, I took a deep breath.” Now sixty, a mom and a motivational speaker, Blum also provides glimpses of her childhood in a less than functional family and her day job in biochemistry, in which she attained a doctorate. The prose is occasionally problematic, but Blum’s story could appeal equally to armchair alpinists and to veterans of women’s lib campaigns.
Blum succeeds passably in this autobiography of life and mountain climbing.