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Women Wetasses II: Arlene Blum…

October 25, 2005

You’ve most likely never heard of her. But Arlene Blum is a pioneering climber, the first woman to lead a team of women up Denali, and then Annapurna, in the 1970s. She’s written a book now, called Breaking Trail, recounting her high altitude exploits. And you can read an excellent LA Time profile here. Here’s an excerpt:

“Unlike many of her peers, Blum is not afraid to admit to the great unspoken on big, vengeful mountains — fear. That’s a specialty of the House of Horrors called Annapurna. She led an expedition in 1978 to put the first women atop the fickle 8,000-meter peak. But the mountain’s notorious avalanches came down night and day, one just missing Blum and taking out a cache of gear, and another so massive — two miles long, she estimates — that the wind from it blew members of her team across the mountain. “It was terrifying,” recalled Blum. “After that I lost my motivation to reach the top. I suddenly realized that Annapurna was way more dangerous than we had anticipated.”

She broached turning back, but got no takers. So her goal shifted to logistics — getting someone to the top and down again as soon as possible. Two weeks later four members of her party were standing on the summit. Blum tried to talk a second team out of a summit attempt, but the climbers wanted their shot. Two women who set out for the summit never returned, killed by an avalanche or rockfall.”

The dangerous ones are gender-neutral, apparently…

Big-Mountain Blum: “This hat is stylish, but maybe something a bit warmer would be wise…”

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