Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Everest, dies 41 years after feat

Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Everest, and the first to summit the tallest mountains on all seven continents, died on Thursday. 

Binod Joshi/AP/File
Junko Tabei, the first woman to summit Mount Everest in 1975, receives a gift from a Kathmandu city official during ceremonies in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 27, 2003.

Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest and conquer the "Seven Summits," has died, 41 years after scaling the world's highest mountain.

Ms. Tabei passed away Thursday in a hospital outside of Tokyo, according to Japanese news reports.

Tabei first made history in 1975 when she became the first woman to climb Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world, at age 35. She further established herself as an accomplished climber when, in 1992, she became the first woman to scale the "Seven Summits," or the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents. By the time of her death, she had reached the highest peaks in more than 70 countries. 

The early climbing achievements of Tabei, a married mother of two, were especially noteworthy at a time when most women were expected to stay at home and perform domestic duties.

"Back in 1970s Japan, it was still widely considered that men were the ones to work outside and women would stay at home," Tabei told the Japan Times in 2012. "Even women who had jobs – they were asked just to serve tea. So it was unthinkable for them to be promoted in their workplaces."

In 1969, she founded the Ladies Climbing Club, which bore the slogan: "Let's go on an overseas expedition by ourselves." When she reached the summit of Everest six years later, it was as the leader of a climbing party of an all-female Japanese team.

"There was never a question in my mind that I wanted to climb that mountain, no matter what other people said," she told the Japan Times. 

Tabei was born in Miharu, a farming town in Fukushima prefecture roughly 140 miles north of Tokyo. She first became interested in mountain climbing at the age of 10, when one of her teachers took a group of students to climb nearby Mount Nasu. 

Despite the fact that she was "stamped as a weak child," as she told Sports Illustrated in 1996, Tabei went along on the trip and quickly developed a passion for climbing.

Her ultimate goal was to climb the highest peaks in 190 countries over the course of her life, an aim that was cut short by a cancer diagnosis. But she continued to climb after receiving her diagnosis 4 years ago, reaching summits in Niger, Luxembourg, Belgium and Oman as recently as 2015, the Associated Press reports. 

"I want to climb even more mountains," Tabei told The Associated Press in 1991, 16 years after climbing Everest. "To think, 'It was great,' and then die." 

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