I’m so glad that we reverted to the original syllabus to read Blum’s Annapurna now. Though it follows on the heels of the Herzog text, Blum’s account is so different that we could be on another mountain; and, in many ways, we are. Twenty-five years after the Herzog expedition, Blum and her comrades have something else to prove, finer than potential of humanity but broader than national pride. To be the first women to summit Annapurna was to make a statement about gender roles and equal opportunities, the statement they made explicit in their fundraising shirts. With that statement to further impassion a trip that cannot be undertaken without a preexisting love of mountaineering, the team undertakes an incredibly dangerous climb.
After the avalanche of Chapter 10, Blum remarks: “I’m not sure it was particularly intelligent or laudable for us to stay. But it was definitely heroic” (161). Beginning the book with the knowledge that not everyone would come out alive, I found Blum’s recollection and interpretation of events to be fascinating. This book was written by an immediate witness to both the triumph and tragedy of the climb, where the triumph challenged gender inequality in mountaineering, but the tragedy was far greater than series of amputated toes. Regardless of the heroism, I have to ask if it was worth it. I think Blum presents a solid and self-aware case that the dream was important enough to pursue, but from the viewpoint of a feminist non-climber, I can’t say I understand.