climber, Alison Hargreaves reached celebrity status in
1995 when she became the first women to summit Mount
Everest without the aid of Sherpas or bottled oxygen.
She was only the second person in history to reach the
top of Everest unaided; the first person was Reinhold
Messner in 1980. Hargreaves had a goal of climbing the
world’s three highest peaks unaided, Everest, K2 and
Alison was a mother of two and
began to experience some bad press and double standards just before her
Everest climb. Though she had been climbing for years, she had gone fairly
unnoticed. Suddenly the climbing community and the press began to question
whether it was morally responsible for a mother to leave her small children at
home to climb. Her past climbs were also put into question; Alison had climbed
Eiger Nordwand in 1988 while she was 6 month pregnant. Her response to this
criticism was that she was pregnant, not sick and that she had thought about
taking her husband and children with her to base camp, but she feels it’s
rather “inhospitable” there. Besides, none of her male climbing partners had
brought their young families along for the climb.
Just three months after her
successful unaided summit of Mount Everest, Alison was killed after reaching
the summit of K2. The climb to the summit took over 12 hours and what had
started out as a beautiful clear day ended in the clouds with winds up to
140mph. Six climbers died that day on K2. Alison did become the first women to
reach its summit without aid. Her body has never been found.
The following year in 1996, her
husband Jim Ballard accompanied by their two children made a pilgrimage to
Pakistan to stand in the shadow of K2. Both of Alison’s children have
developed an interest in climbing and Jim would like to make it his
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