Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, in 1975. Before her death in 2016, Tabei also became the first woman to conquer the “seven peaks”, the tallest mountains of the five continents: Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali in North America, Aconcagua in South America Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea, Vinson in Antarctica and Everest in Asia. Tabei is famous for breaking stereotypes about women, both in her culture and abroad. This mountaineering pioneer began to make history in the 1970s when she became the first woman to climb the summit of Everest. A giant step towards breaking societal taboos, with the drawback of contributing to the democratization of moutaineering, against our present need to develop low-impact tourism practices.
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Tabei was born in 1939 in a small town in Fukushima, to a family of seven children. It was during her childhood, during a school trip to Mount Asahi in the mountain range, that she discovered the pleasure of mountainous nature. Passionate about mountaineering, she continues to learn at a time when mountaineering clubs in Japan are prohibited for women. She founded the Ladies Climbing Club in 1969, paving the way for Japanese women. This little woman, 1.5m tall, is an example of courage and determination. Her legacy not only serves the cause of women, it has paved the way for understanding and loving nature.
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By performing this challenging feat, Tabei participated to the democratization of the practices of mountaineering. This comes of multiple advantages, as mentioned earlier, first and foremost as a symbolic step for female emancipation, and more widely, significant social advances related sex equality and overall motivational achievements. Tabei has shown a real life example about challenging and changing the societal and cultural norms that have traditionally held women back.
On the downside, this step for democratization of mountaineering has led to an increasing number of persons aspiring to achieve the same challenge. Bucket lists sprung everywhere to reach these peaks and the number of persons putting in place excursions to reach them has significantly increased putting environmental pressure on these fragile ecosystems.
Low-impact tourism in mountain areas refers to tourism that is carried out in a way that preserves the natural and cultural heritage of the region, while also providing economic benefits for local communities. This includes practices such as reducing waste and pollution, supporting local businesses, and respecting the rights and culture of indigenous communities. In mountain areas, sustainable tourism also includes protecting fragile ecosystems, such as high-altitude forests and alpine meadows, and promoting outdoor activities that have minimal impact on the environment, such as hiking and bird watching.
The democratization of mountaineering is challenging the development of low-impact tourism. For example, the number of people climbing Mount Everest has been exponentially increasing in recent years. This is due to a combination of factors, including improved technology and equipment, better access to the mountain but most importantly an increase in the number of commercial guided expeditions. Taking this climb from a sporting challenge reserved to the elite climbers, to a safe practice accessible to many.
As a result, the number of climbers attempting to summit Everest each year has grown, leading to overcrowding on the mountain and increased risks for climbers. The increased number of climbers has also led to environmental concerns, such as the amount of trash and human waste left on the mountain, and the impact on local communities. Additionally, the increased number of climbers has led to longer lines and delays on the mountain, which can put climbers at risk. The growing number of climbers on Mount Everest has also led to calls for stricter regulations and stricter permitting processes to help address these issues.
This a typical case of reinventing the tourism activities in these fragile locations by developing low-impact tourism. Low-impact tourism is a type of tourism that aims to minimize the negative impact on the environment and local communities, while still allowing visitors to experience and enjoy a destination. This type of tourism is becoming increasingly important as the number of tourists continues to grow, and the impacts of tourism on the environment and local communities become more apparent.