Women in High Places: To Annapurna and Beyond



Posted on: Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 9:56am

Women in High Places: To Annapurna and Beyond

Photo collage of three different images of Arelene Blum, one on a mountain, one climbing a mountain, and one a close-up of her face.

Biophysical chemist, author, and mountaineer Arlene Blum will give a talk entitled “Women in High Places: To Annapurna and Beyond,” at Western Libraries at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, February 25, in the Reading Room (Wilson Library 4th Floor Central). This event is free and open to the public, and includes a reception with light refreshments.

Blum is the author of Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, and Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, both of which have become classics in mountaineering literature. During her presentation, Blum will share some of her favorite images and stories illustrating her climbs of challenging high peaks, and she will talk about her scientific research and policy work to create a healthier world.

In 1978, Blum led the first American – and first all-women’s – ascent of Annapurna I, one of the most dangerous and difficult mountains in the Himalayas. She also co-led the first women’s team to climb Denali, completed the Great Himalayan Traverse across the mountain regions of Bhutan, Nepal, and India, and hiked the length of the European Alps with her baby daughter on her back.

Blum received her PhD in biophysical chemistry from UC Berkeley, and she has taught at UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and Wellesley College. She is the Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a Research Associate in Chemistry at UC Berkeley, where she works to prevent the use of flame retardants and other harmful chemicals in children’s sleepwear, furniture, electronics, and other products world-wide.

Blum’s awards include: the 2017 International House Berkeley Alumna of the Year, the 2015 Thomas Lamb Elliot Award for lifetime achievement of a Reed College graduate, the 2014 Wheeler Medal given to the City of Berkeley’s “most useful citizen,” and the Jean and Leslie Douglas “Pearl Award” for individuals dedicated to providing a sustainable earth for future generations.” Blum was also elected to the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence. She was selected by the UK Guardian as one of the world’s 100 most inspiring women, by the National Women’s History Project as one of 100 “Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet,” and by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a Fellow. She was recently inducted into the  California Hall of Fame, alongside other 2018 awardees Joan Baez, Robert Redford, and Belva Davis.

This talk is offered as part of the Heritage Resources Distinguished Speakers program, in connection with a Special Collections exhibition, “To the Mountaintop,” which explores issues of gender, race, and class in mountaineering. The event is co-sponsored by Huxley College of the Environment, the Associated Students Outdoor Center, and the Center for Canadian-American Studies. For more information contact Elizabeth Joffrion, Director of Heritage Resources, at Elizabeth.Joffrion@wwu.edu.