Written by Staff Writer at CNN
In 1999, Kim Kulig became the first woman to climb the highest mountain in the world — Mt. Everest — alone and unaided.
At the time, her 66-year-old compatriot Elly Hickson was among the world’s oldest mountain climbers. But Kulig, who was was climbing Everest for a fourth time, is now believed to be the oldest woman to have conquered the world’s highest peak.
Women climbers have never outnumbered the number of men.
Described by the US government as “the ultimate female achievement,” climbing is an unlikely passion for an athletic-minded people who had little exposure to such activities before the 20th century.
According to the website Women Climbing , only 53 women climbed the world’s seven highest peaks between 1913 and 2017 (8,033 km) but 85 women had climbed Everest as of 2018 (3,588 km).
In 2012, Helena Thorbjornsen became the oldest climber to reach the summit of Mt. Everest at age 78.
Kulig’s sister, Irina Kulig, celebrated the achievement with this photo taken in Indonesia.
Lillian King, a lecturer on the history of mountaineering, told CNN that women had made progress, despite holding fewer numbers of top positions in the climbing world.
“It’s not as if women are not scaling high peaks any more,” she said. “They were making progress, it’s just that the men were far ahead of them. It’s simply the case that men were making bigger achievements and when men have success, they like to promote themselves as being the top.”
King agreed that the popularity of climbing among men was because of higher wages, more opportunities for advancement and better health support.
The climbing fraternity is divided, with extreme climbers and guides usually receiving more attention than the small number of women who could sometimes hire climbing guides to help them progress.