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Breaking Trail: A Climbing Lifeby Arlene Blum
Synopses & Reviews
Arlene Blum is a legendary trailblazer by any measure. Defying the climbing establishment of the 1970s, she led the first teams of women on successful ascents of Mt. McKinley and Annapurna, and was the first American woman to attempt Mt. Everest. In her long, adventurous career, she has played a leading role in more than twenty expeditions and forged a place for women in the perilous arena of high-altitude mountaineering.
Breaking Trail is the story of Blum's journey from her overprotected youth in Chicago to the tops of some of the highest peaks on Earth. Chronicling a life of extraordinary personal and professional achievement, Blum's intimate and inspiring memoir explores how her childhood fueled her need to climb — and how, in turn, her climbing liberated her from her childhood.
Each chapter in Breaking Trail begins with a poignant vignette from Blum's early life. Using these as starting points, she traces her evolution as a climber, from a hilariously incompetent beginner to an aspiring mountaineer to a successful, confident, and world-renowned expedition leader. Along the way, she takes us to some of the most extreme and exquisite places on the planet, sharing the exhilaration, toil, and danger of climbing high. Blum also relates the story of her scientific career, which, like her mountaineering, challenged gender stereotypes and was filled with singular accomplishments, including the banning of two cancer-causing chemicals and the initiation of an important area of biophysical research.
Writing with remarkable candor and introspection, Blum recounts her triumphs and tragedies, and provides a probing look at what drove her to endure extreme physical discomfort — and even to risk her life — attempting high, remote summits around the world. In her story, she shares intimate insights into how and why climbers persevere under the harshest circumstances, cope with the deaths of their comrades, and balance their desire for adventure with their personal lives.
Complemented with breathtaking personal photos and detailed maps, Breaking Trail is a deeply moving account of how one woman overcame adversity to become one of the world's most famous climbers, and a testament to the power of taking risks and pursuing dreams.
"[An] engaging, well-written adventure that also serves as a social history of women's roles. It should be required reading for young women of today who haven't experienced the closed doors and closed minds that Blum conquered as a women student, scientist, and climber." Booklist
"I stand in awe, respect and gratitude for Arlene Blum's story as recounted in Breaking Trail. Her memoir is aptly named for her pioneering adventures in the surprisingly recently male-dominated world of high altitude mountaineering. I took for granted my right to pursue my climbing dreams and passions until I read of her determination, struggles, and conquests." Sharon Wood, first North American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest
"Blum's story could appeal equally to armchair alpinists and to veterans of women's lib campaigns. Blum succeeds...in this autobiography of life and mountain climbing." Kirkus Reviews
"The first woman to attempt an assault on Everest reviews her life to explain why she climbs." Library Journal
"[P]rovides the requisite bits of grace, glory, strength and pain: the stuff of all worthy ascents." New York Times
"Breaking Trail is an inspiring and affecting story of struggle and triumph. It is fluent and highly readable and keeps you turning the pages until the very end." Peter Gillman, co-author of The Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory
"A warm, sensitive account of an extraordinarily adventuresome life. Arlene Blum's life and her writing are indeed an inspiration to both men and women. This book is a must read for those who wish to reach the highest level of personal fulfillment." Helen Thayer, author of Polar Dream: The Heroic Saga of the First Solo Journey by a Woman and Her Dog to the Pole
"Breaking Trail shows that Arlene Blum's persistence and determination over time have won out and opened the way to countless other women to excel at climbing around the world." Ann LaBastille, author and ecologist
"Good climbers are rare; good climbing stories are even more rare. So this book is a gem: a pioneering climber tells her story with grace and courage and in it she emerges heroic and utterly human. Gripping and heartbreaking, this is a story that will galvanize every reader." Susan Fox Rogers, author of Solo: On Her Own Adventure
About the Author
Arlene Blum is a keynote speaker, leadership and intercultural trainer, mountaineer, biochemist, and author of the bestselling book Annapurna: A Woman's Place. Blum has a doctorate in biophysical chemistry and has taught at Stanford University, Wellesley College, and the University of California, Berkeley. She lives with her teenage daughter in Berkeley, California.
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