High-Altitude Woman: From Extreme Sports to Indigenous Cultures--Discovering the Power of the Feminine

High-Altitude Woman: From Extreme Sports to Indigenous Cultures--Discovering the Power of the Feminine

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by Jan Reynolds
     
 

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One of the first female extreme athletes reflects on how her feminine strengths led to her success in a male-dominated field

• Written by Jan Reynolds, medal winner in World Cup biathlon and former world record-holder for women’s high-altitude skiing

• Recounts many of Reynolds’ adventures, including her Mount Everest expeditions

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Overview

One of the first female extreme athletes reflects on how her feminine strengths led to her success in a male-dominated field

• Written by Jan Reynolds, medal winner in World Cup biathlon and former world record-holder for women’s high-altitude skiing

• Recounts many of Reynolds’ adventures, including her Mount Everest expeditions

• Explains how she didn’t simply emulate the men around her but embraced her feminine strengths of compassion, mediation, cooperation, and observation

• Shares insights from her immersion in several indigenous cultures, where she identified gender traits found in all cultures

World record-breaking skier and climber Jan Reynolds has sought adventure in the Himalayas, the Southern Alps, the Sahara Desert, the Canadian Arctic, and the Amazon Basin--often as the only woman in her expedition. Tasked time and again with having to prove herself in the company of men, her tireless dedication on each high-risk excursion opened the door for many of today’s female extreme athletes.

Recounting in vivid detail many of her adventures, including multiple Mount Everest expeditions, Reynolds explains that her success on each formidable journey didn’t arise simply by emulating the men around her but by embracing her feminine strengths of compassion, mediation, cooperation, and observation. As she traveled the world, she broadened her insights into the psychologies of men and women with her immersion in several indigenous cultures, such as the ancient salt traders of Tibet, where she identified gender traits and strengths found in all cultures. Providing a guide for women entering male-dominated fields, Reynolds explains how women as well as men should nurture their feminine assets for more successful relationships at work, at play, at home, and in our global relationship with the natural world.

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Editorial Reviews

Jon Krakauer
“Jan Reynolds is an extraordinary athlete who distinguished herself in a high-risk, traditionally masculine subculture, refusing to let her life be constrained by gender. As she explains in High-Altitude Woman, “I felt this world belonged to me as much as any man.” Following a life-or-death predicament during a solo crossing of a Himalaya, Reynolds muses, “What was it in me that thought always about what I could do and seldom, if ever, about what I couldn’t do? Was this a good thing or twisted?” The answer is crystal clear, and it resounds from almost every page of this inspiring, unsparingly honest book.”
Susan Grimaldi
“Gripping tales of adventure and feats of endurance make this book hard to put down. Jan Reynolds reveals personal content and behind-the-scenes dynamics that rarely reach the public eye. When women read this memoir, no matter what challenges they are facing, Jan Reynolds’s bold and extraordinary experiences will serve as a beacon for looking deeper within for that extra insight and strength that it takes to endure and prevail. The gift this book offers men is an awareness and appreciation of the feminine, leading to the inclusion of the female perspective in all extreme endeavors.”
Bob Arnot
“I’ve known Jan since her earliest days as an adventurer, traveling to the ends of the Earth to get her story, setting high-altitude climbing and skiing records, making the U.S. Biathlon Team, and even taking a hot air balloon over Everest . . . just to investigate the differences between men and women! Jan never made a big deal out of being the only woman on otherwise all-male teams on these expeditions, fitting in as one of the guys at altitude and an incredibly pleasant companion, friend, and mom at sea level. Fortunately we can just read about her discoveries without hanging off cliffs and falling out of the sky, although that sounds like fun, don’t you think?”
Miriam Knight
“...I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Jan Reynolds is a prize-winning photojournalist and writer, a passionate adventurer from the Amazon to the Himalayas, and an amazing athlete...her passion for life and her passionate advocacy for vanishing cultures and the natural world are truly inspiring.”
Kala Ambrose
“[Jan Reynolds] explores how embracing the feminine nature can enhance relationships, careers and global interactions. Perhaps the Divine Feminine, now being activated in new incarnations, will bring about greater understanding of feminine energy and how both males and females can embrace and balance both energies living inside each person.”
From the Publisher
“This work succeeds in its relating of an intrepid woman’s enthralling tales of real adventure and her ensuing personal growth as she broke down the door of extreme sports for women. Readers of travel, true-life adventure, sports, and feminist literature will all find something here.”

“...I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Jan Reynolds is a prize-winning photojournalist and writer, a passionate adventurer from the Amazon to the Himalayas, and an amazing athlete...her passion for life and her passionate advocacy for vanishing cultures and the natural world are truly inspiring.”

“[Jan Reynolds] explores how embracing the feminine nature can enhance relationships, careers and global interactions. Perhaps the Divine Feminine, now being activated in new incarnations, will bring about greater understanding of feminine energy and how both males and females can embrace and balance both energies living inside each person.”

“For the most part of her life she had admired men for their accomplishments. She suddenly realized that she had the same motivation, sense of daring and physical prowess. With her natural focus on being faster and stronger, she realized the power of her inner feminine strength. This book is full of her adventures along the way”

“Gripping tales of adventure and feats of endurance make this book hard to put down. Jan Reynolds reveals personal content and behind-the-scenes dynamics that rarely reach the public eye. When women read this memoir, no matter what challenges they are facing, Jan Reynolds’s bold and extraordinary experiences will serve as a beacon for looking deeper within for that extra insight and strength that it takes to endure and prevail. The gift this book offers men is an awareness and appreciation of the feminine, leading to the inclusion of the female perspective in all extreme endeavors.”

“I’ve known Jan since her earliest days as an adventurer, traveling to the ends of the Earth to get her story, setting high-altitude climbing and skiing records, making the U.S. Biathlon Team, and even taking a hot air balloon over Everest . . . just to investigate the differences between men and women! Jan never made a big deal out of being the only woman on otherwise all-male teams on these expeditions, fitting in as one of the guys at altitude and an incredibly pleasant companion, friend, and mom at sea level. Fortunately we can just read about her discoveries without hanging off cliffs and falling out of the sky, although that sounds like fun, don’t you think?”

“Jan Reynolds is an extraordinary athlete who distinguished herself in a high-risk, traditionally masculine subculture, refusing to let her life be constrained by gender. As she explains in High-Altitude Woman, “I felt this world belonged to me as much as any man.” Following a life-or-death predicament during a solo crossing of a Himalaya, Reynolds muses, “What was it in me that thought always about what I could do and seldom, if ever, about what I couldn’t do? Was this a good thing or twisted?” The answer is crystal clear, and it resounds from almost every page of this inspiring, unsparingly honest book.”

host of the Dr. Danger reality TV series and autho Bob Arnot
“I’ve known Jan since her earliest days as an adventurer, traveling to the ends of the Earth to get her story, setting high-altitude climbing and skiing records, making the U.S. Biathlon Team, and even taking a hot air balloon over Everest . . . just to investigate the differences between men and women! Jan never made a big deal out of being the only woman on otherwise all-male teams on these expeditions, fitting in as one of the guys at altitude and an incredibly pleasant companion, friend, and mom at sea level. Fortunately we can just read about her discoveries without hanging off cliffs and falling out of the sky, although that sounds like fun, don’t you think?”
September 2013 Kala Ambrose
“[Jan Reynolds] explores how embracing the feminine nature can enhance relationships, careers and global interactions. Perhaps the Divine Feminine, now being activated in new incarnations, will bring about greater understanding of feminine energy and how both males and females can embrace and balance both energies living inside each person.”
Sonia von Matt Stoddard
“For the most part of her life she had admired men for their accomplishments. She suddenly realized that she had the same motivation, sense of daring and physical prowess. With her natural focus on being faster and stronger, she realized the power of her inner feminine strength. This book is full of her adventures along the way”
Alice Berntson
“Jan Reynolds is a pioneering woman who set world records in skiing at high altitudes and mountaineering. A very athletic “farm girl,” she saw herself as just one of the guys — at a time when being the sole female in the company of men was unique. Eight chapters, eight stories, recount in detail her amazing adventures and journeys through brutally cold, snowy, high-altitude conditions during the 1980s. Reynolds took it all in stride. Interspersed with the nuts and bolts of daily life on the mountains are her perceptions and observations of gender behavior, as well as the cultures she interacted with around the world. There are several pages of gorgeous color pictures she took on her adventures. The book appeals to a broad range — adventure enthusiasts, anthropologists, gender studies students, writers, photographers — anyone who wants to experience heart-pounding adventure.”
Library Journal
11/01/2013
A rough-and-tumble Vermont farm girl, Reynolds decided when she was 12 years old that "your life is what you make it, and the world is what it means to you." This philosophy propelled her into the stratosphere of extreme athletes and explorers, and she eventually trekked the circumference of Mount Everest in her early 20s. This book is a detailed and vivid telling of Reynolds's exploits as rock climber, Iron Man competitor, high altitude skier, Olympic biathlete, and mountaineer. Intermixed with the harrowing adventures that emphasize her pluck, verve, and determination are observations regarding gender disparities and similarities, male entitlement, and feminine inimitableness. Frequent expeditions in remote locations gave Reynolds an appreciation of regional peoples and an understanding of the realities of cultural hegemony, leading her to a fruitful career as a photojournalist and writer of the children's series "Vanishing Cultures." VERDICT This work succeeds in its relating of an intrepid woman's enthralling tales of real adventure and her ensuing personal growth as she broke down the door of extreme sports for women. Readers of travel, true-life adventure, sports, and feminist literature will all find something here.—Janet Tapper, Univ. of Western States Lib., Portland, OR

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594774850
Publisher:
Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date:
07/21/2013
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
869,745
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 5
WHAT GOES AROUND . . .

AS WE SET OUT ON THE NEXT portion of our Everest circle expedition, I felt like an unambitious kid being sent to summer camp by her parents against her will. I was wrestling with the change in attitude since Jim had gone home. His good humor had balanced Ned’s frequent gloominess and had added snap and color to our conversations. He had also shown a certain respect for my attitude and suggestions. Suddenly I felt like I had been demoted to the class of draft horses and yaks. It irked me when Ned and Craig ignored my comments while discussing our route over the open map and folding it up while I was still pointing something out. I was disturbed that Ned had not heeded my calculations concerning money and the number of porters we needed to get from Namche to the base of the Mingbo La. We ended up, just as I suspected, short of cash and asking our Sherpas to carry more than they should have. As the Sherpas trekked back to their homes, leaving Ned, Craig, and me to fend for ourselves, I decided to bide my time and see how things unfolded in the field.

January 17 we headed up to the mountain pass Mingbo La. We climbed tied into one rope, not simultaneously, but belaying one another up after each had finished one-third of a rope length. On the last pitch Craig and Ned decided to tie in closer and climb simultaneously to gain some time. As I belayed them from below, I came to the easy conclusion that this was not smart. If one peeled he would surely take the other with him, and I would never be able to hold them both. They had basically set it up for all three of us to pop off if any one of us blew it. Considering I was anchored into the slope and not moving, it would most likely be one of them.

When Craig hit the cornice, the frozen wave of blown snow at the top of the slope, he had to hack through it with his ice ax to haul his big body and heavy pack through it. Without one single piece of protection holding our rope to the slope, this was quite precarious. I wondered for a flicker of a moment what Jim would have done, but I realized that was a distraction. He wasn’t here. My thoughts turned to having confidence in Craig. He pulled it off, but not without a lot of grunting, which I could hear more than one hundred feet below.

Ned and Craig were being buffeted in the wind while I was belayed up, so we skedaddled down as soon as possible. After jumping a couple of crevasses we were on an easier slope and stood to marvel at our surroundings. There was a special magic to this portion of our circle because of its remote isolation and tranquil stillness. This portion of our expedition was pure commitment--we had no radio, no Sherpa support, no base camp. We were alone going from point A to point B, carrying everything we would need on our backs.

We walked two miles on glacial snow as smooth as carpet. It was getting dark, and to avoid the crevasses dead ahead we moved to our right onto a frozen stream, climbing down little frozen waterfalls like giant stairs. Ned continued to appear tuned in to Craig, racing along down the waterfalls with, or against, him--I couldn’t tell exactly which. What I could tell was that I was growing impatient with my demotion to load-bearing chattel and serfdom. As studies have shown, women are prone to loose motivation in competitive situations, where males tend to thrive. I realized that Ned and Craig bonded through competing, racing against each other, resulting in their private conferences to make decisions while I, on the other hand, was put off by the competition and left out of the decision making. Although I hated to, I knew I needed to confide in Ned so I wouldn’t blow up about it at the wrong time.

I realized my choice to avoid confrontation up to this point could make me seem easily influenced and unconfident. But I didn’t feel unconfident. Women are often considered unconfident because, as some data shows, women are more easily influenced than men. In a reinterpretation of this data, women researchers determined that the women in these studies weren’t unconfident; they just think differently. These women appeared more easily influenced because of their choices to conform for the sake of harmony. The women weren’t necessarily passively influenced by their male counterparts to conform, they were choosing to keep things harmonious, and thus went along with decisions so as not to rock the boat.

I was living it right here on the expedition, a little microcosm of the big world. I had been holding on to my thoughts for the sake of harmony, going with the flow of Ned and Craig’s decisions, but when the time came to speak up I didn’t lack the confidence. I could go with the flow as long as we were safe, but I questioned that.

I called ahead to Ned and we had our little tête-à-tête. He took it well; we ended up hugging with arms too short to wrap around our backpacks, adding a little levity to the scene. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure, especially in the microcosm of an expedition.

Ned and I heard Craig’s whistle. He’d found a camp spot and was drawing us in as the darkness wrapped around us in the belly of this wild, desolate valley deep in the frozen Himalayan landscape. I had found the day draining, both physically and mentally, and looked forward to totally decompressing in the comfort of our little two-man tent for three.

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