The First North American Woman to Summit Mount Everest Shares Her Experience

Sharon Wood reached the summit of the mountain in 1986

Mount Everest
Sharon Wood's new book "Rising" details her experiences climbing Mount Everest.
Jorge Diaz/Creative Commons

In 1986, a team of 10 climbers sought to summit Mount Everest; only two, Sharon Wood and Dwayne Congdon, succeeded. Even more impressive is that they did so via the West Ridge: a 1963 editorial in The Guardian noted that this route “requires a longer high-level effort than any other approach.” Wood and Congdon made the trip without the assistance of Sherpas as well. And when they reached the top of the mountain, they made history: Wood was hailed as the first North American woman to summit Everest.

Now, in a new memoir titled Rising: Becoming the FIrst North American Woman on Everest, Wood tells the story of that fateful climb, as well as the story of what her life was like after such a landmark moment. 

At Outside, Jayme Moye talked with Wood about the process of writing the book, which they praise for its attention to detail. “She also lingers on little moments of camaraderie (and rivalry) that could be overlooked by a less ambitious writer,” Moye writes. “Wood innately understands that these intimate details provide the truest account of expedition life.”

Moye reports that Wood’s memoir spends its first half focused on her time on Everest, and covers the ensuing years in its second half. What does that entail? According to the article, working as “a motivational speaker, getting married, getting divorced, and, after raising two children, rekindling her love of guiding.”

The article in Outside quotes Wood as saying that she’d sought to avoid the familiar tropes of Everest narratives. That sounds about right for someone who opted for a particularly difficult route to summit one of the most challenging mountains in the world — and explains why this new book should appeal to both climbing enthusiasts and anyone who can appreciate a tale of triumphing over extreme challenges.

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