Ginette Harrison was one of the world's most accomplished woman climbers. She was also a doctor who specialised in high altitude medicine. In 1998 she made the first female ascent of the world's third highest mountain, Kangchenjunga.
Ginette was born in 1958 on the 28th of February. She went to Katharine Lady Berkeleys School in Gloucestershire, and by the age of fifteen she was already a keen rock climber. At Bristol University, while studying medicine, she continued to climb. Her first big summit, at the age of 25, was Denali, the highest peak in North America. Then between 1986 and 1989, apart from climbing many of the lower peaks in Nepal, she climbed 7000 metres of Gankar Punsum, and led an otherwise all-male expedition to Masherbrum.
After qualifying as a doctor, and working in Bristol and Australia, she decided to join the Himalayan Kingdoms 1993 autumn expedition to Mount Everest. There she met her future husband Gary Pfisterer. Indeed, they reached the summit hand in hand. Her conquest of Everest made her the second British woman to have reached the summit. The first was Rebecca Stephens, who was there only months earlier in May.
From then Ginette was determined to complete all "Seven Summits". She did this the hard way. On Kilimanjaro she chose the difficult Heim Glacier route, with Mt Kenya's spectacular equatorial ice climb, the Diamond Couloir, thrown in for good measure. In the same way, after climbing Australasia's highest summit, the Carstenz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea, she went on to climb the neighbouring peak of Ngga Pullu. The last of her Seven Summits was Vinson, the highest point in Antarctica, in 1995.
Later in 1995 was an impressive ascent of Mt Logan, in the Yukon. Ginette and Gary traversed this bulky mountain in a continuous "alpine style" push, carrying supplies for more than three weeks, delayed by extreme weather conditions, until eventually making the summit.
Ginette had outstanding stamina and mountaineering skill, which were confirmed by her ascent of Cho Oyu, followed almost immediately by that of Ama Dablam. This dual success gave her the confidence to tackle her hardest challenge so far - Kangchenjunga. The expedition was led by Gary, who chose the potentially dangerous Czech route, with its near vertical ice steps and winding terraces.
Any doubts about the risks were dispelled grimly when two climbers from another expedition collapsed and died just before the British-American team made their summit attempt. Finding one of the men sitting dead, still clipped into a rope, affected Ginette's husband, Gary, so deeply that he turned back. Ginette, however, was feeling confident, and she continued, reaching the summit on the afternoon of the 18th of May.
After being acknowledged as the first woman to conquer Kangchenjunga, Ginette Harrison left her home in Bristol to join her husband in America. Together they subsequently climbed the central Summit of Shishapangma, and then, in the spring of 1999, the very difficult Makalu, 12 miles east of Everest. By now Ginette had earned herself a place in the company of the greatest high altitude climbers ever. Indeed, because of her impressive record, experts now consider Ginette as being a close second behind Wanda Rutkiewicz, as the greatest woman climber of the century!
In the autumn, whilst attempting the seventh highest mountain, Dhauligiri, she was caught in an avalanche and sadly lost her life.....
Ginette's modesty and joyful enthusiasm, and her great achievements were a gift to all who knew her. SHIVA Charity was approached by The Ginette Harrison Memorial Fund to set up a school in her name. Now in Rabi-Opi, near Banepa, Nepal, her school is well established, and the poor children there have a good education and a chance in life.