Nearly every explorer dreams of scaling Mount Everest. However, few ever reach the top. Not only has Japanese climber Marin Minamiya reached the top of that summit, but she’s also conquered six of the world’s other highest mountains — all before her 20th birthday. Now, the teenager has set her sights on completing the “Explorer’s Grand Slam” with a visit to the North Pole.
Minamiya considers her accomplishments merely a hobby, albeit a healthy one. A person weighing 155 pounds carries 10 to 20 extra pounds while hiking or climbing, which means that he or she will burn 528 calories in an hour. But Minamiya’s treks are much more extensive; her very first climb was scaling Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak. She bested the 22,838-foot mountain in 2015, and has only gone on to higher altitudes since.
Her adventures have allowed the teen to travel the world in a way most people could never conceive. Minamiya has stood atop Antarctica’s Vinson Massif, Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko, Alaska’s Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), Russia’s Mount Elbrus, and of course, Mount Everest, which is situated between Nepal and China.
While Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, the 19-year-old says that tackling it was not her toughest challenge. Instead, Minamiya says that her experience at Elbrus was actually the hardest. “It is supposedly one of the easiest mountains of the ‘Seven Summits,” she said. “However, this was in winter … I had one week to climb this mountain and the weather was absolutely terrible, the mountain conditions were terrifying, the whole mountain was frozen — it looked like an ice skating rink.”
But despite the dangers, Minamiya refused to yield. “I just don’t give up and I feel that every mountain has taught me new lessons and [has] made me a much stronger person,” says the teen.
Given her age, Minamiya’s accomplishments seem all the more staggering. She’s the youngest Japanese national to ever climb Mount Everest, and if she completes the “Explorer’s Grand Slam,” she’ll be one of only 51 people ever to do so. She needs only to visit the North Pole in order to complete the challenge.
Minamiya’s gender plays a part in how astounding her feats are considered to be, too. Mountain climbing has oft been considered to be a male-dominated endeavor. However, evidence in Scotland suggests that women are starting to catch up. Some experts speculate that younger generations of climbers are more open to female involvement.
Neil Reid of Mountaineering Scotland says that “it’s pretty fair to say that mountain climbing and hill-walking have traditionally been perceived as male-dominated activities, but our experience has been that this is changing quite substantially, both in terms of perception and actual numbers.”
Over the last four years, the organization has seen a 5% growth in female membership; women now make up 28% of their members. Reid stated that “among these [younger] climbers, the gender split is now a lot more even.” In fact, ClimbScotland competitions have shown more entries from women than from men over the last five years.
Thanks to climbers like Minamiya, women are starting to be recognized as fully capable adventurers. The Japanese teen was recently named as Uniqlo’s first female global ambassador for all of her accomplishments. But despite everything she’s achieved, Minamiya doesn’t think of herself as an alpinist.
“I am not a climber, so I do not intend to continue climbing high peaks,” she says. “I enjoy the process of getting there, meeting people. [It] is all about challenging yourself, you have to go over your own limits, fight your weakness. It’s almost like meditation and I really enjoy that.”
Minamiya plans to travel to the North Pole by spring of 2017. Whether or not she considers herself to be a climber, there’s no doubt that the 19-year-old has done more than most people do in a lifetime.