In 1986, as part of a Canadian team, Sharon Wood became the first woman from the Americas to summit Mount Everest—and the first woman in the world to do so via the West Ridge from Tibet and without Sherpa support. But it’s how she got there that is truly compelling.
In Rising, the personal motivation that drove Wood to reach further and further heights are detailed through the years leading up to the career-defining climb. Often the only woman on expeditions, Wood was an outlier in a predominantly male bastion of high altitude alpine climbing. With the backdrop of stunning Himalayan mountains, Wood explores the camaraderie and rivalry, the relatable challenges of falling in and out of love, and recalls how she smashed gender-based expectations of the day, all while never losing her drive to keep going. Subsequently, she recounts how she struggled with unexpected acclaim and expectations following her ascent of Everest, but ultimately found fulfilment and her place in the world.
As she tells her story today, her perspective is steeped in six decades of life experience rich with adrenalin, change, reflection and humility. It is a tale that still feels poignantly relevant—a testament to the strength the human spirit to overcome all obstacles, whether mountain peaks, social expectations or self-imposed barriers.
Rising is a most welcome addition to the swaths of mountain literature about Himalayan exploration and exploits on Everest. But make no mistake, this is no conventional tale of reaching the highest point on earth. Much like her early expeditions to the Greater Ranges, Sharon Wood’s book is caught in the masculine world of climbing and national heroism but it stands worlds apart. Not that Wood isn’t a hero. Being the first North American woman to summit Everest and via the daunting West Ridge, a previously unclimbed approach from Tibet, is evidence of that. The real signs of bravery lie in her writing, in her ability to convey the vulnerability and fear every climber feels whilst facing the challenges of adventures at altitude. Rising is filled with such honesty and modesty, the reader is often left to wonder how the author will overcome her frequent moments of doubt. Emotional, poetic and heartfelt, Rising proves that not only is Wood skilled when summiting peaks, her words on the page shine with integrity proving she is a force to be reckoned with as she sets a new bar for literature in conveying the truth of the mountaineering world.