Arlene Blum

Achievement & Peak Performance, Adventure / Travel, Everest Climbers, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Training, Motivational Speaker, Women Speakers

Travels from California, USA

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Arlene Blum Profile

Playing a leading role in more than 20 mountain expeditions across the globe, Arlene Blum has a series of firsts to her name: first American woman to attempt Mount Everest, leader of the first American and first all-women ascent of Annapurna (regarded as one of the most dangerous and difficult mountains in the world) and the first women’s team to summit Mount McKinley. She has also traversed the Great Himalaya Range and the European Alps–the second journey made carrying her baby daughter the whole way.

Blum’s book Annapurna: A Woman’s Place has been inspiring readers for more than quarter of a century. It was chosen by Fortune magazine as one of its “75 books that teach you everything you really need to know about business,” and National Geographic Adventure magazine selected it as one of the “100 best adventure books of all time.” Her latest book, Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, melds her experiences in mountaineering and as a scientist.

Blum is the holder of a doctorate in biophysical chemistry, and has taught at Stanford University, Wellesley College and U.C. Berkeley. Her research has been crucial to the banning of Tris and Fyrol, both carcinogenic chemicals that have been used as a flame retardant on children’s sleepwear. She also helped ban the pesticide DBCP and is working on similar regulatory projects.

Amongst her many awards is the Gold Medal from the Society of Women Geographers, putting her in the company of only eight other women including Amelia Earhart and Mary Leakey. Her writing and photographs have been showcased in many prestigious journals, including National Geographic, Smithsonian and Science. Her lectures, workshops and seminars have received a warm reception across the United States and also in Mongolia, Uganda, Nepal and India.

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    “Climbing the world′s highest mountains is a powerful metaphor for achieving any demanding objective.   Reaching the summit requires total physical, intellectual, and psychological commitment– and yields the greatest rewards.”

    Arlene Blum has played a groundbreaking role in women’s mountaineering. Best known for leading the first American—and all-women’s—ascent of Annapurna I, considered one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult mountains, Blum also led the first women’s team up Mt. McKinley; was the first American woman to attempt Mt. Everest; and has played a leading role in more than 20 mountain expeditions worldwide. She made the first traverse of the Great Himalaya Range of Bhutan, Nepal and India and hiked the length of the European Alps with her baby daughter on her back.

    Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, written by Blum, has inspired tens of thousands of readers over the past 25 years. Fortune magazine selected it as one of “75 books that teach you everything you really need to know about business” and National Geographic Adventure magazine included it in list of the “hundred best adventure books of all time.”

    Her new book, Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, is an unforgettable account of the trails Blum pioneered, not only in mountaineering, but in science.

    Arlene Blum’s awards include a Gold Medal from the Society of Women Geographers, an honor previously given to only eight other women including Amelia Earhart, Margaret Mead, and Mary Leakey. She is the founder of the annual Berkeley Himalayan Fair and her articles and photographs have appeared in many publications including National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Science magazines.

    Blum currently designs and presents informative and inspiring keynote lectures, leadership workshops, and cross-cultural seminars. She has given highly acclaimed classes in Mongolia, Uganda, Nepal and India, as well as across the U.S.

    Blum holds a doctorate in biophysical chemistry, and has taught at Stanford University, Wellesley College, and U. C. Berkeley, where her research was instrumental in banning tris and Fyrol, two cancer-causing chemical that were used as a flame retardant on children′s sleepwear as well as the pesticide DBCP. Blum plans to continue this research to facilitate the regulation of similar chemicals and help protect our health and environment.

Arlene Blum Speaking Videos

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Arlene Blum's Speech Descriptions

Arlene Blum offers a series of fascinating presentations based on her extraordinary achievements in some of the wildest places on earth. Her leadership experience on her expeditions informs her valuable insights into how to lead a team, manage group dynamics and overcome failures.

Presented with her outstanding photography as background visuals, Arlene gives thrilling accounts of her exploits across the world, from crossing the Himalayas to climbing in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iran and Uganda to the charming story of her traverse across the Alps carrying her baby on her back.

Particularly focusing on empowerment of women, Arlene presents her stories of leading all women expeditions on some of the most challenging peaks in the world, and sets them in the context of the development of women’s climbing and women’s rights.

Climbing Your Own Everests:  Leadership and Teamwork
Climbing the world′s highest mountains is an excellent a model for achieving other extremely demanding objectives. Mountaineering requires total physical, intellectual and psychological commitment--and can yield the greatest rewards. Reaching the summit means standing on the top of the world with an ocean of white-capped peaks on every side and the clouds at your feet. Arlene Blum has had extensive experience in leading successful Himalayan expeditions and organizing other complex ventures.

Based on this experience, her lecture focuses on how to define worthwhile goals, manage logistics and finances, select a winning team, anticipate and solve problems, maximize successes, and overcome failures. Her presentation emphasizes decision making and group dynamics in stressful situations, and the leadership skills and vision needed to get a team to the top.

Dramatic stories of the Himalaya and the people who have climbed there combine with stunning slides for an unforgettable lecture.

High Places Around the World
Join Arlene for a unique-- never to be repeated-- adventure: 15 months of climbing and explorations in Africa, Asia, and New Zealand. From December 1971 to February 1973, Arlene and companions followed the summer around the world, up and down across the equator, doing consecutive mountaineering expeditions in eleven of the world′s major mountain ranges.

Some of the countries where they climbed -- Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iran, Uganda - are now closed to Westerners or irreversibly altered. Highlights include five ascents in the legendary Mountains of the Moon-- glaciated peaks rising to 16,700 feet from the equatorial jungle of Uganda; climbs in the Alum Kuh range in the "Valley of the Assassins" in Iran; four first ascents of 15,000 foot peaks surrounding the Vale of Kashmir; and Noshaq, a 24,000 foot high peak in the remote Wakkhan corridor of Afghanistan.

These round-the world climbing adventures in remote, spectacular regions are documented by outstanding slides. It was Arlene′s first realization that seemingly impossible dreams can be accomplished by careful planning and determination.

The Great Himalayan Traverse Across the Himalaya and Beyond
During 1981 and l982, Arlene Blum and Hugh Swift were the first Westerners to make a traverse across the Great Himalayan Range of Bhutan, Nepal and India.  To do this epic trek they had to obtain special permits to cross politically sensitive areas, find a feasible route across 2000 miles of  high passes and rugged gorges, and plan and obtain in advance nearly all the food and equipment they would need for their nine month journey.

They began near the eastern border of Bhutan, a small Buddhist kingdom reminiscent of Shangri-La. Their journey continued over icy passes up to 19,000 feet high and into river valleys below 2,000 feet, gaining and losing an average of 3,000 feet each day. They reached Lamayuru Ladakh in India after extraordinary adventures amongst a diversity of peoples, cultures, plants and animals that is unsurpassed anywhere on this planet.

The Great Himalayan Traverse slide show consists of the best of more than 12,000 color slides Arlene took along the way. They are shown with two projectors and a dissolve, local music taped during the trek, and her personal narration.

Travel and Trekking in the Himalayas
This introduction to Himalayan travel is designed for all those who dream of Himalayan adventure. Spectacular slides accompanied by traditional music transport us to this magical mountain world. An overview of the peoples, culture, religion, art, and history of the Himalaya will prepare prospective travelers for their upcoming trips. This information is also valuable to armchair travelers seeking a new perspective from which to view their own lives and society.

The presentation is based on the popular Himalayan Trekking and Travel Course taught by Arlene Blum at UC Berkeley since l982. It is available as an evening slide/lecture or as a comprehensive all day seminar tailored to the interests of the audience. Practical information such as how to prepare for the trip, choose food and equipment, select modes of travel, and stay healthy can be included.

Australia: the Great Barrier Reef
Arlene Blum -- known for her climbing and trekking adventures in high places -- has recently gone "down under" to explore one of the largest and least known wilderness areas on the planet: Australia′s Great Barrier Reef. In the vast quiet underwater wilderness are countless unexplored canyons, peaks and valleys teeming with aquatic life. Arlene tells memorable stories of the peculiar habits of the colorful reef-dwellers and her own adventures such as the dramatic rescue of a stranded dolphin.

"Diving is much less work than climbing," she reports. "Weightless below the waters, you can ascent vertical walls with a kick of your fins....In the mountains there always comes a time when I want to go back down to the world. I never want to come up from the reef."

Arlene′s presentation consists of stunning slides taken above and below the water in a two-projector dissolve format and accompanied by music composed especially for it.

Women in High Places: Annapurna and Other Climbs
In 1978, a team of ten women led by Arlene Blum made the first American ascent of Annapurna I (26,500′), a difficult and dangerous Himalayan giant. Arlene′s slides and personal narrative portray the major psychological and organizational challenges she overcame in putting together the expedition, leading the climb through storms and avalanches to the triumph of the summit, and dealing with the tragic deaths of two of her team members.

This classic Annapurna story is embedded in a fascinating and often humorous history of 175 years of climbing and exploration by women. Arlene tells of Maria Paradis who climbed Mt. Blanc in 1808 to get more business for her souvenir stand at the foot of the mountain; Alexandra David-Neel, who at the age of 56, walked 2,000 miles to Lhasa disguised as a Tibetan beggar woman; and of her own expeditions to McKinley, Everest and Bhrigupanth.

The lecture reveals the challenges and rewards of climbing the world′s highest mountains. Its beautiful slides are presented in a two projector-dissolve format with Himalayan and Western music.

Damsels on Denali: Leadership Lessons from the Roof of the World
In 1970, a brochure for a guided expedition up Denali stated: "Women can join the Denali expedition for a reduced price. They will be permitted to go as far as Base Camp to help with the cooking." At that time, many people-men and women alike-doubted women had the strength or skill to climb the to the highest point on the North American continent. 

Arlene Blum rose to this challenge and helped organize the first all woman expedition to Denali, of which she became the deputy leader. The Denali team persevered though storms and difficulties to reach the summit at 20,320 feet on July 6, 1970. When the team leader became critically ill just below the top, Arlene had to take over leadership of the expedition.

This lecture recounts the dramatic story of the successful rescue from near the top of Denali and the challenges and rewards of this historic ascent. It focuses on the leadership skills needed to get a team up and down one of the world’s fiercest mountains - skills that can be transferred to other endeavors.

Across the Alps with Baby
In 1987 Arlene Blum, Rob Gomersall, and their four to six month-old daughter Annalise Gomersall Blum made a traverse from hut to hut "Across the Alps with Baby" through some of the Alpine regions of Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.

This slide lecture about the challenges and rewards of parenthood in high places transports you to verdant alpine meadows flanked by towering Alpine peaks.

"Carrying Annalise and all her baby gear, nursing and diapering our way across the Alps was as much work as climbing Mount Everest," Arlene reports. "But it was lots more fun!"

What People are Saying about Seeing Arlene Speak

Rating Entries

    “Thank you again for addressing our group of high-potential directors and executives at our leadership development program. We appreciated your mixed media presentation, as well as your personal authenticity, humor, and approachability as you told the story of your leadership moments, emphasizing values and vision. You also provided relevant stories about leading successfully while honoring diversity and in spite of adversity.”
    Anne Kurzenberger, Manager, Leadership Development, Lucent Technologies

    “It’s clear the spirit of your talk has been brought back into our workplace, as Galileans use your experiences and lessons as metaphors for the problems they encounter and solutions they seek.”
    Andy Danforth, VP, Human Resources, Galileo Laboratories, Santa Clara

    “There are two facets to a talk by Arlene Blum. We are instantly struck by the warmth and poise of this tall, strong woman and then by the modesty evinced by her manner, to the extent that we come away thinking how pleasant and easy it all seemed. (We, too, could do it.)The other facet of her talks is the formidable courage, conviction and competence displayed in her leadership. It is a very auspicious day when Arlene Blum enters it for us.”
    Audrey H. Duane, The White Mountain School, Littleton, New Hampshire

    “Your evening talk on The Great Himalayan Traverse was to quote one student, ‘Outstanding. Arlene gave me inspiration to give my best toward everything I do. Best program I’ve been to in my three years at Caltech.”
    Julie Bolster, Director, The Caltech Y

    “Your presentation of ‘Women in High Places’ at Hewlett-Packard’s 1991 Technical Women’s Conference was a smashing success! The audience really enjoyed your enthusiasm and your rapport with them was astounding. You used humor and realism so effectively that it was easy for the audience to translate your message into action. It must have been wonderful to receive a standing ovation from the more than 850 technical women attending the Conference. You were an inspiration to all of us.”
    Anita Doucet, Hewlett-Packard

    “Your lecture received more acclaim and confirmation of wide range appeal than any other presentation we have had at Castilleja School. Senior students, seventh grade students, faculty, administrators and support staff – all were singing your praises.”
    Jeannine Martson, History Head, Castilleja School, Palo Alto

    “Several people told me that your talk was their favorite lecture in the Wannaker Series since its inception five years ago. Your personal charisma, humor, courage, and honesty; the artistic slides; and the awesomeness of your achievements dazzled the audience. We want to thank you for the unforgettable experience you gave to our community, including allowing the honor of having you as a role model for ourselves.”
    Judith Solar, Dana Hall School, Wellesley, Massachusetts

    “’Women in High Places’ has eight to ten of the most beautiful slides one is ever likely to see, and indeed, someone in the audience asked if they weren’t taken from an airplane.”
    Audrey H. Duane, The White Mountain School, Littleton, New Hampshire

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Books by Arlene Blum:

    Annapurna: A Woman′s Place

    In this twentieth anniversary edition of Annapurna: A Woman′s Place, expedition leader Arlene Blum chronicles the dramatic story of leading the American Women′s Himalayan Expedition through storms, icefalls, avalanches, conflicts, and reconciliations — all the way to the summit.

    Order Here

    Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life

    By the author of the bestselling Annapurna:A Woman’s Place

    Arlene Blum defied the climbing establishment of the 1970s by leading the first all-female teams on successful ascents of Mt. McKinley and Annapurna, and was the first American woman to attempt Mt. Everest. At the same time, her ground-breaking scientific work challenged gender stereotypes in the academic community. With candor and humor, Blum recounts herjourney from an overprotected childhood in Chicago to the tops of some of the highest peaks on earth, and to a life lived on her own terms. Breaking Trail is a testament to the power of taking risks and pursuing dreams.

    Order Here

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