Junko Tabei
Junko Tabei, Everest's first woman climber, died aged 77 on Thursday (20 October) Getty

The first woman to scale Mount Everest has died. Japanese climber Junko Tabei died aged 77 on Thursday (20 October) after a four-year battle with abdominal cancer.

She conquered Everest in May 1975, aged 35, before climbing all of the world's seven highest peaks by 1992.

The climb gained Tabei worldwide notoriety but she remained humble about her feat, telling Sports Illustrated in a 1996 profile "I was the 36th person to climb Everest".

However, her achievement was momentous and was considered a huge stride forward for women's equality in Japanese society.

"Back in 1970s Japan, it was still widely considered that men were the ones to work outside and women would stay at home," Tabei told the Japan Times, in a 2012 interview.

"Even women who had jobs, they were asked just to serve tea. So it was unthinkable for them to be promoted in their workplaces. We were told we should be raising children instead."

That would not deter Tabei however who left her then three-year-old daughter with her husband to accomplish the 8,000-metre climb.

She went on to say: "There was never a question in my mind that I wanted to climb that mountain, no matter what other people said."

Before Tabei achieved fame, she obtained a degree English literature from Showa Women's University, where she was a member of the climbing club.

She later established the Ladies' Climbing Club of Japan in 1969 and started becoming established as a recognised climber.

Though she would later become a researcher into the waste problems on Everest, her love of climbing continued well into late age. In 2012, Tabei climbed the 3,776-metre Mount Fuji with students from areas of damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which caused over 15,000 deaths.

"I've never felt like stopping climbing, and I never will, even when I myself have seen people killed in accidents in the mountains," she said in the 2012 interview. "Of course, every time it happens it's really shocking, but it will never stop me climbing."

Junko Tabei 2
Junko Tabei at a 2003 service in 2003 commemorating her climb Getty