Michigan Sport and Fitness - Women's Issueby Tom Demerly
There is no Title 9 at 20,000 feet. Only two thirds less oxygen, hurricane force winds and sub zero temperatures that freeze flesh in seconds, not to mention avalanches, crevasses, storms and other objective hazards like high altitude pulmonary edema. And almost no chance for rescue or survival when things go wrong.
The hazards of mountaineering are indiscriminate: They do not recognize gender. Skilled and lucky climbers live, the untrained may escape with their lives, the unlucky and untrained have a short life span.
Rasa on Kilimanjaro Summit
Rasa Poorman started skiing when she was 8. At 11 some boys dared her to enter a running race. She won. She went on to race on the boys junior high track team for two years, then high school track for four years as MVP of her team. She graduated in 1982 with 9 school records, two of which still stand. She works as a Certified Hand Therapist at the Michigan Hand Rehabilitation Center of Detroit. Her husband, Glenn, is an outstanding musician and Software Engineer for Autodesk, Inc.
"I don't believe gender makes a difference." Says Poorman about climbing. Even when pressed to offer examples of what challenges are unique to females in mountaineering, Poorman offers a long silence and one word answer "...None." She does concede that "Women in general are more in touch with their surroundings. The outdoors are a more visceral experience for us rather than cerebral."
Poorman says her motivation comes from a desire to experience life, rather than observe it. "You can't tell what something is like sitting on the couch watching it on TV." And what separates the spectators from the achievers? "Nothing" says Poorman. "You have to make a personal decision to try something, it has to come from inside. You have to at least try something". "I think anyone can do it, it is so simple". Poorman believes it is misunderstanding that prevents people, especially women, from trying new experiences. "Women should read books by other female climbers. If they just sit down and learn about it they will see they can do it."
Rasa on Elbert Summit
To meet Rasa Poorman is to meet a person caught in the current of a life being lived to the fullest. Short dark hair, athletic build, articulate, quick to smile but never to pull a punch, she is what she is. You meet the genuine person when you meet her. If you didn't read this you would never know she was a climber. She is humble with herself but generous with praise and encouragement for others. Her husband Glenn is entirely supportive but does not climb. His time is spent in pursuit of his passion for experimental music and technology. Rasa feels their separate interests only add to their relationship. When Rasa boarded the plane to Africa last year for Kilimanjaro, it was with teary eyes. "I miss Glenn already". The couple kept in touch via a satellite telephone supplied by Motorola to the climbing team.
When you finish talking to Rasa you want to go climb something. You believe you can do it. She has done it, and she says it is easy. So try. Even though there may be thousands of feet of mountain between you and the top, the biggest step is the one off the couch, according to Rasa Poorman.