Vera Komárková - the first woman to climb Annapurna

Věra Komárková

Věra Komárková, a famous botanist and a pioneer of women's mountaineering, was born 80 years ago. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, she emigrated to the United States, where she acquired citizenship.

Věra Komárková studying plants at University of Colorado | Photo: MMoudry,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0

Věra Komárková was an exceptionally gifted woman. At the age of 16, she entered Charles University to study botany. During her studies she married Jiří Komárek, also a botanist and above all a keen mountaineer.

In 1967, she took part in an expedition called Šlápoty, which set off on foot from Prague to the Summer Olympics in Mexico. As a member of the women's international mountaineering association RHM (Rendez-vous Hautes Montagnes), she made ascents in the High Tatras, the Alps, Mexico and the Rocky Mountains.

Expedition to Annapurna  (1978),  Komárková in the bottom row,  third from the left | Photo: YouTube

After the Soviet invasion in 1968 she emigrated to the USA. In 1976 she climbed Denali, the highest mountain in North America, and a year later she participated in the first ascent of the east pillar of Mt. Dickey in Alaska.

In 1978, along with Irene Miller, she became the first woman to reach the summit of Annapurna, the tenth highest mountain in the world. Six years later, she climbed the world’s sixth highest mountain, Cho Oju, together with Dina Štěrbová and Sherpa Ang Rita.

In 1986, Věra Komárková moved to Switzerland and became a professor of natural sciences, focusing on alpine ecology, and later a professor of information technology at Schiller International University in Leysin.

She died in 2005 from complications of breast cancer treatment.