Tap Dancing on Everest
A Young Doctor's Unlikely Adventure
by mimi zieman, md
The plan was outrageous: A small team of four climbers would attempt a new route on the East Face of Mt. Everest, considered the most remote and dangerous side of the mountain and only successfully climbed once before. Unlike the first larger team, Mimi Zieman's team would climb without using supplemental oxygen, porter support, or chance for rescue. She would accompany the climbers as the doctor--and only woman
--although she was still in her third year of medical school. Full of self-doubt, Zieman grappled with whether to go but couldn't resist the call of the mountains. On Everest, when three climbers disappeared during their summit attempt, she reached the knife edge of her limits and dug deeply to fight for the climbers' lives and to find her voice.
Sparkling with suspense and vulnerability, Tap Dancing on Everest is a coming-of-age story about the risks we take to become our truest selves. Zieman weaves her childhood as the daughter of immigrants raised in 1970's New York City, her father a Holocaust survivor, with adventure and medicine, capturing the curiosity and awe of a young woman as she faces down messages to stay small and safe and ventures into the unknown.
“Tap Dancing on Everest” is gorgeous. It is so full of joy, zest and fun and yet with some profound thoughts. Once started you cannot put it down. I hope it is a huge success – it certainly deserves to be."
- Sir Chris Bonington
Everest the Hard Way, knighted for his services to mountaineering
“Tap Dancing on Everest is that rare book that manages to capture the adrenaline rush of a thrilling adventure and the gut-wrenching pathos of an epic tragedy. Mimi Zieman is telling a story that readers will be unable to put down—not just about life and death on the world’s most dangerous mountain, but about how we, as human beings, too often have to put ourselves in extreme danger to feel fully alive. I was utterly captivated by this story. You will be, too.”
- Steve Almond
All the Secrets of the World
“The best ascent of Everest in terms and style of pure adventure.”
- Reinhold Messner
The first man to solo Everest
“With a poetic vision that is staggering in its honesty and beauty, Mimi Zieman brings readers into the heart of a Himalayan ascent, guiding us along some of the unexpected pathways that intense adventures can trace in both body and mind.”
- Katie Ives
Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams
“Mimi Zieman’s book is an ideal alchemy of grit and grace. The lessons Zieman learns on the mountain are important lessons for us all. A wild and deeply satisfying journey.”
- Emily Rapp Black
The Still Point of The Turning World
“Mimi Zieman is brave, tough, and impressive when on Everest, and lively, engaging, and funny when on the page. After returning from her climb, she says she was “very grateful for ceilings.” I myself, am grateful for her vivid recounting of all her journeys.”
- Meg Wolitzer
i write about medical topics to empower people with information.
i write creatively to explore the meaning behind experiences we share.
Mimi Zieman has treated frozen limbs on the highest mountain, delivered triplets near the deepest ocean trench, tap danced through Broadway studios, and has been a suburban mom of three – all experiences that have prepared her for new challenges. Her latest is writing a memoir, Tap Dancing on Everest, about the risks we take to become our truest selves.
Her recent play, The Post-Roe Monologues, has been performed in several cities. She has co-authored sixteen editions of Managing Contraception and her writing has appeared The Sun Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Newsweek, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, NBC news THINK, The Forward, and other publications. She has spoken nationally and internationally, and has been interviewed by multiple major media outlets.
Her early career at Emory University School of Medicine included the roles of Associate Professor, Director of Medical Students, and founder and director of a Fellowship in Family Planning. She was a founding member of the scientific Society of Family Planning, and a member of the CDC committees that wrote guidelines on U.S. contraceptive care. She is a passionate advocate for reproductive rights and has testified before the Georgia Legislature several times against bills that have no basis in science.
Far from her New York City roots, home base is Atlanta, with no high mountain or deep ocean in sight, where she doesn’t eat grits, biscuits, or collards, and must navigate ten lane highways. But she’s grown to love Southern hospitality, her community of friends, and the canopy of trees which keeps her grounded.
More Advanced Praise for Tap Dancing on Everest
“The story takes place on a frozen summit but is bound to melt your heart. The courage that drove her to this unlikely adventure permeates her candid recounting of her breathtaking tale.”
- Etgar Keret
The Seven Good Years
“What would lead a young female medical student from New York City who lived a life of shoulds and expectations to join an unaided climb up Everest as the team doctor? That young woman was Mimi Zieman and, in her memoir Tap Dancing on Everest, she unravels what brought her to that mountain years ago. In beautiful prose, Zieman brings us into her family’s Jewish immigrant roots, her city childhood, her dream to become a dancer, and how climbing and adventure helped her reconcile her past with the woman she became.”
- Ann Hood
Comfort: A Journey Through Grief
“From page one, Tap Dancing on Everest draws you into the heart-stopping world of mountaineering. An engaging narrative rich in details and vulnerability, the story captures the adventure in reaching beyond one's comfort zone and into the unknown."
- Johanna Garton
Edge of the Map: The Mountain Life of Christine Boskoff
“[This] story touched me deeply.”
- Dr. Tom Hornbein
Everest: The West Ridge
and High-altitude medicine researcher
“A captivating story, seldom told, about what it’s like to take care of Everest climbers from the perspective of a feisty expedition doctor. This page-turner is a must-read for real and armchair adventurers everywhere.”
- Stephen Venables
Alone at the Summit
First British man to summit Everest without oxygen
“The small band that formed the Everest ’88 team will be remembered as free spirits who went to the unknown and embraced the true spirit of adventure, a far cry from today’s narrative on Everest, and an essential addition to mountain literature. In Tap Dancing on Everest, expedition doctor Mimi Zieman brings to life the toll experienced by non-climbers on an expedition, what it was truly like not knowing if her teammates would return, and ultimately, what it took to heal their wounds. While recalling her tap-dancing days, this book is also a metaphor of a different kind of tap dance, that of survival on the roof of the world.”
- Norbu Tenzing Norgay
Vice President of the American Himalayan Foundation,and son of Tenzing Norgay
“Mimi Zieman's compelling and very personal memoir recounts with warmth and insight how her father survived the holocaust, her challenging childhood, her courage and determination in the face of continued obstacles, and the passion and persistence that bring her to the roof of the world.”
- Arlene Blum
Annapurna: A Woman's Place
“Climbing Everest was not on Mimi Zieman’s bucket list. But after a lifetime of trying—and often failing-to “follow the rules” of growing up a good Jewish girl with the right body, the right boyfriend and the right personality, the challenge of the vast mountain calls her…By turns gripping and charming, tragic and joyful, Zieman’s rocky, ultimately revelatory journey shows how the true triumph of the summit is the discovery of her calling.”
- Allison K Williams
Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book
The Post Roe Monologues
A One-Night Only Play benefiting the National Abortion Hotline and Choice Matters
The Post-Roe Monologues, a play with music by Mimi Zieman, presents a diverse cast of characters—inspired by true stories, interviews, and research—who deliver poignant monologues, and who interact in surprising ways. Those interactions underlie the theme of “we are all connected,” because although people may think that the Dobbs Supreme Court ruling doesn’t affect them – it does. These stories are intimate. These stories increase understanding, compassion, and motivate action.
Please join us for this one-night benefit performance featuring Broadway performers. You’ll be entertained, learn from experts working in reproductive rights during the panel discussion that follows, and raise funds for the National Abortion Hotline and Choice Matters.