15-21 March 2013 #647

WOMEN ON TOP

Four down, three to go for seven Nepali women climbers

After climbing Mt Everest in 2008, seven Nepali women have been trying to scale the seven highest peaks in seven continents and last week they summited Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa.

COURTESY: SHAILEE BASNET
WAVIN FLAG (l-r): Chunu Shrestha, Nimdoma Sherpa, Pujan Acharya, Shailee Basnet, Asha Kumari Singh, Pema Diki Sherpa, and Maya Gurung gather for a picture after summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

The seven Nepalis, accompanied by three Tanzanian women climbers and South African TV actress Hlubi Mboya, reached the snow-covered peak on 5 March.

“Anything is possible,” Nimdoma Sherpa, the youngest member of the Seven Summits Women team, is quoted as having exclaimed after she made it to the top of Kilimanjaro. Team leader Shailee Basnet told Nepali Times by email after coming down: “As we neared the summit at Stella Point, all of us broke down, and started crying, hugging each other, and remembering our challenges.”

The team has already scaled Mt Kosciuszko in Australia and Mt Elbrus in Europe in 2010. They still have to climb Mt Aconcagua in South America, Mt Denali in Alaska, and Mt Vinson Massif in Antarctica.

TEAM WORK: The Seven Summits Women team with South African actress Hlubi Mboya (fourth from right) and three other Tanzanian climbers.

Nimdoma, who became the youngest woman to climb Everest in 2008 and held the record till last year, is a former recipient of a World Food Program (WFP) school meals project in Nepal. “I want to tell kids that if I can climb Everest, anybody can,” she says.

It is this message the team hopes to spread through school visits in Tanzania as it travels from one school to another in remote villages of Karatu and in South Africa. “The response has been great. The students are very curious to know about Mt Everest and Nepal and when asked, who wants to be like Nim, dozens of hands go up in the air,” admits Shailee.

The challenge has brought the seven members in a sisterhood of climbing and social activism. Team member Asha Singh says there is a strong bond between the members: “With strong-headed and helpful girls around, we barely have time to think about the difficulties.”

The Africa climb is being supported by WFP, Nepal Tourism Board, Nepal Mountaineering Association, Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, The North Face, and Panchakanya Group. The team is heading next to Mt Aconcagua after they find more support. Says Shailee: “Look at us, we have everything we need to complete the seven summits challenges: a strong team, proven track record and capabilities, the only thing we are short of is funds.”

Tsering Dolker Gurung

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