22-28 August 2014 #721

Conquering the world

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita

Two members of 'the First Nepali K2 Women Expedition' at the summit.
I, Maya Sherpa and Dawa Yangzom Sherpa are mountain guides. I am from Solu Khumbu. Maya is from Okhaldunga and Dawa is from Dolakha. We became guides because we saw an increasing number of women becoming pilots, engineers, doctors and drivers, but few wanted to become guides in Nepal's mountains.

In our jobs, we have taken dozens of climbers to the top of Yala Peak, Lobuche Peak, Ama Dablam, and Everest among others. It was on one of these expeditions that we heard about Mt K2 in Pakistan, the second highest mountain in the world. It wasn’t just its height, it is also the most dangerous mountain to scale. Out of the 317 people who attempted to climb K2 before us, 80 had died. Somehow, we knew we had to climb it.

So, the ‘First Nepali K2 Women Expedition’ set off with the goal of spreading awareness of climate change and its impact on the mountains. Even more difficult than climbing was the challenge of fund raising. Despite cutting down on expenses, we needed a minimum of Rs 7 million, and fortunately we got our Nepali sponsors.

It was a long, seven-day walk to the Base camp. Unlike Everest Base Camp, K2’s base camp was isolated: no lodges, no crowds. The weather turned bad and we were stuck at Base Camp for a week. On the seventh day, the weather got better and we started going back and forth to Camp 3 to acclimatise.

THE CLIMB: Scaling the steep and challenging face of K2 with other members of the Nepal team.

On the afternoon of 26 July we finally reached the top of K2. We hugged each other and cried and remembered all those who helped our dream come true. We felt like we had conquered the world.

Pemba Sherpa, Lhakpa Sherpa, Ming Dorji Sherpa, Min Gelyu Sherpa were the other Nepalis on our team who kept pushing us to our goal and we are thankful to them.

Mountain woman

Diku Tamang always wanted to be a nurse and serve the sick and needy. She trained as an Auxillary Nurse Midwife, and spent two years in Denmark. Back in Nepal, she worked at a private hospital in Chabahil but couldn’t bear to see the corruption, and quit.

It was then that the 29-year-old Solu Khumbu native found her second calling in life: to be a mountain guide. Diku Tamang first worked at her uncle’s travel company in 2005, taking clients in the Everest region. After learning she was back home, some of her Danish friends contacted Tamang to help organise their Nepal treks.

“Whenever I showed pictures of home to friends in Denmark, they used to tell me they were dying to visit Nepal,” says Tamang.

Now, Tamang (pic, right) is a full-time trekking guide taking visitors to Solu Khumbu, Langtang, Annapurna, Mustang, and Gosainkunda. Sometimes she even goes off the beaten path and takes her clients to Humla, Jumla, Rara, and the far-West.

“Some of my clients want women guides, so even other trekking companies recommend my name,” says Tamang, who currently works for Destination Nepal.

Often it is hotel owners and national park authorities who question her credentials when she takes guests around the country. Nevertheless, she is content to have carved a niche in an industry populated by men.

Rishiram Kattel

Read also:

Ketis on K2, Ayesha Shakya

Women show the way, Bhawani Karki

Three sisters, Candice Neo

Women on top, Tsering Dolker Gurung

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