30 May - 5 June 2014 #709

All eyes on K2

Pradip Bashyal, Nepal, 25 May

A conversation with mountaineer Maya Sherpa, 35 (pic, centre), who with Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, 29, and Dawa Yangjum Sherpa, 25, is preparing to climb Mt K2 in Pakistan, the second highest peak in the world, to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on mountain ranges.

Why climb K2?

Mountaineering is like an addiction and all of us are fully immersed in it. We have experience climbing other peaks, but we also wanted a more technical challenge. And it can’t get any more technical than K2. You need to master rock climbing, ice climbing, and snow climbing techniques to summit K2, which is why they call it the ‘mountain of mountains’. Very few people repeat expeditions to K2 and only 317 people have reached the top in 60 years of mountaineering. One in four summiteers die. Seven women have summited K2, three of whom did not make it back.

Do you think you have what it takes?

Well, you’ll never know until you actually face difficulties. But we’re full of confidence and training hard.

Have you summited Everest before?

Since mountaineering is our business, we practically go up and down Sagarmatha. Pasang and I got the chance to summit in 2007 and Dawa in 2012.

How did your expedition get a climate change connection?

Because ours is the first all-woman team to take on K2, a lot of people wanted us to focus on the gender side of things. Others wanted us to campaign for domestic violence. But we had seen ourselves what climate change does to mountains and because of the recent incident on Everest, we thought raising awareness about climate change would be best.

How did you gather support?

Even the most economical of expeditions cost at least Rs 8 million. We were fortunate that organisations like Sherpa Gear, ICIMOD, Nepal Mountaineering Association, Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal and other mountaineering companies contributed to 70 per cent of our cost. And people from our community filled the gap saying they wanted us to go ahead in high confidence. Now we will summit come what may.