Crossing the seven seas to climb all the seven highest mountains in seven continents
After climbing Mt Everest in 2008, seven of us Nepali women have been on a mission to climb the highest mountains in seven continents. After Everest we did Elburz in Europe, Kosciuszko/Targangil in Australia, and Kilimanjaro in Africa.
Fifth was Aconcagua, at 6961m the highest mountain in South America and also the tallest outside Asia. The Andean climb was going to be different in many ways. This time we had to fully support ourselves unlike previous climbs before. We had trained very hard and the excitement of getting closer to the completion of the mission was getting unbearable when we took the long flight from Kathmandu to Argentina on 11 February.
There was also the comfort of knowing that we were with our team. At Base Camp (pic, above), as we sang, danced and laughed, word spread that the Nepali women had arrived. Climbers from other expeditions would come to talk to us about our mission and about Nepal. It was heart-warming to see how much respect and admiration our country has in the climbing fraternity.
We hadn’t trained so hard before, not even for Mt Everest, because we knew that we had to carry everything ourselves up the mountain, pitch tents and cook even though we had guides. Their job was to primarily show the way.
Expeditions to Aconcagua are normally 18-21 days with the summit target on the 14th day. The weather forecast showed that 23 February was our only summit window. We had no choice but to cut down our acclimatisation days and push for the summit on the ninth day. On the windy morning of 23 February, we started for the top.
Despite the wind we were all doing fine. Shailee and Maya were feeling cold, but we all kept pushing on, hoping that the sun would warm us up. They were both using old mittens, which had worked well on Everest, but seemed not enough for the chilly wind of the southern Andes. Shailee and Maya didn’t want to slow down the team, and were trying to go as far as they could.
When we reached 6,300m they insisted that the team split in two. Chunu Shrestha, Asha Kumari Singh, Pema Diki Sherpa and I continued with our guide Maxi. Roger, another guide, was left with Shailee, Maya and Pujan.
We continued up the big rocky face of Aconcagua, with few tricky traverses.Before reaching the summit we got a call from Shailee, Maya and Pujan. They had turned back, but were safe and sound.This was a huge disappointment; we had hoped that they would catch up with us.
When we reached the summit, there wasn’t the usual elation. We called the three friends again, and were all in tears. They congratulated us and said, “You are our heroes.” It was a bittersweet moment. But yes, we had done it.
We took out the Nepal flag and the banners of all our sponsors. When we got down to be reunited with our friends at Camp II, we felt they had made a good decision to turn back at the right moment.
After the ascent, the team promoted Nepal in South America. We met with professional women from Brazil and they were impressed to hear how United Nations World Food Programme’s afternoon meal scheme back home in Rolwaling was the reason I could complete my schooling. They were also interested to hear that I now visit schools all over Nepal with my team to motivate youth to believe in education.
Together with Nepal Tourism Board and the Embassy of Nepal in Brazil we also took part in promotional events in Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo. It has been a tough journey so far, and we have made it because of the trust and faith of many. And now it’s two more challenges: Mt McKinley the highest mountain in North America and Mt Vinson Massif in Antarctica later in the year.
7 Summits Women Team will speak at CSGN at Shankar Hotel, 26 March, 6pm
WOMEN ON TOP, TSERING DOLKER GURUNG
Seven women, seven summits, CANDICE NEO