4-10 July 2014 #714

They climbed another mountain

Mountaineering is only part of the journey for Nepal’s inspiring Seven Summits Women’s Team
Matt Miller

ARE WE THERE YET?: Four of seven team members (pic, l-r) Pema Diki Sherpa, Chunu Shrestha, Asha Kumari Singh, and Nimdoma Sherpa conquered the summit of Mt Denali in Alaska on 24 June, their sixth summit on seven continents.
What does the top of North America look like? It’s no longer surprising that seven Nepali women can tell you.

But for the record: “The weather is foggy but it’s great being here.” That is how Asha Kumari Singh described the view from the6,194m summit of Mt Denali on 24 June at 1:45pm.

Thirteen days after arriving at base camp on Kahiltna Glacier, five members of the Seven Summits Womens Team from Nepal reached the top: Chunu Shrestha, Nimdoma Sherpa, Asha Kumari Singh, Pema Diki Sherpa, and cameraperson Ang Tshering Lama.

The successful climb of Mt Denali in Alaska (also known as Mt McKinley) was their sixth climb of the highest peaks on six continents since they climbed Mt Everest in 2008. The team is scheduled to climb Mt Vinson in Antarctica in December.

Fog was just one of the elements that made for a difficult climb. The team waited, bags packed, for five days at Camp 14 at 4300m for the weather to clear. The final summit push started at 7.50am on 24 June and it took them six hours to get to the top.

During their descent, the women waited out a blizzard still high up on the mountain.

“To protect from wind, the climbers need to build an ice wall which we hadn’t done in other climbs,” expedition coordinator Shailee Basnet explained via email. “So weather was certainly a much bigger factor than other mountains.”

This was also the women’s first selfsupported climb which presented its own challenges. Including backpacks and sleds full of supplies, they were pulling over 50 kgs each on the glacier. In contrast to Mt Everest which is only 3,000m from Base Camp to top, Denali’s base is at nearly sea level, making it a 6,000m ascent.

Not all of the seven women reached the summit. Maya Gurung was diagnosed with pneumonia before the climb, Pujan Acharya was affected by a shoulder problem that hampered her last climb and Shailee Basnet had to stay back at camp to take care oflogistical issues.

“Along the way we’ve met numerous people who have shown implausible belief and trust in what we are doing. That’s the fuel that keeps us going,” Basnet said. “Also, our strength is certainly being a team. We motivate, support and correct each other all the time.”

Their reception in North America has been overwhelmingly positive. They have been noticed, and come across people absolutely in love with Nepal.

The women will be speaking at the Lions International Club at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. The US State Department has also organised a week-long tour of meetings and media interaction in Los Angeles and Washington DC.

The cycle of receiving support, and sharing it again in return as positive ambassadors for Nepal and for women, truly exemplifies their slogan: “Together we reach higher.”

Read Also:

Women On Top, Tsering Dolker Gurung

High Five, Nimadoma Sherpa

Seven Women, Seven Summits, Candice Neo