Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All-Female Sherpa Climbing Team Turns Attention to Kangchenjunga

One of the best stories to come out of the mountaineering world over the past few years has been the emergence of the Maya Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, and Dawa Yangzum Sherpa as a high profile climbing team. The three women have joined forces to knock off some of the tallest – and toughest – mountains on the planet, and they aren't finished yet. But they have also found themselves struggling not just with the peaks that they have elected to climb, but also plenty of bureaucracy and misunderstanding as well.

The three ladies have already successfully climbed both Mt. Everest and K2. They were part of the very successful climbing season that took place in Pakistan this summer, and were able to summit K2 on July 26. In doing so, they became the first Nepali women to top out on the second highest mountain on the planet – one that is considered much more difficult to climb than Everest itself.

You would think that having knocked off two of the highest profile mountains on the planet, these women would have little problem finding sponsors to assist them in their endeavors. But according to a recent story in the Nepal Times, they are finding very little support for their efforts, even back home in a country that thrives on mountaineering. When they announced that they intended to climb K2, the response from many officials in Nepal was "Where is that?" Never the less, the Ministry of Tourism in Nepal pledged to give the team Rs 500,000 (roughly $8000) to help pay for their expedition. They have yet to receive any of that money, and they still owe Rs 2 million (about $31,600) on their K2 expedition.

Despite these set backs, they are forging ahead with plans to climb another 8000 meter peak. In the spring they hope to make an attempt on Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world at 8586 meters (28,169 ft). The mountain is located along the border of Nepal and Tibet, which will hopefully aid their cause in finding funding for the expedition. 2015 will mark the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain, and the girls hope to be there to commemorate that historic event.

When not climbing, the three women – each of whom is married – works as trekking and climbing guides. They are also very active in Himalayan Women Welfare Society, and organization focused on improving the lives women living in the region. They hope to be a good example for young Nepalis, many of whom don't know much about the mountains that surround them.

Considering all of the stories we've heard about the Nepali government over the past year, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that officials would promise to help this team, only to not deliver on that promise and provide the women with the funds they need. Hopefully they will find a good connection with some sponsors, as they certainly deserve to have some attention drawn to their adventures in the mountains.

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