National Geographic revealed its selections for the 2016 Adventurers of the Year. That list was long, and distinguished, with such names as Dawn Wall climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, long-distance paddler Freya Hoffmeister, and ultrarunner Scott Jurek. After the list of recipients of the awards are released however, Nat Geo also launches an online campaign that allows the general public to cast their votes for their favorite adventurer personalities as well. This award is known as the People's Choice Adventurers of the Year, and yesterday the winner was announced at long last.
This year's top vote getter in this category was Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, a female Sherpa – aka Sherpani – who is redefining what we know about the women of Nepal. Her list of mountaineering accomplishments is impressive to say the least, with successful summits on Everest, K2, Lobuche Peak, and a host of others. She is also one of the first students to attend the Khumbu Climbing Center, and became Nepal's first female climbing instructor as well. But what really stands out is her tireless efforts to help rebuild her home country in the wake of last year's devastating earthquake that left more than 9000 people dead, and destroyed whole villages.
Through her efforts, both climbing and humanitarian, Pasang Lhamu has become an important role model to the women of Nepal. She shows them what is possible, even in a country where women are still struggling to find their own voice and identity. Because of this, she has become a major personality in her country, where there were organized campaigns to vote early and often to get the People's Choice award for her. And it is much deserved!
Congratulations to Pasang Lhamu on receiving this honor, and to all of the 2016 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year.