9.16.2016

Mountain: Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita "I feel a great sense of freedom up there… quite different from how my society imposes so many rules, especially on women."

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita - together with Maya Sherpa, and Dawa Yangzum Sherpa - became the first Nepali women to summit K2. In her own words...

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita:
“Climbing mountains as a profession was still considered a man’s job. People discouraged me, saying that earning money and supporting family was a man’s role. My father died when I was a small child and at 15 I lost my mother to illness, so I had to step into the caretaker role for my six-year-old sister. I had to be strong for both of us. I almost quit school, but it was always my mother’s hope that I finish, so I stayed. Plus, climbing was always my dream so I pushed forward.
I have always loved mountains. They are extremely fair. They don’t differentiate whether you are a man or a woman. I feel a great sense of freedom up there… quite different from how my society imposes so many rules, especially on women.
We moved to Kathmandu, I finished the high school and started taking mountaineering classes, and because I knew Spanish I landed an assistant trekking guide job that helped support her sister. When I was 19 I became one of the first students at the Khumbu Climbing Center, a program started by alpinist Conrad Anker and Jennifer Lowe-Anker that offers formalized, world-class training for Nepali climbers and guides. Conrad and Jenni are not only amazing climbers but also human beings full of compassion and generosity. They always give back to climbing societies in Nepal. This inspired me to do the same.
We live amidst some of the planet’s most impressive mountains. I felt Nepali women should be part of this integral part of our culture. It was difficult to choose this profession because it was all men, especially in our culture, since daughters are supposed to stay home, get married, and take care of the family. I often wondered: Am I doing the right thing? I had seen a lot of women climb Everest, but never seen any women guiding. Still now I’m married. I’m a good wife and sister, and I still do what I love. This makes all the effort and discomfort worth it.
With my climbing partners Dawa and Maya I realised my dream of climbing K2. In June 2014 we set off under the banner “Women Climbing for Climate Change”. We aren’t experts on climate change, but we’ve seen it: glaciers melting, water drying up, villages moving because they don’t have water… I think even the local people don’t understand what this means for them, so we wanted to attract attention so they’d start to realize how it’s affecting us directly.
I had already climbed Everest and other high peaks but K2 is different… more dangerous and more difficult than Everest. Its weather is more complicated. Its reputation as ‘the mountain of all mountains’ drew us. It took a long time to make it happen, but we wanted to share this moment atop K2 together, as a team of women, all of us married, to promote women in adventure and to send the message that women can do it—be married, have families, and still climb.
At the top… I was so emotional. [We were all] crying… I was too happy to talk. Yes, male Sherpas had supported us. Everyone who climbs big mountains relies on a team of porters or Sherpas. We just did what’s normal in mountaineering… We would like people to recognize us as the first women’s team to summit K2, rather than the first ‘all-women’s’ team.
On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. When I took my clients back to Kathmandu everybody was sitting outside on tarps; roofs were collapsed. People were scared to go inside. Only a year before, while waiting to begin an unsupported, all-female climb with my partner Melissa Arnot, I had witnessed the tragic avalanche on Everest that killed 16 Sherpas. God spared me more than once. I was given a chance to live for a reasonTwo days later, my husband and me began bringing necessities like tarps, food, and first aid supplies to nearby villages before shifting to remote alpine communities. I decided to create a foundation to provide education for Nepali women and girls. Education will open the door on many opportunities that would otherwise be shut for them. This objective keeps me moving forward.” 

Check her site: http://pasanglhamusherpa.com/

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