When Dawa Yangzum Sherpa first set her sights on being a mountain guide, she was told it was no job for a woman. Now she has proved her doubters wrong, becoming Nepal’s first woman to earn a prestigious international qualification.
Last month, the 27-year-old completed a rigorous course run by the Swiss-based International Federation of Mountain Guides, often described as a doctorate in mountaineering.
The prestigious qualification has been awarded to about 6,000 people worldwide and just 50 men in Nepal, despite climbing being a major revenue earner for the impoverished country.
Sherpa belongs to the Himalayan ethnic group that has become synonymous with mountain guiding thanks to their reputation for being strong climbers with a natural tolerance for the lack of oxygen at high altitudes.
However, in Nepal — home to eight of the world’s highest mountains — climbing remains a man’s job.
“This is a challenging field, even more so if you are a girl. There were people who said this is not a girl’s job, that I won’t get work or [asked] what I will do if I have kids,” Sherpa said.
Mountaineering is the lifeblood of Sherpa’s home village in Rolwaling Valley, which neighbors Mount Everest, and scores of its residents have summited the 8,848m peak.
“I knew what I wanted to do,” Sherpa said. “My passion was to be outdoors, to climb, and my family did not discourage me.”
At 17, Sherpa was already guiding tourists on trekking routes, and soon after that scaled her first mountain, Nepal’s 5,500m Yala Peak.
US climber David Gottlieb, who works with US-based expedition operator Alpine Ascents International, remembers Sherpa showing great promise when he roped her in for an ice-climbing trip in the Rolwaling Valley.
“It is something else to see that great a promise of ability in a craft that not everybody is good at. And she displayed that immediately,” Gottlieb said.
After racking up a number of smaller summits, Sherpa was in 2012 selected to join an expedition organized by National Geographic to the world’s highest peak.
“Everest used to be my aim. I used to think that once I scale Everest it would be enough,” she said. “But climbing is like an addiction. The more I climbed, the more I wanted to climb.”
It was after returning from that successful summit that she signed up to become a certified mountain guide.
In 2014, she was part of the first Nepalese women’s team to scale Pakistan’s K2, considered one of the world’s toughest climbs.
Last year, she attempted to climb the world’s third-highest peak, Kangchenjunga on the Nepal-India border, but bad weather forced her to turn back before the summit.
“She was already moving forward to become one of the top women mountaineers not just in Nepal but in the world, but this certificate will open many new opportunities for her,” Nepal National Mountain Guides Association president Sunar Bahadur Gurung said. “Dawa is very capable, but is also extremely determined.”
Sherpa plans to guide a team to Denali, North America’s highest peak, with Alpine Ascents International in June, before returning home to Nepal where she works as an instructor at two climbing schools.
She hopes that she is just the first of many women from Nepal who will look to the fabled peaks of the Himalayas for a career.
“I didn’t have anyone to look up to and sometimes doubted if I could do it,” she said. “But hopefully my small success will inspire other girls to follow their dreams.”
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around