Nepali housewife, salesgirl, journo…off to conquer Everest

April 23rd, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 23 (IANS) Ten Nepali women are trying to create history this summer with an expedition to Mt. Everest that, like never before, brings together people from different walks of life. The First Inclusive Women’s Sagarmatha Expedition - Sagarmatha being the Nepali name for Mt Everest - also attempts to put the largest number of women atop the world’s highest peak.

Led by Sushmita Maskey, the expedition includes a housewife, a salesgirl and a beautician. The team is already at the Everest base camp. It is also remarkable for including two women who were abandoned on the 8,848-metre peak during their earlier attempts and overcame great odds to try again.

Usha Bista, a 23-year-old from the remote Kailali district in farwestern Nepal that lacks roads, electricity and tap water, was abandoned by her guide only a few hundred metres below the summit last year, triggering an international outcry.

By a stroke of luck, Usha, who had fallen unconscious due to lack of food and oxygen, was rescued by two Western climbers.

She had lost her right thumb due to frostbite, making climbing a difficult task. Still, the wire-thin former athlete has bounced back, aiming to attempt the elusive peak once again.

In 2005, Maskey, a resident of Kathmandu, had to turn back when she was only 48 m away from the summit. Her feeling of failure deepened when the same year, another girl from her Newar community, Moni Mulepati, made mountaineering history by not only becoming the first Newari girl to reach the top but also tying the knot there with her Sherpa beau.

“I still have a debt of Nepali Rs.300,000,” a wry Maskey told IANS before setting out for the climb.

The First Inclusive Women’s Sagarmatha Expedition is trying to keep the spirit of the constituent assembly elections alive by giving an opportunity to women from all walks of life and geographical regions to set an example in courage and endurance.

Since the climb is prohibitively expensive, it is attempted mostly by the affluent. Also, climbers from the Sherpa community, the mountain people of Tibetan origin, have been the ones to dominate mountaineering records due to their legendary powers of endurance in freezing temperatures.

Of the 10 women, Asha Singh comes from the Terai plains and is the first Madhesi to attempt the feat.

Madhesis, one of the most disadvantaged communities with nearly no representation in the government, judiciary and army for centuries, have also used the elections as a platform to fight for their rights and emerged as a regional power.

The youngest, Pema Diki Sherpa, is 17 while the oldest, Nawang Futi Sherpa, is 31.

The others include an acupuncturist, a journalist and a bowling champion.

The women are among the 30-odd teams that have obtained permission from the Nepal government to scale the peak from the Nepal side.

This year, there has been growing uncertainty about Everest expeditions with China stopping all teams from proceeding through Tibet to ensure a smooth journey of the Olympic torch to the top while Nepal, under pressure from China, has put a curb on all Everest expeditions till May 10.

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