Women claim top spot for Nepal - on Everest

May 22nd, 2008 - 3:25 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 22 (IANS) After unprecedented participation in the movement that helped bring down King Gyanendra’s absolute regime and making their presence felt in last month’s historic election, Nepal’s women Thursday claimed the top spot for their country on Mt Everest. An expedition by, for and of Nepali women saw five climbers, including first-timers, summit the world’s highest peak with more members readying for a fresh push in the afternoon and Friday.

Sushmita Maskey, a 28-year-old social activist, who had to turn back three years ago when she was only 48 metres away from the 8,848-m summit, proved her mettle Thursday when after a period of uncertainty she stood on top, followed by four more members of the expedition.

Besides Maskey, the First Inclusive Women’s Sagarmatha Expedition - Sagarmatha being the Nepali name for Mt Everest - also put a housewife, a bowling champion, an acupuncturist and a human rights activist atop the highest point in the planet.

“Our expedition symbolises the spirit of the constituent assembly and a new Nepal,” Maskey, leader of the expedition, had told IANS before their departure from Kathmandu.

“It brings together women from the different regions of Nepal and different walks of life to show that climbing Mt Everest is not an elitist activity. Everyone should have equal rights and opportunities.

“It is also meant to strike a blow for equal rights for women.”

The 10-member expedition is accompanied by cooks and Sherpas who are women.

Homemakers who are dismissed as being mere housewives would receive a boost from Nawang Futi Sherpa from Taplejung district who proved to be a winner in her debut attempt. She was also the oldest member of the expedition at 31.

Maya Gurung, a resident of Sindhupalchowk, one of the most disadvantaged districts in Nepal, is a bowling champion while Pujan Acharya, who comes from Dolakha district near the Nepal-Tibet border is a human rights activist.

Pema Diki Sherpa, who also comes from Dolakha, is an acupuncturist.

The expedition also includes Nimdoma Sherpa, the youngest member at 17, Chunu Shrestha, a sales girl in Kathmandu, and Usha Bista, a climber who lost two fingers due to frost bite last year when she was abandoned near the summit by her guide.

The expedition aroused the interest of Nepal like never before and was supported by the Danish Embassy as well as the UN Development Programme.

Nepal’s culture, tourism and civil aviation ministry also gave them a boost by waiving the high licence fee and contributing Nepali Rs.1 million.

This year, for the first time in its history, climbers saw China and Nepal, the two countries through which the way to Mt Everest lies, ban all expeditions to ensure a trouble-free journey for the Olympic torch that was carried to the summit.

While Nepal had announced the ban till May 10 but lifted it before that as the torch completed its journey May 8, China will not allow any expeditions to the world’s best-loved peak this season fearing demonstrations by Tibet activists.

Though 32 expeditions signed up from Nepal, there was confusion among the mountaineers who did not know how long the ban would continue.

There was also unprecedented security presence and censorship by the Nepali authorities to prevent anti-China protests.

Earlier this month, Nepal stopped an American climber and deported him after security personnel found a Free Tibet banner in his rucksack.

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