One of the most prominent milestones of 1975 must surely be that it was the year when the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest (8,848 m), was conquered for the first time by a woman, Junko Tabei (born September 22, 1939) from Japan. Her historic feat was achieved on May 16, 1975 when reached the summit via the South-East Ridge route. She was already a mother of two children then. Later, in 1992, she succeeded in becoming the first woman to have climbed the summits of the highest peaks on all the seven continents. Tabei‘s feats have inspired many women and this includes Nepali women too. Till date around 90 women climbers have conquered Everest. These include a number of Nepali women climbers, some of who are mentioned herewith.
On the bright and clear morning of April 22, 1993, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa (born Dec 10, 1961) reached the pinnacle of the world’s highest peak to become only the 17th woman and the first Nepali woman to do so. Sadly, on their way down, the weather changed suddenly and turned so bad that Pasang lost her life on the south summit. Her frozen body was recovered 72 meters below the mountaintop only 21 days later. In 2000, Pemba Doma Sherpa became the first Nepali woman to climb Mount Everest via its north face as leader of the “Millennium Everest Expedition”. She also became only the second woman to summit from both the north and south faces. In addition, having achieved her sixth ascent in 2007, she holds the record for most successful attempts by any woman. Unfortunately, she too met a tragic end when she fell from a height of 8,000 m while descending Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest peak.
On May 24, 2003, 15-year-old Ming Kipa Sherpa she climbed Everest from the Tibetan side and in doing so, became the world’s youngest person to achieve this. Because the Nepal government did not allow climbers under 16 years of age to ascend Everest, she did the next best thing and ascended from the Tibetan side. She was accompanied by her sister Lhakpa Chiri and brother Mingma Gyalu. Interestingly, Lhakpa is the only woman to have climbed Everest thrice. She did so twice from the Tibetan side, and once from the Nepali side, the first one being the latter. In 2001, at the age of 29, she conquered Everest again and on May 22 2003, 50 years after the first conquest of Everest by Tenzing and Hillary, she was atop Everest once again.
The first non-Sherpa woman to have ever climbed Everest is Moni Mulepatiwho reached the summit of Everest on May 30, 2005, as part of the Rotary Centennial Everest Expedition when she was 24-years-old. She went to achieve another feat as well—she got married to Pemba Dorjee Sherpa (23), while on the summit! Maya Sherpa, who summited Everest twice, once from the north and once from the south side, is as prodigious a climber as one will find anywhere. She has the distinction of being the first Nepali woman to have climbed numerous challenging peaks such as Ama Dablam 6,812 m, Pumori 7,112 m, Cho Oyu 8,211 m and Khan Tengri 7,010 m, all for the first time.
In 2008, Pemba Dorje Sherpa (who holds the world’s record for climbing Everest in eight hours) assembled a team of 10 Nepali women from various ethnicities and backgrounds for the ‘First Inclusive Women Sagarmatha Expedition 2008 Spring’ (FIWSE). The team so assembled were aged between 17 and 30 and consisted of Sushmita Maskey as the team leader and Shailee Basnet, Chunu Shrestha, Asha Kumari Singh Chaudhary, Nimdoma Sherpa, Maya Gurung, Pemadiki Sherpa, Nawang Phutti Sherpa and Usha Bisht as its members. The mission was a highly successful one with all 10 women reaching the summit in May, 2008. Since then, other women too have gone on to climb the highest peak on earth and in the process, become proud conquerors of Everest.