Tuesday, July 15, 2008

FIRST Inclusive women expedition in mt. everest

First inclusive women expedition in mt. Everest 

Women occupy over the half population of Nepali demography. Yet if we look at the statistics, only seven women attempted to climb Mount Everest, while their counterpart male numbers over thousand," Sushmita Maskey, the event coordinator of First Inclusive Women's Sagarmatha Expedition Spring 2008 (FIWSE 2008), began rather candidly.
Her fragile outlook and lady-like demeanor did not agree with the passion and strength with which she spoke of Mount Everest. Nevertheless, she resumed with an overwhelming fervor, "Even as a toddler I had the urge to be on top, whether it was a hill, a mountain or just a pile of dirt. Later I realized I was obsessed with climbing and reaching on the top."
However, Sushmita is not alone to venture this Herculean task. Twelve like-minded women, who have dared to be literally on the top of the world, assist her. The group will also have lady porters, medical officers, liaison officer, and mule drivers.
Inclusive, as the expedition is, it includes thirteen women representing various ethnic and geographical backgrounds such as Highlander Sherpas, Newars from the Kathmandu Valley, Tibeto-Burman Gurungs, Tamangs from the middle hills, Indo-Aryan Brahmins, Chhetri of the midlands and Danwar from the lowland tarai.
"It is probable that three Sherpa expedients might leave us. However, since we have four Sherpa's we'll have at least one representative of the group," explained Maskey.
Interestingly enough, the expedition is not inclusive in terms of ethnicity and geography but profession as well.
To being with Sushmita has modeled for many international brands, while Asha Kumari Singh is a beautician. Asha's odyssey from the orthodox Madheshi family in Janakpur to a member of an expedition team already bears a testimony to her strength to face challenges. Another expeditor Sailee Basnet is a journalist at Himal Media, while Pujan Acharya is an activist and athlete. Pemadiki Sherpa is an acupuncture nurse.
On the other hand, the crew includes expedients from seventeen-year-old Nimdoma Sherpa to thirty-one year old Nawang Phuti Sherpa.
Sushmita and Usha Bista had already attempted climbing Everest. However, for rest other the expedition is maiden venture. "We have made a point to provide all climbers a basic course on mountaineering though," said Sushmita, who is probably the most trained climber in the team.
With that, it is perhaps ironic that the idea of expedition was actually a brainchild of a duo of males though.
"I was always surprised why Nepali woman couldn't make into Everest expedition. Initially, I thought it was perhaps because they were not robust enough. Nevertheless, during my stint as a mountaineering instructor at the United Kingdom, France and a few other countries, I realized it had nothing to do with physical strength but rather with the degree of opportunities available," said Da Gombu Sherpa, one of the conceivers.
Da Gombu shared this idea with Pemba Dorje Sherpa, who has maintained the world record of climbing Everest within eight hours and three minutes. "Pemba not just appreciated the idea but also took an initiative to materialize it," Da Gombu said affably.
After Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, mounted the roof of the world in 1953, it took exactly four decades for Pasang Lhamu Sherpa to climb Everest. In a way, the first all-female-Nepali team "Millennium Everest Expedition," was assembled in 2000 and included four Sherpa women. However, Lhakpa Doma Sherpa, the leader of the team alone reached the top.
To the date only seven Nepali women – the late Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, Lhakpa Doma Sherpa, Ming Kipa Sherpa, Moni Mulepati Sherpa, Maya Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa and Pemba Doma Sherpa — have accomplished the feat.
"Therefore, our effort is to empower Nepali women and enable them take challenges for themselves," added Sailee Basnet.
When asked if she had any plans to establish herself as a first Nepali lady journalist to climb Everest, she threw a quick repartee, "Everest is my personal quest. Even if thousands of Nepali female journalists would've already mounted it before, I would be equally excited to climb Everest."
"However, we want to make it loud and clear that we are not feminist in anyway and neither have we planned to be gender or ethnicity biased," she told.
According to the group, the expedition is not an ultimate project but just a beginning of many national and international ventures. Its major goal, as Sailee shares, is not to endorse few more names to the list of Everest summits but a genuine attempt to provide an opportunity to aspiring women climbers to prove themselves.
"Climber's Club, which has organized the expedition will continue with the theme 'Unity in Diversity' in coming future too," said Da Gombu speaking in the capacity of founder president of the club.
The approximate calculation shows that a budget of over ten million rupees will be needed to complete the expedition. The group is still involved in fund-raising programs. The mission will start in the first week of April and will last for about a couple of months, if things go the planned way.
The tour holds the motto "Unity in Diversity" and thus hopes to bring end to racial and communal disputes and form a unified nation or "The New Nepal" as Sushmita gracefully puts in.
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