Vertical limit of a Nepali Woman


Nepal Matters for America features Mrs. Dawa Yangzum Sherpa. Sherpa, a 27 years old woman from Nepal, has become the first South Asian woman to get an international mountain guide license. She now works for the Alpine Ascents International and guides Americans in the mountains of Washington and Alaska. Her fellow mountaineers in America are amazed to see a woman Sherpa, and simply awestruck by her story of struggle and success, shares Dawa.  A little girl from a tiny settlement at the altitude of 14,000 feet in the Himalayas of Nepal has come a long way to achieve the “PhD in mountaineering” in the “men’s profession” – the International Federation of Mountain Guide certification.

Sherpa ran away from her village Rolwaling at 13, and crossed the whopping 20,000 feet pass nearby and landed in Kathmandu to go to school. But her destiny had a different plan for her. As conditions were not right, she unfortunately had to leave her study and go back to her village in the mountains.  It was not easy for her to convince her family to pursue her mountaineering dream as it was a career that only men from her village would pursue.  But it is a different story now and she has tremendous respect in her community for what she has achieved.

Dawa was selected for the National Geographic Everest expedition team of 2012, in which she guided 26 mountaineers (with only 2 female) as the only Sherpa woman in the guide team.  She has climbed several high mountains which she had never imagined that she could do. However, climbing the K2, her dream mountain, was the biggest challenge  she always wanted to take. Finally in 2014, after a 4-month long campaign to raise US $ 80k, she along with her crew flew to Pakistan, although nobody in the team was sure that they would come back alive.

Dawa was “frozen” when she saw the K2 for the first time.  An interesting anecdote she shares is that the Pakistanis challenged her by saying that “even donkeys climb Mt. Everest,” and that the K2 is perhaps not for her.  On the K2’s Bottleneck she felt that it was the “longest 3 hours of her life”. Dawa says: “I climbed many mountains, but the first time I cried on any mountain was at K2”.

To the people who want to achieve something, Dawa’s message is this: “pursue your dream, try, and don’t give up.”

-Nepal Matters for America