Ten Nepali women are trying to create history this summer with an expedition to Mount 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 far-western 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 metres 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 300,000 Nepali rupees,” a wry Maskey had said 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.