Last week, I met seven women – we talked, laughed and shared their stories from around the world. While my stories spin around sightseeing, hotel stays and everything touristy, they talked about climbing mountains – the highest peak on every continent.
At a first glance, it’s difficult to fathom that they have climbed the highest peak on earth, Mount Everest, along with the highest mountains in Australia, Africa and Europe. By 2015, the Seven Summits Women, as they’re collectively called, are on a quest to ascend the remaining three – the tallest points in South America, North America and Antarctica.
During the past two years, like the Seven Summits Women, I’ve talked to many Nepali mountaineers who have climbed the summits and set records.
I met Apa Sherpa, also called the Super Sherpa, who has climbed Everest a record 21 times before calling it a quit.
I travelled to Syangja in western Nepal to meet Sano Babu Sunwar and Lakhpa Tsheri Sherpa, who climbed Everest, paraglided from 8,848 meters and then kayaked all the way to the Bay of Bengal in India following the Koshi River in Nepal and the Ganges.
I also met Mingmar Dorji Sherpa, who started off as a porter but then assisted film crews and later started reporting about the mountains from the mountain peaks for state-run Nepal TV.
Then recently I interviewed Chhurim Sherpa, the 29-year-old who climbed Everest twice in one week.
It’s always fascinating meeting these courageous, adventurous people. And every time I meet them, I question what is it that makes them go atop a mountain, battling snowstorms, breathing thin air and risking their lives.
“You have to experience that yourself,” said Maya Gurung, one of the seven from the Seven Summits Women. “It’s some sort of addiction.”
I couldn’t agree with her more. But it’s not that I haven’t climbed a mountain. I know what it feels like – trekking up to the Everest Base Camp and also Kalapatthar seemed more than enough to me. The treacherous trek up to 5,500m, though worth it, is still very tough.I can’t think of going beyond that.
And here I talk to them who tell me their Everest stories as if it was just another trek up a small hill.
“I just sang a song all the way up,” Lhakpa told me of the Nepali tune that was his motivation – “Gorkhali ko Choro Hu Ma, Gorkhe Mero Naam (I’m a son of a Gurkha, Gorkhe is my name).”
While the Sunuwar-Lhakpa duo climbed, glided and sailed for the “sake of adventure,” for Apa, the 21-time record setter, climbing Everest, he said was “strictly a profession.”
“When I started climbing, it was to support my family,” he said. His latter climbs had a mission – to raise awareness about climate change and to raise Nepal’s profile in the global map through his record.
Others also share similar views — they all have their motives too.
The Seven Summits Women are on a mission to promote girls’ education and empowerment and Chhurim’s climb was centered around her childhood dream to summit the peak and to raise the profile of Nepali women mountaineers. She wants women to come forward and explore this business that is very much male-dominated.
All the mountaineers I have met have their personal stories, and at the end of the interview, I only get more inspired through their courage, determination, commitment and not to forget the success. I’m not sure if I can ever do what they’ve done, but I’m glad that my job allows me to meet people as such who are passionate about what they’re doing. And in the end, it makes me happy realizing that I’m also passionate about what I’m doing.