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The Record Setters


Seven Summits Women (L to R): Shailee Basnet, Maya Gurung, Asha Kumari Singh, Pujan Acharya, Pema Diki Sherpa, Chunu Shrestha. Nim Doma Sherpa is missing in the photo.

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.


Seven Nepalese women have lofty ambitions to scale seven summits

‘Super Sherpa’ sets record with 21st ascent of Everest, then calls it a day

Childhood dream leads climber up Everest — twice in one week 

The men who leapt off Everest and paddled all the way to the sea 

From porter to reporter 

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Notes from Nepal: A journey from summit to sea

Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa (left) and Sano Babu Sunuwar share a light moment in the hills of Syangja, western Nepal. Photo: Bibek Bhandari

Read the original article on Man’s World India (pdf).

Flying was a sickening feeling, at least for me.

I was air sick while paragliding at 1,900m. And here I was in Syangja in western Nepal, sitting and sipping tea with the duo who had paraglided from the highest point on earth.

Sano Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa define adventure. You might want to call them crazy. And why not? The duo paraglided from Mt Everest, set a world record by doing a free flight at 8,665m and then after landing at 3,780m, they kayaked all the way to the Bay of Bengal in India following Nepal’s rapid rivers and the Ganges in India.

For Sunuwar, 28, who had never climbed any mountain, and Sherpa, 37, who didn’t even know how to swim, the challenge was tough. But they shared a common dream: to fly from one of the world’s highest point.

“We both trusted our professions,” Sunuwar says. “I trusted my paragliding and water skills. He also trusted his mountaineering skills.”

Nodding his head in approval, Sherpa says, “I trusted his skills and credibility or I wouldn’t have jumped in.”

On April 21, team Sunuwar and Sherpa left Pokhara for Kathmandu. The following day they reached Lukla from where the trek to Everest begins.

For Sunuwar, adapting to such heights was a problem, and he became sick a number of times. But Sherpa helped him all the way up to 8,848m. the ascent that started on April 21 ended on the morning on May 21.

Their 45 days of rigorous climb to the summit was then superseded by a 45-minute descent to 3,780m at Syangoche in the Khumbu region where they were welcomed by beer on one hand and flower garlands on other.

“But this wasn’t the end,” Sunuwar says.

On June 3, with a double canoe, and paddles Sunuwar and Sherpa followed the river to the sea.

With no prior experience in the water or the know-how to paddle, the man from the mountain was pushed in the water in the canoe.

Coming from a high altitude Sherpa also had problems adjusting to the lower lands. At the confluence of the Dudh Koshi and Sun Koshi rivers, Sherpa says he was “suffocated by the warm temperature.” Sherpa, never used to warm climate, had to resist temperatures up to 48 degrees Celsius.

Some days they only survived on mangoes and bananas; at times they hardly had any water to drink. There were nights they spent with dead bodies floating on nearby boats, a tradition in some of the sects in India. And they were also robbed twice.

But despite all the challenges, navigating through an unfamiliar terrain, through Nepal’s rapid river to the Ganges in India, on June 27 at 2 pm, Sunuwar and Sherpa finally made it to the Bay of Bengal.

Their dream had materialized: They trekked to the top of the world, set a world record free flying at 8,865m, flew down to 3,780m and then paddled down to the sea.

But would they repeat anything daring and unconventional as such?

Sunuwar and Sherpa look at each other and laugh.

“I’ll probably go to the river for a vacation,” Sherpa says.

“Yes, I shall go to the mountains for a vacation, too,” Sunuwar adds.

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