Frontline World

NEPAL, Dreams of Chomolongma, May 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "Dreams of Chomolongma"

Update on the Women Climbers

The Long Climb Up

A Nepali Heroine: Pasang Lhamu

Nepal Country Profile

The Mount Everest Region, Sherpa Life, Nepali Women





Dawa and son

Dawa Sherpa with her son Phurba Namgyal in front of her house.
Dawa Sherpa
Home with the Baby

"I'm currently living with my parents in Khumjung, where I help plant potatoes, buckwheat and with the household chores. Since my son is quite young, I can't leave him and go far. I'll stay at home for a couple of years till he's older.

"During the 2000 Everest expedition, I gained a lot of experience about climbing. Before that, Everest expeditions just meant the tons of sweets, chocolates, goodies that were taken up to base camp. Later I realized that Everest meant fame, fortune and opportunity. But I haven't been able to utilize my experience. So my economic status is the same. Soon after I came back, I got married and had a baby. I haven't been on a trek or expedition. I've had a couple of opportunities. I was asked to go to Xishapangma, but since I was pregnant, my mother didn't let me go. After having the baby, I got a chance to go to Amadablam as Sherpa support staff. But I couldn't leave the baby -- he was still nursing. It would be hard to leave the baby, hard for me and hard for the people at home who would have to take care of him. So I'm basically helping out at home, doing what I've always done.

Life After Everest

Dawa, son and sister in Khumjung

Dawa Sherpa with her son Phurba and sister Pemba Jangbu in Khumjung.
"I have received a certain amount of fame. When I was heading up toward Everest base camp in 2000, I came across a group of locals who were talking about the women's expedition, including about myself. I was right there. They didn't recognize me, but they knew me by name. If I hadn't been on the 2000 Women's Everest Expedition, who would know of me? Sometimes media people come by seeking me out.

"My parents and husband are pretty supportive about me wanting to climb. They say I shouldn't miss a good opportunity if it comes by, that I should climb when I'm still young and make a name for myself if I can. But I've realized it's easy to do what you want when you're single and free. But now that I'm married, I need to think of the baby, my family, my husband, consult with them.

"I know some young girls who would love to climb Everest given the opportunity. Some have asked me to help them. But how can I? Who would I approach? Since 2000, I've heard that Lhakpa climbed Everest from Tibet and is trying again this year. Pemba Doma Sherpa also made her second ascent of Everest from Nepal. That's about it, I haven't heard of any other Nepali woman climbing.

Dawa in Khumjung

Dawa Sherpa in Khumjung.
"Before Everest, I used to work as a porter, a yak driver and any odd job that I could get. But after Everest, one tends to aim for bigger things. People know you, you not only make a name for yourself but for your village; you win respect for women as a whole. I didn't reach the top. So if I get a chance, I want to get to the summit, go abroad, travel the world, make good money. Climbing smaller peaks doesn't really count. I want to climb Everest just once. Since having my son, I may have lost a lot of weight and look thinner. That's probably because he's still nursing. But I'm still strong.

"When we were young, my friends and I were in awe of Pasang Lhamu [the first Nepali woman to attempt Everest; she died on the descent]. I remember talking about how it would be great to get a chance to go to Everest. Some friends said women couldn't do it. I insisted that women could. When the news of her death came, we speculated on how she died, whether she was blown off the mountain, had fallen into a crevasse, or died in an avalanche. I wondered whether death was instantaneous or whether she had survived on the Everest for a couple of days. But when I was on the mountain, I felt no fear."

Mingma Sherpa GO

Lhakpa Sherpa GO


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