Sherpa, Dawa Sherpa and Mingma Sherpa on an icefall ladder.
May 2003, FRONTLINE/World co-producer Ramyata Limbu braved
stormy weather in a return to the Everest area, hiking through
mountain villages to track down the Sherpa women she had followed
for "Dreams of Chomolongma" three years earlier. Limbu and
her co-producer, Sapana Sakya, both Nepali natives, had grown
close to these women during the months of filming. Limbu returned
to the Everest area to find out what happened to Mingma Sherpa
and Dawa Sherpa once they came down from the mountain. She also
kept close to news of Lhakpa Sherpa, who at the time was making
her third summit bid from the Tibet side of the mountain.
10 May, Khumjung
I found Dawa Sherpa in Khumjung
at 6:30 in the evening. Dawa is 25 now. She was returning
from her family's potato field, about an hour's walk away
from her village, with her 22-month-old son, Phurba Namgyal.
Also with her were her 13-year-old sister, Pemba Jangbu,
and 16-year-old brother, Shera Gyalzen. Both of the kids
go to Khumjung School, the first school built by Sir Edmund
Hillary. But it was a Saturday, so they had spent the day
weeding the family's potato field and collecting firewood.
All of them looked a bit grimy from a day in the field.
Their parents were away at Pumori Base Camp, working to
transport expedition gear with five of the family's six
zopkio (yaks). Here is what Dawa had to say.
11 May, Tengboche
I caught up with Mingma Sherpa
at the lodge she runs, Himalayan View Lodge in Tengboche.
Dressed in a traditional bakhu, the long garment that women
of the region wear, Mingma was her usual efficient self,
commandeering the cramped kitchen, overseeing the little
shop within the lodge and chatting with tourists. Mingma's
17-year-old daughter, Samden Sherpa, was helping out. She
has just completed the high school board exams and is spending
the spring tourist season with her mother up in Tengboche
while awaiting results. Samden's 19-year-old brother, Sonam,
is in Kathmandu attending college. This is Mingma's story.
20 May, 2003
I haven't been able to speak directly with Lhakpa Sherpa,
who's currently making her third attempt to scale Everest.
If she succeeds in reaching the summit, she will set a world
record: the only woman to have summitted Everest three times.
But tracking the team is complicated: SARS has meant border
closings on the Tibet side of Everest, and Lhapka's team
has been plagued by communications problems. Even reaching
camps close to the climb has been rough; the Maoists destroyed
the telecommunication tower in the area about a year ago,
debilitating stationary telephones. I was able to find some
of Lhapka's family and friends, and hear the latest about
her current progress and her life since the climb. Lhapka's
elder sister Kidiki Sherpa, who lives in the remote village
of Balakharla, had come to Kathmandu to look after Lhapka's
lodgings, and I spoke with her there. Here is what I heard
*Update: On May 22, 2003, the day of
FRONTLINE/World's broadcast of the "Dreams of
Chomolongma" story, Lhakpa Sherpa summitted Everest for the
third time, setting a world record for women.
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