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Women climbers on top of the world

March 4, 2013 - Morgan Ryan

By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA

Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — It’s the world’s highest glass ceiling. Of the 3,755 climbers who have scaled Mount Everest, more than half are Nepalese but only 21 of those locals are women.

Aiming to change the all-male image of mountaineering in this country, a group of Nepalese women have embarked on a mission to shatter that barrier by climbing the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents.

The women, aged between 21 and 32, have already climbed Everest in Asia, Kosciuszko in Australia and Elbrus in Europe. They are preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa to mark International Women’s Day this week.

“The main goal of our mission is to encourage women in education, empowerment and environment,” Shailee Basnet, the 29-year-old team leader, said before leaving for Africa. [Seven Summits Women website.]

Women in this Himalayan nation rarely got the chance to climb because they were confined to their homes while their husbands led expeditions or carried equipment for Western climbers, Basnet said.

It was only in 1993 that a Nepalese woman — Pasang Lhamu — first reached the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit of Everest. She died on the way down.

According to Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Nepalese women had traditionally expressed little attraction to mountaineering.

“It is only recently that women have shown interest,” Tshering said.

Since they climbed Everest in 2008, the women have spoken in more than 100 schools across Nepal to tell students about their mission.

“We are hoping to attract more women to mountaineering, both as a profession and as a hobby,” said Pema Dikki, 25, another member of the team.

Basnet said the response to the Everest climb encouraged them to push ahead.

“After Everest, we felt that we needed to go beyond the borders, so we decided to travel to all seven continents to climb the highest mountains there,” Basnet said.

Basnet said the team members have spent their savings, taken out loans and sought sponsorships to finance their expensive gear, climbing permits and plane tickets.

The team plans to speak to students while in Africa to spread their theme, “You can climb your own Everest,” to encourage girls to stay in school.

The team will be joined by two women from Tanzania and one from South Africa during the Kilimanjaro climb.

Nepal has eight of the 14 mountains that are more than 8,000 meters (26,240 feet) in height.

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Very few women (compared to men) have climbed Everest. This woman did it twice in one week:

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepalese mountaineer Chhurim entered the record book by scaling Mount Everest twice in the same climbing season. In fact, she did so a week apart.

Guinness World Records said she is the first woman to climb the world's highest mountain twice in the same season — the brief window of good weather each year that allows climbers to reach the summit.

Nepal's Tourism Minister Posta Bahadur Bogati handed over the Guinness World Records certificate issued to 29-year-old Chhurim on Monday.

She scaled the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit on May 12, 2012, descended to the base camp for a couple of days' rest and then scaled the peak again a week later on May 19.

Chhurim, who uses only one name like most Sherpas, said she is not ready to quit.

"Everest is the first of the highest mountains that I have climbed, but I will continue mountaineering and hope to scale more peaks," she said.

Chhurim said there are not many women mountaineers and only a few of them have records.

"The male mountaineers have set many records but women have fallen behind. It can be difficult for women because they are considered not as strong as men and face many problems like finding toilets," she said.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association said Everest has been climbed by nearly 4,000 people since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal did so in 1953. Women are a small number of them.

The extremely harsh weather conditions that batter the highest Himalayan peaks limit the climbing season to just a few weeks every year. Spring is the most popular season on Everest when hundreds of mountaineers attempt every year. The climbers generally reach the mountain in March or April, acclimatize to the higher elevation and low oxygen and train for climbing the snowy trail to the peak. The weather usually improves for a few days in May when they line up to the summit.

 
 

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