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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Sherpa Widows Challenge Taboos as They Eye Everest

Media & Culture

7Dnews London

Fri, 29 Mar 2019 12:31 GMT

Two Sherpa women have challenged Nepal's conventions by attempting to climb to the summit of Everest, forcing their conservative, patriarchal community to rethink about the role of widows, after the family breadwinner dies.

The two women both widows of Sherpa climbers, Furdiki Sherpa and Nima Doma Sherpa, hail like their late husbands from the Himalayan people who are revered for their skill as climbing guides at high altitudes. They are planning their ascent together in May.

"The men climb. We had other things to do. I was running a tea house and taking care of my family. I didn't think about climbing the mountains," Furdiki told AFP.

That changed in 2013, when her husband died while fixing ropes along the route that aid climbers to the summit. Furdiki was suddenly alone, without a breadwinner to help raise their three children.

A year later, another tragedy brought her into contact with Nima Doma, whose husband was swept to his death with 15 other Nepali guides in a deadly Everest avalanche.

"After our husbands passed away, we spent months just crying at home over their memories. But we had to take care of our family and ourselves. It was not easy to do this as a widow," said Nima Doma.

"We started sharing our stories, our grief, and what we should do in life," Furdiki said.

In need of work, the pair sought jobs as trekking guides in the capital Kathmandu. After helping guide some amateur treks, the women started serious mountaineering training and soon planned to climb to the summit of Everest, the world’s highest mountain.

They successfully climbed both Island Peak and Chulu Far East Peak, two difficult Nepalese mountains with ascents of over 6,000 metres (19,700 feet). Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains.

Their Everest dream comes as attitudes toward women and climbing are slowly changing in this overwhelmingly male-dominated arena.

About 4,000 Sherpa men have ascended the peak, according to the reputable Himalayan Database, compared to just 34 Sherpa women.

"Women are rarely encouraged to take up climbing," said Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, the only internationally certified female mountaineering guide in Nepal.