Mountains to Climb

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa first Nepali woman to summit Everest

Mountains to Climb

Little was expected of girls like Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali woman to summit Everest.. She was born in 1961 into one of Nepal’s lower ethnic minorities and received no formal education. But a woman on the mountain finds her own power.

An early sign that Pasang was not going to settle for what was offered her was when she refused the arranged marriage planned for her. Instead, still a teenager, she left her village of Lukla for Kathmandu, to pursue her dream to climb.

As a mountaineer, Pasang accepted no limitations. In 1983, she climbed Mount Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. She subsequently reached such heights as Yala Peak, Pisang Peak, and Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest mountain. But sixth-highest was not high enough, and so Pasang set her sights on the highest of them all: Everest.

Through Thamserku Trekking, the trekking company of which she was a cofounder, Pasang met French mountaineer Marc Batard, who recruited her to guide the 1990 expedition in which Christine Janin would become the first French woman to reach the top of Everest. Though Pasang’s guidance was indispensable to the expedition, when they approached the summit, Batard sent Pasang back down, without summiting.

Undeterred, Pasang finally convinced a reluctant Nepalese government to let her bring glory to her own country and lead an expedition, and, on April 22, 1993, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa became the first Nepali woman to reach the summit of Everest.

Today, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa’s heroic accomplishments serve as inspiration to the people of Nepal and to women all over the world. You can see her statue in Bouddha, Chuchepati. You can find her on a postage stamp. Look for a photo of her in each Mountain Lodge of Nepal—for these lodges grew from her legacy, and are run by her family, with the hope that Pasang’s courageous and committed spirit endures through Mountain Lodges of Nepal.

—Ray Olson