In many Sherpa communities, climbing is still seen as a man’s job and the secrets and skills of the trade are handed down from father to son. However, 27-year-old Nepalese Sherpa athlete, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa is breaking out of that mold as the country’s first certified female international mountain guide, which now qualifies her to escort climbers to the highest peaks in the world, like K2, Everest and Ama Dablam.
Stories of her trips and many others serve as an inspiration for any woman hoping to flame an adventurous spark. In honor of International Women’s Day, we wanted to connect with Dawa to learn more about her passion, dedication and inspiration for high alpine mountaineering.
How did you first start mountaineering and what is your advice for other women wanting to start?
When you grow up in the Rolwaling Valley, which is surrounded by mountains, and most of your family members are involved in mountaineering, it’s difficult NOT to get into mountaineering yourself — especially if you have an adventurous spirit. Even for women who aren’t immersed in the mountain culture though, if mountaineering is something you think you might be passionate about, you should follow that instinct, follow your instinct for any adventure! It’s well worth it!
What’s your inspiration? Your most proud accomplishment?
Reaching the summit of K2 stands out as my most epic adventure memory, but the day I passed the final exam of the International Federation of Mountain Guides (IFMGA) is probably the day that I felt proudest — especially as an Asian woman to achieve a status that has only been achieved by one before me. I am very hopeful that my achievement will encourage other women to pursue this field if they are passionate about it. I just love climbing, and I feel most comfortable when I am in the mountains. That’s all the inspiration I need.
What are your goals for 2018 (and beyond)?
At the beginning of the year, I plan to attempt a 8,000 meter peak in Nepal, and towards the end of the year, I am planning to attempt a first ascent on another peak in Nepal. Obviously mountaineering is a team-work driven sport, especially in the high Himalayan mountains and I’m super grateful for my support network of Sherpa friends and family that have brought me this far. Beyond 2018, there are simply so many mountains and different routes to think about, it’s exciting just to think about them.
These photos are from a recent ice climbing trip in the Rolwaling Valley, Dawa’s home.