Reaching Great Heights

March 20, 2013 , by DREAMS, Leave your thoughts
Reaching Great Heights » My Dreams Mag
Photo: Bibek Bhandari
Chhurim Sherpa climbed Mount Everest for the first time on May 12, 2012. The same week, on May 19, she climbed the world’s highest peak again, becoming the first person in the world to climb Everest twice within one week. The 29-year-old, who was recognized by the Guinness World Records this year, shares her story with Dreams. 

My name is Chhurim Sherpa. I was born in Taplejung district [in northeast Nepal] in a large family—including my parents and seven siblings, we’re a family of 10. Growing up, out of my siblings I was the mischievous one, but I had a more or less of a normal childhood.

We grew up in my village of Ghunsa but it didn’t have classes that ran very high. The only option for further education was to either go to the district headquarter or to Kathmandu, so I only went to school until the eighth grade.

I then decided that I would help my parents run the family guesthouse. I suppose that was the only choice I had. So I cooked, did the dishes, took care of the cattle, and tended to do all the household work.

While I was working in the guesthouse I came across many tourists. I saw them with their backpacks, going for treks. It made me excited to see them. I thought, one day I might as well do the same. It was an early fascination, but I didn’t know if I could do it.

I remember reading about Pasang Lhamu Sherpa — the first Nepali woman to reach Everest’s peak. I think what she did, even thought she didn’t survive the descent, and sparked my mountaineering motives. My brothers were already in this sector, and after reading about Pasang Lhamu, I thought I could join as well. And, as I mentioned, I always wanted to be like those tourists—carry a backpack and go on an adventure.

At least then it was just a fascination. It was this dream of doing something different and being recognised, but I didn’t actually think too much about it.

In 2010 my elder sister asked me if I could come to Kathmandu. She was going on a trip and she wanted me to look after her house while she was away. I didn’t have much to do so I agreed.

While in Kathmandu, since I would be idle, my sister encouraged me to join the Nepal Mountaineering Association’s basic mountaineering course; she knew I was interested.

I then took the course for three months. During this time, I received all basic trainings associated with mountaineering—from climbing to first aid, setting up tents, and health and safety measures in high altitude—I learned it all. We also climbed the Yala Peak in the Langtang region during this period.

That was the beginning.

After the training, I thought I could do more. I was already an adventurous soul, and so I thought of climbing other peaks.

I then climbed Mera Peak and Island Peak. I then went on to climb Mt Ama Dablam and Kun Peak in India.

But then I had this realisation that I should do something much bigger. I knew that I would get nowhere climbing these peaks. Many men and women have climbed before me, and people will continue climbing after I do.

This is when I thought of climbing Everest. But then I thought why would anyone care? I knew I had to take the extra leap and do something that no one has ever done. Many people have climbed Everest and set records but so far, no one has summit the peak twice in one week. Yes, it sounded crazy at first, but then I said to myself ‘Why not me?’

When I shared my idea with my parents, they immediately resented it. They were concerned. But I was resolute and I managed to convince them.

Climbing Everest is difficult – it not only takes a great amount of physical and mental strength, but also a lot of money. Financially, it was a big burden. I’m glad my family supported me in whatever ways they could, and I’m lucky to have found people who provided me with equipment, oxygen, and other essentials required to get me to the top.

The journey to the highest point in the world was daunting: It was exhilarating and exhausting.

My first climb was with a group of five, including myself. I still remember how dangerous it was, especially this one point called the Khumbu Icefall. You see all these huge crevasses and the icefalls and passes seem impossible to get through. But we managed to overcome all the hurdles and reach the top.

When we were on the peak, I was mesmerised by the sight— the 360-degree view was breathtaking. All the other mountains looked tiny; clouds in a circular pattern blanketed most of them. The sight was breathtaking.

While atop Everest, it was necessary for me to take a moment to thank God and my family. Without their support, I couldn’t have accomplished my goal. But it wasn’t the end for sure — I had to do it all over again.

After our first ascent on May 12, it took us two days to get to base camp. I rested there for two more days and, headed back to the top of the world on May 17 along with an aid. We reached the summit after two days, on May 19.

I was absolutely thrilled about conquering the peak for the second time, that too in the same week. That’s what I had wanted, and that’s exactly what I did. I knew I had achieved something great. But before I could indulge in my happiness, I needed to get back to base camp. Then I could celebrate my victory.

I remember flying back to Kathmandu and being greeted by my sister, some friends, and family members at the airport. My parents were still in Taplejung and couldn’t be there to receive me, but of course they were happy; after all, I had proved myself.

I think it’s very important to be determined. In Nepal and especially around my village, people have misconceptions about women in mountaineering. We shouldn’t let those old-school ideals bother us. As women, we’re capable of doing anything. If I can do it, then anyone can do.

I highly encourage other women to join this field, not specifically mountaineering, but tourism in general. There are so many prospects, and I think we can utilise the opportunities.

At the same time, I feel it’s also highly important to become educated. I feel sad that I couldn’t continue my studies. But in this day and time, no one should be left behind. I believe education will further help to empower women.

But even if you’ve missed the opportunity to study, you can still do so much in life. I missed out on education but I found something else. I dreamed about doing something big and becoming someone significant, and I believe I have achieved that today. It’s very important to aspire and follow your dreams, and at the same time be determined.

For me, I’ve set a world record, but I still have miles to go. I’ll certainly climb other peaks in Nepal, and with the right support, I hope I’ll be able to climb the highest peak in every continent.

While that’s all in the future, for now, I’ll just set off on various mini adventures and continue to work in the tourism sector.

(As told to Bibek Bhandari)

  • Chhurim Sherpa

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