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  • Writer's pictureJeannette McGill

Mountaineering Moments #8 . . . Dawa Yangzum Sherpa

It had been a dream of mine to see the Himalaya’s with my own eyes. This took until 2011 to achieve, as Peru/Bolivia had been my mountaineering go-to. I jumped into an Everest Base Camp-Island Peak combo trip that someone had persuaded me to join. The Nepalese agents sent us on our way from KTM. There was a shy Nepalese girl hanging at the back of the group, mostly listening to music. It was only once we got to Namche Bazaar that I realised she was one of our guides. A week later we were tackling the steep snow face that tests climbers near the summit of Island Peak & Dawa Yangzum came into her own. She commanded presence & was a highly competent climber. For various reasons I struggled that day & she stayed with the group’s faster members, but it remains a privilege to be guided by - and remain in contact with, someone who has gone on to achieve great things. We last exchanged shouted “Tashidelek’s” and a brief chat in early January 2020 on the Lukla airport tarmac, beside an idling Dornier engine as she was arriving with a group of female climbers headed for the Khumbu Climbing Centre; while I was thankfully heading to the warmth of KTM after my winter Mera expedition. I admire the example she sets for all us women, no matter our age, that anything is possible.

Originally from the Rolwaling Valley, Dawa Yangzum always knew she wanted to summit Everest. After a brief stint as an ultra-trail runner (she finished runner up in the Everest Sky Race), and competitive rock climbing (she was runner up in 2011 Nepal Nationals) she focused full-time on climbing mountains. She realised her Everest goal in 2012, the year after our Island Peak trip. She then started international mountain guide training becoming the first female Nepalese to be issued the prestigious IFMGA certification. She is a team climber for The North Face, supports the Khumbu Climbing Centre, splits her time between the USA and Nepal guiding, and recently enjoyed a meal in Jackson Hole with (can I be a little jealous?!) Jimmy Chin and his family.

I like this quote Dawa gave Redbull: “There are a lot of other girls who can't go to 8,000m. Their bodies can’t do it, and it’s so expensive and takes so much time, But they can be really good at rock climbing or ice climbing and climb something else. Your first ascent, it doesn’t have to be really hard. You don’t need to be really wealthy. You just slowly, slowly, go on.”

Favourite Mountain Expedition to Date: My favourite mountain is Ama Dablam and it’s the first big mountain I summited, it’s very beautiful peak to guide and you can experience ice, rock, snow and it’s inexpensive then 8000m peaks.

Top 2 gear must haves: It’s hard one: but Headlamp & Sunglasses

Hardest Lesson: The hardest decision is always to turn around, but I think I am still alive because that’s always been a good choice

Music or Audio books: Music it’s Nepali, English and Tibetan

Sunrise or Sunset: Sunrise, especially when I was climbing in night time and when I see sunrise it makes me feel different and can’t explain how beautiful and also I will know it’s gone be warm 😄

First post-Covid project: I was supposed to guide Everest and now I don’t know what’s my next plan.

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