25th May 2012
The sky was clear blue. Weather could not have been better. “What could have been better is if all of us were together on the summit” is what Chunu thought standing at 8848 m this day in the year 2008.
She remembered how she had cried in South Col just the day before on 24th May when four of the team members returned successful from the summit attempt. It was only her who turned around with leader DaGombu Sherpa. First five members had already summited on 22nd May. Arriving at the last camp I told Chunu, “You are totally going to do it. Just step out of this tent and you will get there.” I knew Chunu could because I myself had turned around in her first attempt. A falling rock had smeared open my guide Pasang’s down jacket and we had decided to return on their own as the remaining team was already way ahead.
Chunu turned around because the weather turned bad for a while. This time remaining members on higher slopes decided to keep going, unaware of happenings down below.
The memory now makes her laugh. Even back then she knew history was written. Chunu, the tenth member to reach the summit had made the First Inclusive Women’s Sagarmatha Expedition, a 100% success. Before we started the climb, only 7 Nepali women had been Everest summiteers. With our team, on this very day, the number rose to 17. The objective of increasing Nepali women’s access to mountaineering and spreading the message of ‘Unity in Diversity’ could not have been met in a bigger way. 10/10. A grand success. Most successful women’s expedition to Everest ever.
But to us what mattered most was that every team member did it. Before the expedition all of us had clearly understood that even if a single person from the team made it to the summit, that would be the entire team’s success. Which also meant, team’s success was more important than individual success. All of us wanted to be on the summit for sure. But we had all accepted that that may not be the case. While we internalized that, each of us also told ourselves very clearly that we were going to give our best. We would respect the nature, limitations of our own health if any, and the wisdom of our leaders but we would not employ half-hearted effort to anything. In retrospective, it certainly seems to have paid off.
In achieving this success, 4 of our members also became first from the respective ethnic communities to become the first female Everest Summiteers. That is an important achievement for the country. What is even more important is that it was a team with women from six different caste backgrounds who worked together and moved mountains to attain what many called impossible.
We had differences, conflicts, problems yet what glued us together was the commitment to the common goal. Each of us wanted the same thing and wanted it bad. One member did not see her failure in another’s success.
The same conviction has kept the 7 of us together even 4 years later. Many people ask us in awe how we manage to stick together. A million dollar question. But here’s the answer. Two things keep us together. 1) Common goal 2) Our conflicts. The first probably doesn’t need any explanation. It is very important for all the 7 of us that we achieve this goal, and that is much easier done together.
Second reason might sound little crazy. It is crazy, yes. But it is those conflicts that let us channel our stress and find creative solutions. If we were to have no conflicts, we would have been bored of each other by now.
We did not know all this 4 years ago when we embarked on this journey. We find ourselves wiser and stronger than before. Yet, many lessons are yet to be learned. And we are oh so ready to take those lessons as we celebrate the 4th anniversary of our first climb and get ready for the 4th summit. Kilimanjaro, here we come!