More than a mountaineer
National Geographic selects adventurers from different parts of the globe every year as the Adventurers of the Year. Selection is based on a person’s extraordinary achievement in exploration, adventure sports, conservation, or humanitarianism. And calling Sherpa Akita “one of Nepal’s rising stars in climbing immersed herself in earthquake relief efforts, showing her courage both on and off the mountain” National Geographic chose her as one of the 10 Adventurers of the Year 2016. Among these nominees, one will be chosen as the winner of People’s Choice. For that you will need to vote for Sherpa Akita everyday through January 31, 2016. You can go to the link below and vote for her: http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/…/vote/pasang-lhamu/
There was a thunderous sound and she saw clouds of powder falling towards them. They ran in the house for safety. This was on April 25, when the earthquake was shaking the nation and mountain guide and mountaineering instructor Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita was with her clients and friends at Gorak Shep — a small settlement near Mt Everest.
As the shaking calmed a bit, she assembled a small team and set off towards Everest Base Camp (some two hours from Gorak Shep), “to help others stuck by the avalanche” triggered by the quake.
On her way, she met injured climbers and trekkers returning from the Base Camp, they warned her of the dangers ahead. “Of course, the way to Base Camp is not easy. On top of that continuous aftershocks would confuse us, whether to go ahead or return,” recalls Sherpa Akita, who summited Mt Everest in 2007. She is also the summiteer of Mt K2 “regarded as the world’s difficult mountain to climb”.
Suddenly the “bigger aftershock” jolted them at 3:00 pm. “The mountain exploded again” and some of her friends returned leaving only five of them, but they kept going. What made the 30-year-old continue her mission was her belief. “I trusted God would save me because I was going up for good work.”
The injured and dead had been already evacuated by the time they reached the Base Camp, which “had turned into a war zone”. Nothing much left to do, “we collected sleeping bags, mattresses, tents, and other things scattered everywhere and returned”, to Gorak Shep.
The next day she arrived Kathmandu and “it was worse here”. Many people died in the quake. And she like most Nepalis stayed under the tent. Though she had “quite comfortable” place to stay, she was not in peace. So, she told her husband, “We could have died in the earthquake but we are safe, we are safe to help others.”
Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, who is in the mountaineering profession for the last 13 years, was once again ready to show the same courage she had shown in the world’s highest peak. She thus went to Bhaktapur “to help in rescue efforts”. She also volunteered in Patan area. During this time, one of her friends from abroad offered her help with $500. This money expanded her horizon. She went to Sindhupalchowk, another quake-hit district, with her husband carrying some tarps.
She posted her works on Facebook, and more friends offered to help. Thanks to this, her relief work was able to focus on foods too — pulse, sugar, salt, beaten rice among others — in other areas like Nuwakot, Dhading, and Gorkha. Along with immediate relief, they also made an elderly home at Laprak, a village in Gorkha destroyed by the earthquake.
While she continued her support to the villages by conducting health camps, especially in Salyantar, and following-up on their situation, she wanted to do more. Therefore, her priority became girls’ education. To help girls from poor family background for education and those who have lost their parent(s) during the earthquake, she headed to the Ama Dablam Mountain in November this year.
It was when she was “in the mountains I got to know that I had been nominated as one of the 10 Adventures of the Year by National Geographic”. She hadn’t expected to be nominated as “there are not many women in this field in Nepal, especially in the guiding sector. But I had been chosen as the adventurer of the year”. That is why she is happy, “It is an opportunity to introduce Nepal to the world while promoting Nepali women in the tourism industry.”
The results will be announced on February 31, 2016.