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Everest 2005: Women on Top!
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Apr 18, 2005 13: 02 EST
Everest climbing: A man’s world? Maybe not, guys. A record number of women are heading for the 8,848 m Everest summit this spring. Some of them are on the Seven Summits quest; some hope to break records or to be the first of their home countries to reach the top of the world. Whatever the motivation, all of them are pursuing a dream and ready to fight hard for it.

Record-seeking women

American Danielle Fisher, 20, wants to become the youngest American woman to reach the top, as well as the youngest woman climber to have scaled the Seven Summits. The record for the youngest woman Everest Summiteer was Nepal's Ming Kipa Sherpa, who was 15 years old when she reached the top in May 2003.

Lynne Stark will attempt to be the first woman from Northern Ireland to climb Everest. Clare O'Leary became the first Irish woman to reach the summit last May (South side), whilst Hannah Shields tried and failed (North side) for Northern Ireland. Lynne has previously climbed Aconcagua.

Sushmita Maskey from Nepal is going up as part of a three-member team, Peace Everest Expedition 2005. If she succeeds, the 24-year-old will become the first woman from the Newar community, the original inhabitants of Kathmandu, to reach the summit.

Lhakpa Sherpa is reported to be in BC again, aiming for her fifth Everest summit, according to Kerala Next.

On the tough side: Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner

Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, along with husband Ralf Dujmovits and Japanese climber Hirotaka Takeuchi will attempt Everest Supercouloir…after Shisha Pangma’s south side! The Japanese Couloir/Hornbein Couloir combination route is one of the most difficult and dangerous routes on Everest. Few have attempted it, and fewer have succeeded. The team will be alone on the route.

Ace female climber, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has summited six main 8,000ers.

Breaking boundaries: National teams

Besides the individual climbers, there are at least three all-women teams. A China-Japan joint all-women expedition will attempt Everest North Side. Eight women from China and Japan will be on the climbing team. The Tibetan women climbers include Ji Ji, La Ji, Pu Bu, Za Ka, Na Can, Mu La and Gui Sang. Ji Ji, who has summited three 8000ers (including Everest) so far, will be the Chinese team leader. 47 year-old Gui Sang claims four 8000ers, including Everest twice.

There is also a woman's team from the Indian Army, whose expedition was recently confirmed by New Delhi last week. The 10-member team includes climbers from the hills of India as well as the plains of West Bengal and Orissa.

Last, but not least there is an all-women team from Iran. The Iran Mountaineering Federation has organized the expedition and selected the female climbers through a series of tests on several Iranian Mountains. Roughly 70 women participated in the tests.

Anyone for a No Oz Climb?

About 90 women have summited Everest so far, but only three of them did it without oxygen. They were New Zealander Lydia Bradey in 1988, British Alison Hargreaves in 1995, and American Francys Arsentiev in 1998. Sadly, Francys died on descent.

Dream pursuers

Other High Altitude chicks attempting Everest this spring are Norwegians Sigrid Hammer and Aud Jovall, Spaniards Rosa Fernandez and Merce Vidal, American Monica Kalozdi, and Canadian Urszula Tokarska, among others.

Women are no longer a rare sighting around Everest BC. Things have changed a lot since Japanese climber Junko Tabei accomplished the first Everest female summit in May 1975. The days are gone when girls on Everest were considered either a sweet, sponsor-attracting ornament in a larger team, or some kind of alien breed like Wanda Rutkiewicz (the only ego-saving rationale for some male climbers when a woman proved to be more skilled and stronger than they were).

For a handful of human beings sharing pain, fear and joy at 8848m, gender questions are actually not big deal. Up there everyone’s just a climber.

Image of Cecilie Skog, from Norway, on her way to the top of Everest – she summited on May 23, 2004 – Courtesy of Cecilieskog.com
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