Sunday, November 3, 2019

Lhakpa Sherpa - The Female Mountaineer Nobody Has Heard Of

Zoë Sharp

Lhakpa Sherpa: photo by Kayana Szymczak, The Guardian

Do you recognise this woman? No? How about the name Lhakpa Sherpa? Still ringing no bells?

Still nothing? I am as unsurprised as I am saddened.

Lhakpa Sherpa lives in Connecticut. She washes dishes in a restaurant for minimum wage. And yet she has conquered Mount Everest.

NINE times.

Lhakpa was the first Nepalese woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest and make it back alive. She climbed Everest eight months after giving birth to her first child, and again while two months pregnant with another.

One of eleven children, Lhakpa is around 45, although as she and all her siblings were born at home, no accurate records of birthdays were kept. Her whole family are Sherpas. One brother has summited ten or eleven times, another eight times. Her younger sister has done it once.

But Lhakpa is the current holder of the World Record for women. Despite this, her name is almost unknown, her accomplishments unsung, and her climbing efforts unsupported by the kind of corporate sponsorship that has become so familiar for such a remarkable athlete.

And it becomes even more astonishing when you realise that Lhakpa has no personal trainers, no free equipment, or use of facilities to help her train. When climbing, she wears an oxygen mask that’s fifty years old because she feels the design is more reliable than the newer type.

When she comes home from expeditions, she picks up hourly paid jobs, doing whatever work she can get hold of, including working as a cleaner or a cashier at a convenience store. She says she does not tell them about her exploits on the mountain.

This natural modesty is only one of the reasons we have we never heard of her. Is it simply down to prejudice and marketing? She is a middle-aged woman of colour, whose English is not fluent. She has no curated social media presence.

But what comes across in this longer, detailed article in The Guardian is her affinity with the mountain, as this excerpt of her conversation with journalist Megan Mayhew Bergman demonstrates:

“I’m a small mouse climbing a big mountain,” Lhakpa tells me. Her relationship with the mountain is reverent, as if she’s in conversation with it. “Share with the mountain,” she says. “If you’re scared, your fear scares the mountain.” She even delayed 2019’s planned climb because of her beloved father’s death. “I didn’t want to carry the sadness,” she says. “It would not be safe.”

In 2020, Lhapka hopes to climb not only Everest for the tenth time but also to make her second attempt at K2. Let’s hope somebody finally takes notice of this self-deprecating, remarkable woman for the outstanding female athlete and role model she really is.

Mount Everest. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

This week’s Word of the Week is dreary, which has come to mean bleak, gloomy, or devoid of cheer or comfort. However, originally the word in Old English meant gory or bloody. This mutated to mean horrid and by the 1600s it had changed again to mean gloomy.


  1. Fascinating. Both Lhapka and dreary. Thanks, Zoë.

  2. oh, Zoe, I am so glad you posted this. Years ago, I did a post here on MIE about how news broadcasts credited Edmund Hillary as the man who “conquered” Everest and didn’t seem to notice that Sir Edmond could not have done it without Tenzing Norgay - which is still a name spellcheck does not recognize, I just discovered. How I hope that Lhapka gets the support she needs and DESERVES!!

  3. Jeg er veldig glad for å dele min erfaring her, jeg heter Brenda og jeg var lykkelig gift. Ikke før mannen min sa at jeg jukset med ham, da ble vi begge små irriterende par, han kunne ikke tro, og han stolte heller ikke på ordene mine, så vi søkte om skilsmisse, senere ble vi separerte og svor å aldri gjøre opp. Jeg prøvde å gå videre, men jeg kunne ikke bli uten ham, så jeg begynte å søke etter mannen min, så ble jeg henvist til Dr.IZOYA. En flott mann jeg kom over, han kastet en kjærlighetsfortroll og fikk mannen min tilbake innen 24 timer. med dette er jeg her for å dele kontakten til Dr. IZOYA, nå ham via Han er faktisk mektig og spesialiserer seg i følgende saker ...
    (1) Elsker trollformer av alle slag. (2) Slutt skilsmisse. (3) Slutt barrenness. (4) Trenger åndelig hjelp.