January  2004




January 2004 


 Men, Women & Lure
 of Mountains


 Nanga Parbat


 Everest & Sherpas

 Women & mountains

 Hunza and Balti

 Ecology on top

 AIDS - a worldview

 Status in South Asia

 Foreign help to fight
 AIDS in India

Wasim Akram - 
 Sultan of Swing

 Natural Medicine
Ashwagandha - the
 wonder herb 

 Real Issues
Education for all - a 
 myth or reality?


Leila Seth

 Rocky Mohan

 Sunny Jain & Jazz

 Short story
Taya Ji

Between Heaven
  And Hell

 A Brush with Life

 Cutting Edge

 The Horse that Flew

 Punjabi Baroque

 Letter from Pakistan



 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery


 Between Heaven and Hell

  Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in





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Page  5  of  7


First Women Climbers of Everest, K2, Nanga Parbat:  

"I can't understand why men make all this fuss about Everest — it's only a mountain."    

 - Junko Tabei - Japan


Indian Everesters.jpg (57734 bytes)
Everesters Bachendri Pal and Santosh Yadav in Delhi - on the eve of their departure for the 1993 Everest expedition.
Photo copyright

No woman from South Asia has climbed the K2 or Nanga Parbat. The first woman Everest climber was Junko Tabei [1975], a Japanese student & mother, who wrote two books called “Everest Mama-san” & “Yama-o-tanoshimu – Enjoying Mountains” both in Japanese. She prefers to be known as:   "I'm a free spirit. Call me the free spirit of the mountains.” Her comments on climbing are understated:

"I can't understand why men make all this fuss about Everest — it's only a mountain."    

"Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top — it is the will power that is the most important. This will power you cannot buy with money or be given by others — it rises from your heart."

 “The mountain teaches me a lot of things. It makes me realize how trivial my personal problems are," 

In the last fifty years, more than 75 women have climbed the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. Of these, only five have ever climbed the summit of K2 since 1954 and have since died.  Three women - Wanda Rutkiewicz of Poland, Julie Tullis of Britain, and Liliane Barrard of France – were the first three women to stand on the summit. Unfortunately, Julie and Liliane died on the descent. All three were climbing without extra oxygen. Julie Tullis, from Britain, was a black belt in Karate, a teacher, a mother, and an award winning filmmaker. She died of exposure descending K2 in 1986.  Only twelve women have ascended Nanga Parbat in the last 50 years. Of them, two were climbers of K2: Wanda Rutkeiwicz from Poland and Liliane Barrard from France. Liliane was the first woman to summit Nanga Parbat in 1984.

Superwomen Climbers :

Typically women have had to face resistance and male chauvinism from men’s climbing expeditions in one form or the other. Of the women climbers, the leader is undoubtedly Wanda Rutkiewicz.

Wanda Rutkiewicz , [ 1943-1992] from  Poland, climbed eight of the 8000meters peaks , graduated with a master's degrees in science and in electronic engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Wroclaw. At eighteen years of  age,  she started climbing in the domestic Tatra mountains. Later she started climbing the Alps and the Norwegian mountains. Climbing in entirely all female teams , she  went on to climb the East Pillar of Trollryggen in Norway (1968), the North Pillar of the Eiger (Messner route, 1973) and the North Face of the Matterhorn in winter (first women-only-ascent, 1978). She died in 1992 on Kanchenchunga near the summit. On 12 May she was last seen some 300 m short of the top. She was also a writer and photographer. She wrote 2 books, and dozens of articles and reports. During the last 10 years of her life she put in a lot of time / energy to film making- films on Aconcagua's South Face Gdybyś przyszedł pod tę ścianę, on K2 Requiem, on Cerro Torre, on Nanga Parbat, on Gasherbrum II and on the people of the Baltoro region Ludzie na Baltoro. She was into ecological aspects of mountain areas. She read in 1983 in Delhi a widely discussed paper on Women Mountaineers in the Himalayas and was a founding trustee of the Mountain Wilderness organization. She died climbing Kanchenchunga. See Wielicki comments on her strong nature/personality.
Rutkiewicz was a most forceful, determined person and lady-mountaineer. She received the prestigious Sitara-e Imtiaz (Star of Distinction) award of Pakistan. Posthumously she got the King Albert Medal of Merit

Christine Boskoff   [B.S. in Electrical Engineering , Wisconsin University,  bought  “Mountain Madness” adventure company after Scott Fischer died in a 1996 avalanche ;  Mountain Madness in 2002 had revenue of $400,000 last year and has averaged about 150 expeditions per year].    She has six of the 8000 meters peaks to her credit and is very much influenced by the Polish women climber Wanda Rutkiewicz : 

 "…Wanda was a huge influence to me. Unfortunately there really hasn't been anyone after her “ …to influence me,”…."She played a huge part in establishing a place for women in the high-altitude mountaineering world.

Chantal Mauduit  of France [ died May 1998  on Nepal's Dhaulagiri plus Sherpa companion Tshering, was found in a tent at camp 3 ]  has  6 peaks of 8000 meters .

Edurne Pasaban of Spain/Basque – climbed  six of the 8000 meters Peaks.  Mount Everest (8848m) 2001, Makalu (8485m) 2002, Cho Oyu (8188m) 2002, Lhotse (8516) 2003 Gasherbrum II (8034m) 2003 and Gasherbrum I (8080m) 2003

Italy’s – Mama-Mia Climbers :

July 2003 - Alessandra Canesti of Italy, two of the 8000 meters peaks.

July 2003 Miss Nives Meroy (Meroi) from Italy climbed five of the 8000 meters . Summited GI, GII, Broad Peak in 20 days.  She has climbed three peaks (Nanga Parbat, Shishapangma, Cho_Oyu) between 1998-1999. She always climbs without artificial oxygen. She was born in Bergamo 42 years ago. "La signora Meroy" represents Italy’s Karakorams.


South Asian Women Climbers -- Devis:  

Bachendri Pal was the first Indian woman on top of Everest [ worked for Tata Steel Corp. and later adopted five children of fellow Sherpa Climber who died and whose wife later died also],

[See this site for her interview:] In the early ‘80s, she applied to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, where she was tagged "Everest material." At number three of a family of five in a modest household near Nakuri, Uttarkashi in Uttaranchal State, she developed her muscles moving around in the Garhwal Himalayas.

Persisting with her education against parents wishes, she went on to get a Masters in Sanskrit.  And later wrote her Everest journey in a book called  "Everest: My Journey to the Top" that appeared in the book Leading Out. Facing the prospect of a forced arranged marriage, she got the National Adventure foundation into giving her a job to run an adventure training school for women and girls. In 1984 she finally made it to the Everest 84 expedition. After an avalanche that very nearly killed her and her climbing group at Camp 24,000 feet, she managed to reach Everest top on May 17, 1984, via the standard southeast ridge, becoming the first Indian woman on Everest. She currently runs a training camp at Tata Adventure Foundation, which has given support and produced about 32 Olympians, 9 World champions in different sports.


Pic -- Santosh Yadav + Bachendri Pal [Copyright TSA]


Santosh Yadav – The only woman in the world to climb Everest twice in two consecutive years -[12 May 1992, summer-1993]

Yadav climbed Everest twice in less than a year. She says that mountaineering fascinates her and comes naturally to her. She comes from a village in Rewari District of Rajasthan, where education for girls was denied. She eventually graduated from Maharani College, Jaipur in Economics. In 1986 she did advanced mountaineering courses from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, with `A' Grades. Yadav began in 1989, with a nine-nation international climbing camp-cum-expedition to Num-Kun area. Among the 31 members she was the only woman. She climbed Mount White Needle (21,700 ft). In 1990 she was a member of the Indo-Taiwanese Saser Kangri-I (25,000 ft) Expedition. After her feats in the mountains she Iwas appointed to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. In 1991, she was a member of the Indo-Japanese Kanchenchunga (East Route) Expedition, and was chosen to join the Indian Pre-Everest Expedition to Mt Kamet (25,447 ft). Later she climbed Mt AbiGanmin (24,130 ft) Peak.

In 1992, as a member of the Indian (ITBP) Mt Everest Expedition, she performed so well and went beyond base camp – Khumbu Ice- Falls [where about 25 % of Everest climbers have died]. Finally on May 12, 1992, she stood on the  summit of Mount Everest with head constable Sange Sherpa and head constable Wangchuk Sherpa. She was on the summit for about an hour-and-a-half and because the fourth member Mohan Singh was in a bad state of health, she provided him with her oxygen.

She says that she “ felt great with mixed feelings of having achieved a feat of rare variety and being the youngest woman in the world to scale the Mount Everest (until 1993). I was also the first police officer to have achieved this distinction….”

Immediately after her Everest Expedition, she was the overall leader of the Indo-Japanese Women Expedition to scale a 22,764 ft high unscaled and unnamed peak in Garhwal Himalayas. The unnamed peak was named Mt Saraswati.  In 1993, as the deputy leader of Indo-Nepalese Women's Everest Expedition, she became the first and only woman in the world to climb Mt Everest twice. On this climb Yadav narrated how she slept the night at camp 4 on the way to Mt. Everest, only to realize in the morning that she had been sleeping next to the dead body of a previous climber.

Later she climbed Mt Fujiyama , led an expedition to the Andes Mt. Acancagua in Argentina on January 28, 1998 – to commemorate 50 years of India's Independence. In March 1999, she led the ``Millennium Indian Everest (Kangshung Face) Expedition-1999'' and became the first Indian to lead successfully an expedition to Mount Everest from its most dangerous and nearly impossible route ``Kangshung Face''.

Married now and with a small baby boy, and no longer working on her police job, she now devotes herself for the promotion of mountaineering and also special pilgrimage tours to Kailash and Mansarovar.

At the age of 19, Dicky Dolma was at the time the youngest woman climber of Mt.Everest [May 10, 1993 ] with the Indo-Nepali expedition led by Bachendri Pal.  She comes from Palchan village, a few miles above the tourist resort town of Manali in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh in India. In 1984 she started playing with homemade skis and later at Manali Skiing Institute, she completed skiing courses and basic mountaineering courses. Married now to a skiing man, she concentrates more on skiing than climbing.  


 Mountains and Men - Introduction & Early Surveyors

Nanga Parbat - the Killer Mountain

K2 - the most difficult mountain to climb

Mt. Everest & the Sherpas

Women on Nanga Parbat, K2, and Mt.Everest

Pakistan's Hunza and Balti climbers

Ecological Nightmare on Big Tops & Conclusion




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