To say that Dawa Yangzum Sherpa has reached the peak of success would be an understatement. Growing up surrounded by Nepal’s iconic mountains in a rural village 4,200m above sea level, she scaled Mount Everest – the highest summit on earth – back in 2012 when she was just 21 years old. Six years later, she became the first Nepali woman to earn mountaineering’s most elite title: the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations, or IFMGA, certification. It’s an accolade that only about 7,000 people in the world hold, allowing them to be international mountain guides. Of this exclusive league, only 1.5 per cent are women.
Dawa Yangzum Sherpa (on far left) – the first Nepali woman to earn mountaineering’s most elite title, the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) certification – leads a group of young women towards the top of a ridge.
Such feats are however not the only reason why Rolex – a longtime supporter of pioneering explorers who have pushed the boundaries of human endeavour – has appointed the now-33-year-old as a Rolex Testimonee (the brand’s answer to an ambassador). Compelled to make sure that more women from her home country rise in the sport of mountaineering, Sherpa has also introduced a course specifically for Nepali women and girls.
Dawa Yangzum Sherpa (middle) begins her training course in the equipment room at the Khumbu Climbing Center – located in the idyllic village of Phortse that sits at an altitude of approximately 3,840m, and which acts as an excellent training centre for local and international visitors. Flanking her are Chimi Yuden Sherpa (left) and Rashila Tamang (right), who are carefully listening to her as she talks through the necessary gear for the course.
Launched in 2019 and based in the Khumbu Climbing Centre – located in the village of Phortse in the Nepalese part of the Himalayas – it takes students through two weeks of intensive training in ice and rock climbing. Everything from safety and first aid to logistics and knot-tying to map reading and geology are covered. The idea is to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to be able to literally scale great heights – a cause that’s won the support of Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Initiative, which champions companies and individuals who contribute to a better world and help foster the next generation of explorers, scientists and conservationists.
An aerial view of the Khumbu Climbing Center. Located in the idyllic village of Phortse, it sits at an altitude of approximately 3,840m, and acts as an excellent training centre for local and international visitors
Indeed students – who include the ultra-runner Rashila Tamang, another Nepali sports star – are observed to have developed a greater sense of confidence within days of the programme. Says Sherpa: “During the climb, you learn so many things relevant to your life like patience, dealing with struggles, focus and perseverance. I think that’s very important for these young women. Climbing encourages independence and allows you to get to know your body.”
Coordination Noelle Loh Photos Courtesy of Rolex
This article first appeared in the Sept 2023 Make It Work! Edition of FEMALE