Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita
"As a child, I said I wanted to climb Mount Everest," says Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita while accepting the Tenzing Norgay Award from the Explorer's Club in March 2017. "I was told it was not a woman's job." She was undeterred.
Akita grew up Lukla, Nepal, the gateway to Himalayan climbing. She lost both her parents by age 15, so to take care of her six-year-old sister, she looked to mountaineering. At 19, Akita enrolled in the Khumbu Climbing Center and soon became her country's first female mountaineering guide. She has now climbed not only Everest, but also K2 and Nangpai Gosum, a proud, lesser-known Himalayan peak.
On November 13, 2015, Akita was having tea in Gorak Shep, a small town an hour's walk from Everest Base Camp, when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck. She rushed to Everest Base Camp to help those in need and soon turned to her country's most devastated and remote villages, including Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Kathmandu, and Dolakha, focusing her efforts on helping pregnant women, the elderly, and children.
Today her combination of bold, athletic climbing and compassion make her a role model. "I have always loved the mountains — it's as simple as that," says Akita, who started the Ayam Foundation in 2015, a non-profit that supports young women and girls getting basic education. "Also, I find that mountains are extremely fair, and they don't differentiate whether you are a man or a woman, rich or poor."
- 2006: At 21, she became first woman to climb 7,351-meter Nangpai Gosum.
- 2007: At 22, she summitted 6,821-meter Ama Dablam.
- 2014: She summitted 8,611-meter K2 with two other Nepali women.
- 2014, 2015: She helped in avalanche rescues at Everest Base Camp.
In spring 2017 Akita, Maya Sherpa, and Dawa Yangzum Sherpa will attempt an all-Nepali women's ascent of 8,586-meter Kanchenjunga.