Maya Gurung, the lady who not only conquered the highest peak of the world — Mount Everest — but also was a part of Nepal’s first Women Seven Summit expedition team.
Gurung shares that she had never imagined that she could stand atop the highest peak in the world. “However, my determination made it happen,“ she adds.
Born and raised in Sindhupalchowk, Gurung recalls how she fled from her hometown after her father fixed the date for her marriage when she was just 14 years old.
Now she is engaged in organising educational programmes to raise awareness of ill practices and social stigma, among women in her village.
She says, “Sindhupalchowk has many cases of girls falling victims to trafficking and child marriage. I am trying to help girls from my hometown by providing them with education. I have also trained the rescued victims of human trafficking to be a trekking guide.”
Gurung, who started her mountaineering expeditions in 2005, recalls how her friends told her if she could dare to climb Mt Everest.
That may have just been a joke but those words were imprinted in her and she took it seriously. Hence, she attended a 45-day basic training organised by the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).
But that is when her journey had just begun, Gurung reminisces about how she was mentally and physically prepared to climb the peak but the financial problem stopped her from doing so.
“As a girl from a small village, my dream seemed far from coming true. I prepared myself for climbing since I used to be very chubby. So, I decided to wake up at 5 am to run and train myself physically. But even after overcoming various obstacles, climbing Mt Everest was not cheap. The Mt Everest climbing permit costs about Rs 4 million for one person. I had no way to afford to pay for the permit, but luckily, I met a group of expedition team who wanted to take women climbers from different ethnic backgrounds to climb.” says Gurung.
Maya is the first female from the Gurung community to climb Mt Everest in 2008. The expedition team comprising Maya and nine other women from Dolakha and Tarai districts successfully reached the summit of the highest peak.
The women’s expedition team had to face difficulties in the mountaineering adventure where males still dominate. In addition, they had to cope with stress and strains showing courage as they were made aware of the risks of losing life while taking the challenge of climbing.
“The journey from Everest base camp to the top is not the easy task. I will never forget the experience that has changed my life. I remember how I felt at the summit of Mt Everest.” Gurung recalls and adds, “From the fourth base camp, the climbers are provided a certain amount of oxygen supply which is a do or die situation.” She gathers, “I was out of oxygen on the midway, and my guide was nowhere to be found. But everything went in vain when I was at the top of the peak — my pain, my fear meant nothing. I was just mesmerised by the view and the fact that I was standing at the top of the world.” reminisces Gurung.
Our team concluded the Mt Everest expedition in 45 days. The expedition was a big success.
Moreover, seven members of the expedition team including me separately took part in the seven summit expedition on which we climbed the highest mountains of seven continents in almost seven years.
Gurung says, “The whole experience made me the person I am today. I have learnt a lot from the experience of climbing Mt Everest and seven other peaks. Now, I want to give opportunities to other women climbers. I want to be the bridge to their dream which I did not have.”
Presently, Gurung has initiated the procedure to work with the government to expedite the Mountain clean-up campaign and to promote new trekking routes and destinations that can be offered to domestic and international tourists.
“Since there are COVID-19 restrictions, I want to help promote domestic tourism as there are so many beautiful peaks, but have not been done anything to promote them for trekking and mountain climbing. We have also initiated promoting a mountain called Youth Mountain (5,656ft) also known as Yuwa peak, located in Sindhupalchowk. The mountain area has a beautiful pond called Panch Pokhari situated at 4200ft. It takes about 10 days to reach the summit of Youth Mountain that offers the magnificent views of various mountain ranges.” adds Gurung.
Besides promoting different routes, Gurung is also focusing on the mountain environmental issues in Nepal.
“We have to take care of the mountains as many people depend on mountaineering profession for their livelihood.
Gurung stresses that the mountains should be kept clean citing that people in expedition leave behind the wastes like plastic, batteries and also there are no toilets available. She is of the view that these wastes affect not only the people living near the mountains but the whole world as we get water from the peaks itself.”