The Sherpa Women’s project

Paulo Grobel, a free lance to several mountains magazines, a Mountain Wilderness International Guarantor and a fine connoisseur of the Himalayas, especially Nepal, has launched a new original project : the “Sherpa Women expedition”. In partnership with Salewa, the project was launched in 2011. For the end of this year the mountain guide has invited five Western women climbers to rope up with as many Nepalese counterparts. The goal, after learning proper mountaineering techniques, will be to climb a summit such as the Tharpu Chuli (5663 m) in alpine style, in the heart of the Annapurna Sanctuary.

The Sherpa Women expedition is a unique project combining the mountaineering and social dimensions close to Paulo Grobel’s heart.

In taking the lead of an expedition mixing western and Nepali climbers, the mountaineer who shares his time between La Grave (France) and Kathmandu is undertaking a concrete action in line with the spirit that has driven him already for a long time, especially in Nepal.

©Paulo Grobel
©Paulo Grobel

The project aims to teach and promote mountaineering techniques to Nepalese women attracted by opportunities in mountain related business. Not necessarily leading to a High Mountain Guides status, this field based learning apprenticeship (“learning by doing”, the Grobel way) is expected to bring them additional skills, upgrading their professional experience. The technical content of the learning phase will be based on UIAA and NMA education guidelines.
“This project is a drop in the ocean that will certainly not change the world, but in the macho world of Himalayan mountains and expeditions, its visibility is real. It simply shows that it is possible, that the mountain is not exclusively reserved to men, and it spurs Nepalese women to step up to their wishes for liberation” explains Paulo Grobel.
The first part of this project took place last winter but difficult weather conditions limited its possibilities. This new chapter is in its final preparation phase and will start in the coming weeks.

To carry out this learning expedition, five European women were invited to rope up with the Nepalese mountaineer students recruited in conjunction with “Everest women trek expedition”.
The goal is to foster relationships as a part of the preparation, essentially by exchanging knowledge and mountaineering techniques, and then to climb in alpine style a modest summit for the region (Tharpu Chuli, 5,663m).
“The idea is to find the right system of exchange or cooperation, where each Western climber supports a Nepalese mountaineer and where each Nepalese climber shows her country and its culture to the Western women. Mountaineering is not a trivial activity and the notion of being tied to a rope, being linked, really has a lot of meaning. Even and especially in the Himalayas. “

©Paulo Grobel
©Paulo Grobel

The departure is in a few days and the final preparations are quietly underway.
This year the main goal is to simply learn and validate the UIAA technical content on the ground and have each participant focusing on it. For example by making sure everyone is systematically roped up on glaciers or while climbing: everyone, Nepalese and Westerners.
Almost a revolution in Nepal.
Mountain Wilderness is not directly involved in this year’s project phase, however a basic “ethical code of conduct” has been outlined jointly and will be put to test during the expedition. It will be further used during the upcoming phases of Sherpa Women by Paulo with increased support by MW.
We wish Paulo and his team plenty of success and we will report here on their adventure.
Links :
Paulo Grobel on Facebook
Paulo Grobel’s Web Page on Sherpa Women

[BM, DW]