- Anita Gurung
Kathmandu: At the mere age of 13, her marriage was fixed. But she didn’t want to get married and she courageously fled from her house the night before her marriage.
There is no expression of regret on the face of the famous mountaineer Maya Gurung when she recalls that moment of her life. Instead, she has a rather gleeful smile. It was that rebellion that defined her life. If she hadn’t taken that bold path, she doesn’t know where she would be today.
That was her first rebellion. Maya has revolted time and again in her lifetime. She has broken the traditional social taboos set for women in Nepal and one of them is mountaineering. Mountaineering is still a male-dominated field in Nepal as many still believe that mountaineering is meant only for able males.
However, Maya revolted against this notion and adopted mountaineering as her profession. Now, she is one of the well-established names in the mountaineering field.
Maya is the first woman from the Gurung community and a member of the first inclusive Nepali women team to scale Mt Everest (Sagarmatha) in 2008. She has struggled a lot and worked extremely hard to establish herself in this field.
“Mountaineering in itself is challenging. On top of that, I had fled from my house by rebelling and my family was against my decision. Back then, I thought of climbing Mt Everest but I didn’t know anything about mountains. But I was fully confident that I could climb it for which I had to strive a lot,” said Maya.
One has to undergo mountaineering training before climbing Mt Everest. Maya got a chance to undergo a 45-day basic training organized by Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). Up until that day Maya knew only about the height of Mt Everest and the name of the first person to climb it.
By chance, there were no female climbers in her team. She did not have to compete with others to participate in the training session. Following this, she got an opportunity to be a member of the inclusive team that climbed Mt Everest.
All ten members of her team had successfully climbed Mt Everest. After the successful ascent of Mt Everest, the seven climbing members of the same inclusive team successfully climbed the highest peaks of the world in seven continents and created the world record of being the first Seven Summit Women Team.
Maya has not only led the expedition teams in Nepal but also led in European mountain expeditions as well. Maya is equally active in environmental issues for mountains. She has already participated in the cleaning campaign for Mt Dhaulagiri and Manaslu. “I have my emotional relationship with mountains. My soul lies in the mountains. It is our obligation and responsibility to protect and conserve the mountains that make us self-reliant.”
Maya is interested in discovering new destinations and promoting them. Even though mountaineering is popular in Nepal, many mountains are still not opened by the government and climbers have not yet stepped on them. Only a limited number of popular mountains are open for climbing.
All photos: Maya Gurung
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