Mar 15, 2015

The People You Meet Along the Way: Time to get my 'Diva' on...! Shishapangma and ChoOyu 2015

Just 7% of sports media coverage is devoted to women. Only 1 in 10 people who enquire about expeditions are women. Research by universities and other sports foundations in the UK found that 2 million fewer women regularly participate in sport or exercise than men - despite 75 per cent of women aged 14 to 40 saying they’d like to do more. (source: Sport England)

But why?
It’s not about women being less adventurous than men or about there being fewer women who embrace outdoor activities. I think it has more to do with the image that it’s only Amazonian, super-athletes who go on expeditions, supported by production teams and sponsorships. There’s a perception that in making the decision to ‘see the world’ you must put both career and family on the backburner. That you have to grit your teeth for every photograph and morph into a female, long-haired mascara-wearing version of Bear Grylls.

But I know that this isn’t the case at all. I know this because the description above definitely doesn’t describe me and it doesn’t describe most of the women who I’ve met in the outdoors.

The Challenge:

From early April through to the end of May 2015 I’ll travel to Tibet to complete a ‘double header’ expedition, climbing two remote 8,000m peaks which - Shishapangma and Cho Oyu - respectively the 14th and 6th highest mountains in the world.

However, this expedition is about much more than mountains and my goals are clear:
  1. To raise the profile of women in the outdoors
  2. To lobby for more coverage about women in the outdoors in mainstream media
  3. To increase the number of women involved in outdoor activities in every level – from those who watch it, to those playing it, all the way to those in the boardroom 
I’ll be climbing to raise money and awareness for Wellbeing of Women, a health charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of women and babies around the world through research, training and education.

Some context...
The journey
I’ll be traveling overland from Kathmandu, Nepal, into Tibet through to the basecamp of my first objective - Shishapangma. Along the way, we’ll be stopping in the ancient Tibetan towns of Zhangmu, Nylam and Tingri, experiencing Tibetan culture, while stopping to walk each day in the surrounding hills to acclimate to the increasing altitude. This acclimatisation period offers a great chance to encounter the vast Tibetan plateau, the surrounding Himalayan Giants and experience the ancient Tibetan culture.

Shishapangma - the 14th highest mountain in the world
The first mountain-objective will be to climb Shishapangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world at a height of 8,027 metres (26,335 ft). The initial 3-4 weeks will be spent acclimatising on Shishapangma, allowing my body enough time to get used to the thin air of higher altitudes while working with my Sherpa to set up the 3-high mountain camps - Camp One (6300m); Camp Two (6900m) and Camp Three (7,300m). Conditions dependent, my intention is to climb the East Peak which is the true summit of Shishapangma. The exact date of our summit push will depend on the weather window, marked by the decrease in summit winds which historically takes place around mid-May. 

Given that Shishapangma is only the first of two mountains in the challenge the timing of our ascent will be critical.

Cho Oyu - the 6th highest mountain in the world
After climbing Shishapangma we’ll will descend and immediately travel overland across the historical Tibetan plateau, stopping 20kms west of Mount Everest to make the most of the short weather window and begin our ascent of Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world at an altitude of 8201metres (26,906 ft). From our Base Camp of 5,650m we’ll move steadily up through the three mountain camps, making the most of the ‘pre-acclimatisation’ from the 3-4 weeks spent ascending Shishapangma. On our ascent of Cho Oyu we’ll pass through the high mountain camps of Camp 1 at 6,400 metres, Camp Two at 7,000 metres and Camp Three at 7,400 metres.  The summit climb from Camp Three will involve climbing through a short rock band just above the top camp before heading into an open couloir, which in turn leads to the 8201m summit plateau.

I certainly won’t be undertaking this tremendous challenge alone. A small team of Sherpas will accompany the entire expedition and will be integral to its success, providing a great portion of the ‘carrying power’. Having worked with teams of Sherpas on past expeditions including Everest, Lhotse and Makalu I’m very much looking forward to the insights, experience and friendship that the Sherpas bring to form the backbone of the team.

The Diva in Down
In the past 6 years I’ve spent over 13 months in total living above 5,000 metres thanks to a passion for experiencing new cultures and seeing the world from a different perspective.  

I have a full time job. I have family commitments. I have to train. 

And no, it isn’t always fun.

But yes, I do bring lipgloss.

I’m proud to be a sporty woman, a ‘Diva in Down’. And I’m proud to have earned my place in the mountains through sheer discipline, commitment, courage and creativity. 

And I’m going to keep climbing these mountains – both real and proverbial – and hope that I can inspire others to do the same.


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