Today I am a Post-Graduate student in Leadership and Change, and a professor in Electrical Engineering, but a few years ago, my life looked very different. I was a typical Californian woman who had never slept in a tent and hated cold weather. I was an electrical engineer working for a large corporation.
One day at a seminar, a speaker suggested we think of a project that seemed impossible to do and commit to doing it. Someone behind me whispered something about trekking to the Mount Everest base camp. Before I knew it, I shouted out, “I am going to climb Everest!” As I heard those words coming out of my mouth I couldn’t believe I said it, but I felt compelled to at least try.
I got home and googled, ‘How to climb Everest.’ I found a few informative websites and started training. A few months later, I decided it was time to get some real life experience outdoors. I called my friends to see if anyone wanted to come climbing with me. Everyone said no, so I headed up Mount Baker, the highest mountain in California, alone.
Many things went wrong, and I was scared for my life as I endured the coldest night I had ever experienced, but I did it. I may not have made it to the summit, but I made it through the night and back down to the base safely. The experience taught me I could do difficult things and revealed that I had a lot more work to do to be ready for Everest…
During my training and prepping period, I was introduced to the man who founded the organization Empower Nepali Girls. Upon hearing about the staggering amount of child marriage, human trafficking, and lack of education Nepali women and girls faced, I became involved with their organization.
When I first went to Nepal and met the girls, many had never met a woman engineer or even considered the possibility that a woman could climb mountains. I saw their eyes light up as I shared my stories with them. Their reaction lit a small spark in my mind, a glimmer of an idea, that what I was doing, whether it be in life or during my challenge, was affecting them and expanding the realm of possibility in their minds.
In April 2015, I was halfway up Everest on an ice ladder when a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit. I clung to the ladder as car sized ice boulders started toppling down around me. I was sure it was only a matter of time before one struck me. The roar of falling debris was deafening, and I struggled to breathe as I choked on thick clouds of snow. I did not think I would make it off that mountain. Many people in the base camp lost their lives that day, but we were spared.
After I was rescued from Everest, I went to one of the biggest cities in Nepal and witnessed the absolute devastation the earthquake had caused. My heart broke for the people of Nepal, especially the women and girls whom I had met. I went to them, and they shocked and inspired me with the amount of optimism and enthusiasm they had to continue their studies, even though their schools were heavily damaged.
I decided then to dedicate my next attempt to climb Everest to Empower Nepali Girls. I wanted to support their dreams and become a role model for girls all over the world, showing them it is possible to achieve their goals and go beyond their perceived limits.
MY NEW EVEREST
The defining moments along my journey so far have not caused me to retreat, but instead, have inspired me to expand my ultimate goal. I’ll be climbing more mountains and challenging not only myself, but everyone who believes that women and girls should have equal opportunities and freedoms to step forward and begin to face the challenge that is creating gender equality.
In the past 100 years, we have put a man on the moon but we still have not climbed the mountain for gender equality. Sadly, we are still at the base camp in many areas of the world.
Support the organizations featured on this website or challenge yourself to conquer your own fears in service to women. Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of disenfranchised women and girls. Let’s not let our fears get in the way any longer. Let’s get climbing.