Conde Nast Traveler

How women-only treks are claiming space on Everest

Mount Everest, an icon in our collective imagination, has historically been a male-dominated arena of competition and endurance. These women are changing that.

The world’s highest peak sits on the crest of the Great Himalayas, its icy summit jutting 29,032 feet skyward and marking the border between Nepal and Tibet. Dubbed Chomolungma in Tibetan—meaning Goddess Mother of the World—Mount Everest is a place steeped in mythology, where trepidation battles ambition and awesome beauty meets the limits of mankind. Quite literally: of the 5,788 people to have summited Everest since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary raised their flags there in 1953, just 653—around 8 percent—of climbers have been women.

But a growing crop of new women-only treks, including some led by record-breaking female climbers, is redressing the balance.

The Adventure People’s Women’s Everest Base Camp Trek (which journeys over 14 days through Indigenous Sherpa towns like the well-visited Namche Bazaar, to the high-altitude hiking trails leading to Everest Base Camp) offers women travelers a safe space in which to tick off a bucket-list adventure. Although no formal climbing experience or equipment is required, guests need a high level of fitness and trekking poles to complete up to six hours of trekking per day, starting from Lukla, crossing suspension bridges over the rushing Dudh Koshi River and edging up steep rocky inclines—stopping at tea houses and the famous Tengboche Monastery on the way. Most of the lodges en route are run by local Sherpas, and provide opportunities for cultural exchange between the women hosting and doing the trek.

The trip is also dedicated to creating opportunities for women on the ground: Run in partnership with Icicles Adventure Treks, a local, female-run trekking company owned by Nepali entrepreneur Indira Bhatta, the tour employs local Nepali women as trekking guides and funds training for other local women to train as guides—a job that is rarely held by Nepalese women. Out of an estimated 22,000 mountain guides in the country, only around 886 are female…

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