For decades climbing was a male-dominated sport—it still is. But the gender gap is slowly shrinking, and many women have made significant contributions to the sport.
This year on Everest there are more women climbers than usual. Before 2018, of the 4,738 people to have summited Everest, 605 were women—that’s 12 percent. In 2018, there were 61 women climbers on the Nepal side and 49 made it to the top, or 18 percent of the total summitters.
The 2019 records released by the Nepal Department of Tourism showed that women climbers account for 76 out of 375 permits (20 percent) issued to foreigners. China had the most women climbers with 20, followed by India (18), Nepal (six), the U.S. (four), and Lebanon, Norway, the U.K., and Greece all with three. Last year, the female summit success percentage was 80 percent, so using the same number, we can predict that we’ll see 61 summits this year, perhaps a record!
Here are some of the women to watch: American Kirstie Ennis was injured in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, and lost her left leg above the knee. As if climbing Everest wasn't difficult enough, Ennis is climbing with a prosthetic leg. South African Saray N’kusi Khumalo is making her fourth attempt at the summit and has dedicated her 7 Summits project to building libraries for schools in South Africa. Nima Doma Sherpa and Furdiki Sherpa are seeking to finish the climb to the summit their husbands never did. Furdiki’s husband died while fixing ropes in 2013 and Nima Doma’s husband died in an avalanche near the base camp in 2014. You can follow them at Two Window Expedition. Finally, professional skier Caroline Gleich, who last year proposed to her boyfriend on top of nearby Choy Oyu, is climbing for gender equality.