Global Daughters Program HIMALAY KETI
No one could have predicted that today would have gone as well as it did.
We had a long day at the climbing site with each woman climbing at least twice on the wall. The perfect moment came later in the afternoon when Saru, who has blossomed into an awesome rock climber, walked up to a couple of Nepali guys and asked to climb the route they had already set up.
They said okay and she sprinted up the climb, making it look easy and proving that she could hang with the boys.
The final lesson of the program was reserved for setting up anchors. Laura and Lynsay took turns explaining some of the different techniques and the importance of the anchors, which keep climbers on the rock.
Back on the bus at the end of the afternoon, we took a group photo and the party really began. The group could have been in middle school, there was so much laughing and joking on the busride back to Thamel. The guides particularly enjoyed Ann's display of all her Nepali words at full volume. But everyone will remember Ramrosa, Sundaree AAEEEIIIIII!"--or "Really good! Beautiful Monkey! YEAH!" In the words of our guide Keshab, "it was really great."
A few hours later, we all met at the Third Eye Indian restaurant in Thamel. We sat in the perfect back room for hours and ate (and ate and ate). After dinner, Laura, Lynsay, Ann and Eve all spoke about their experiences and thanked Three Sisters and the guides for allowing them to come. "You all are such an inspiration," Laura said.
Dicky, along with several of the guides, thanked the group for coming and expressed her surprise and pleasure over how wonderfully the program had turned out. She said that she could see a difference in each of the guides, as their confidence in their abilities climbing and in general had improved during the course. "It is amazing," she said and asked that the program continue with more and different courses.
For their participation in the program, each guide received a fleece jacket from Patagonia, which the company donated, along with a framed photograph of them rock climbing and a certificate to commemorate the completion of the Himalay Keti program with Global Daughters.
That's it for now, check back for more information on the Global Daughters Program.
Water, Fisherman, Bowline, Figure 8
What do all these things have in common? They're knots that we can all tie after today. Our fourth day of class and rock climbing was all about knots. Turns out that the bowline is used around here for tying up the animals. And the fisherman is a handy knot to know both if you want to hang laundry or make a huge hoop in the rope.
Most fun for climbers is the technique for making a rope into a backpack for hiking in and out of climbing sites. As Ann put it, you look so darn cool with it slung on your back.
Or, you could look like Hillary, with the alpine loop slung over your shoulder.
It was a busy day at the climbing site in the Nagarjun Forest. On one side was a group from the United States Embassy and further down was a big group of men that work in Kathmandu and two instructors from the Nepalese Mountain Guide Association. One of the instructors came over to say hello and stayed to cheer the women to the top. This felt like a huge step because it was the first Nepali man--besides Keshab of course (our Daaju, older brother)--that was so positive and encouraging.
We climbed more difficult climbs today but as Saru said, "it's becoming easy for them now." The guides are so strong from trekking that rock climbing is "no problem."
Just a short posting tonight because we're getting ready for a big day tomorrow. We're meeting at 7:30 a.m. to get on the rock early--the goal is to learn about anchors and then climb a bit more.
Thanks for reading and check in later for more on the last day of the program.
Smooth as Peanut Butter-Day 3
Finding a middle ground in palates, as different as those of Americans and Nepalis, is always going to be a challenge. But today we hit on the perfect combination--bread, hard-boiled eggs and yak cheese. Delicious! Throw in some oranges and bananas on the side for color and a few snacks and you've got yourself a true picnic. Of course, you could take Ann's approach, which we all found a little questionable--peanut butter, yak cheese and bananas on a sandwich, with a boiled egg on the side. Yummy!
Today, we were all a bit nervous on the bus as we headed for the royal forest, which is also the grounds of the King's palace. Apparently, the king hasn't actually been in residence (it was the Crown Prince who was home the first day) and he was returning from a trip to South Africa today. When we pulled up to the gate, dozens of army officers dressed in blue and green fatigues were standing at attention at the gate.
It's a royal welcome for us, the guides declared. Well, the guards didn't roll out any red carpets but they let the bus pass down the road so we were all excited to get on the rock earlier than the previous day. Because everyone had more experience with climbing, tying knots and belaying, everyone got to climb today--even the novice and expert Americans. So that was real treat for us. (I was so excited when I got to the top, that I forgot to look at the beautiful view of the Kathmandu valley and the Himalayas beyond.)
Today's lesson with Laura focused more on the emotional side of climbing. She discussed why climbing might be easy for one person--and very difficult for another person who might have had a bad previous experience or in general, find it hard to trust another person with their safety. "Sometimes that's the hardest part of climbing, what's in your head," she explained.
The Nepali guides talked a little bit about their expecations of rock climbing before they were on site. "We didn't have confidence," Saruswati B.K., one of the guides, said. "It was the first time, so no idea how it would go."
Dicky said she was a little bit afraid of the idea of climbing, after she'd broken her ankle the first time she went a few years ago. "I had some fear," she said. "And I had to overcome that."
Madu Regmi, another guide, commented that other people might think that she, or the other guides, weren't capable of climbing, because some of them grew up in a rural area but later moved to the city. In the countryside, people are very strong, she said, but that's not always the case in places like Kathmandu and Pokhara where you work in an office. But, Madhu Regmi said, "I'm in the city for a long time and I feel strong...if we work, we can do."
Madhu Regmi, in fact, grew up in the Everest region of Nepal, where her parents were farmers. She attended one of the primary schools that was funded by mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary. She went on to complete secondary school and took a job in Kathmandu, where she worked for many years. Later, she decided she wanted to try to become a trekking guide, even though it would be hard work. Three years ago, she moved to Pohkara to work at the Three Sisters agency and she's been very happy with the decision.
Back in the royal forest, Laura went on to talk about how important it is to create a positive climbing environment, including lots of encouragement, for people to learn in. It also helps, she notes, if you start with easier climbs that are challenging but doable. That of course is no problem for the guides here where they act more like sisters than workmates.
And today, every single person made it to the top of one of the two climbs. Particularly when Kamala BC, the last woman to reach the top, made it--it was a true celebration. Hugs, pats on the back, jumping up and down--it was like we'd all made it to the top again.
Tommorow's another adventure--maybe we'll stop by the palace to see if any princesses want to give climbing a try. Until then, thanks for reading.
The Royal Narajun Forest-Day Two
"Trust" is the word that can sum up our second day on the rock in Kathmandu. Trust in your sisters, your friends, in the gear, and of course, your own muscles.
The day started similar to yesterday for all of us in the Himalay Keti Program. Everyone was up, breakfasted and ready to go with gear and lunch by 9 a.m.. We walk together through bustling Thamel to the bus station, about 5 blocks away.
Us Americans are all becoming very adept at sidestepping busses, taxis, rickshaws, motorcycles, and people carrying huge burdens on there heads to get where we need to go! By 10 a.m., we were onsite at the gate waiting to be let into the climbing area. After a few minutes, the gate opened and our bus went bumping down a dirt road in the royal preserve. On the way, we saw monkeys chasing each other through the dense trees and past the wall that divides this forest from Kathmandu proper. Below the stoney barricade, the city seems distant and after a half mile or so it starts to fade altogether into terraced fields.
The actual climbing area is only a short walk up from the road and is solid rock as Lynsey described during her lesson. Today, we spent time solidifying the skills that were learned yesterday at the artificial climbing area and putting them into practice. Safety, as always, was the major buzzword.
But, trust was the theme.
After a brief lesson on helmets and handling gear, the group played the "Wind in the Willows" (or "Wind in the Rhododendrons" as it was quickly renamed--it's Nepal's national tree) a team building game. For those of you unfamiliar, imagine 10 Nepali guides and 4 Americans standing in tight circle, with their hands out ready to catch you. One person stands in the middle--the rhododendron--with their feet and body locked straight. Closed eyes, crossed arms and then lean out and trust. It's more difficult then it sounds to trust that your friend will be there to catch you.
That trust then went on the rock as the guides learned to trust their belayer to keep them safe and trust the rope to keep them up on the rock. For anyone who's ever leaned out after reaching the top of a pitch to start rappelling--you know there's a moment of faith where you've got to trust--and to believe that someone down there has got you covered. With two climbs set up and Ann, who recently arrived from Pokhara, helping with instructing and belaying, all ten guides climbed and absolutely everyone was challenged.
Tomorrow, we hope to have a longer day at the site and more stories to share.
Thanks for signing on and check back tomorrow.
Day one on the rock
It was a beautiful day in Kathmandu. At 8:30 a.m. sharp, we walked out of the Om Tara Guest house in the Thamel neighborhood. Thamel is the bustling tourist section of this amazing city where people from every continent mix while every vendor is hawking everything imaginable: pashmina shawls in every color, tiny violins, puzzles, sweaters, incense, knives and more. Walking through Kathmandu for the first time is an assault on the senses!
This morning, we were a long train of climbers walking through to the bus station to catch our private ride to a forest area just on the edge of the city. In our group are ten women Nepali guides from the Three Sisters Trekking Agency, including Dicky "one of the three sisters."
Not including Dicky (who said she was obviously the oldest), the guides range in age from 23 to 31. Two are married in Pokhara, where Three Sisters is based, and have children.
After a bus ride full of morning singing, we arrived at the gate to the royal forest where are climbing area is by 10 a.m. only to be told that the King was holding a meeting on the grounds and we weren't allowed into the climbing area for a few minutes. We visited a famous cave/ temple site briefly before returning to the gate again--this time a guard informed us that the rules for visiting the area had changed the previous day. Now, they said, we needed a permit that would take three days to process.
Our guide, Keshab, stepped in and spoke some magic words--after a quick trip to the palace, the guards said they would speed up our permit to go into the area tomorrow.
Back on the bus, Keshab and the two climbing guides, Laura and Lynsey stuck their heads together and agreed to try out the climbing wall in the city---actually the only artificial climbing wall in the entire country.
With another bus ride to kill time, chat turned to concern when it was discovered that Eve, our coordinator, had been ill the night before. Immediately, the questions came flying from freshly trained "first aiders", who completed their training course with Ann, another guide from Global Daughters, in Pokhara two days before. "Did she think it was something she ate?" "How long had she been feeling this way?" "She must drink some water and maybe later, try to eat a little something." After Eve was properly diagnosed and told to rest today instead of climb, we arrived at the Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Rock Climbing site.
The site is named after the honored Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest. She reached the summit on April 23, 1993 and died days later during her descent from the the mountain. The center, which features a 40m tall artificial wall, opened in 2002 with a ceremony attended by the prime minister, while that position was still in effect. The foundation that controls the area, which also bears Pasang Lhamu Sherpa's name, is dedicated in part to improving the life of rural women in Nepal.
The day's lessons included learning to put on a harness and basic belaying and of course, climbing. Our bus driver, a Nepali guy, said that these women could never do it and the men in charge of the center were very concerned that we not let the women guides climb too high--that they got too scared. These comments did not deter the Three Sisters guides absolutely could not wait to get on the rock.
By late afternoon we'd attracted a score of on-lookers both at the center and in the onion field behind the area. The guides caught on quick, learning the climbing commands and even starting to develop some climbing technique, as demonstrated by Lynsey and Laura. "They don't get this kind of opportunity easily so they just want to take it and (hang on)," Dicky said in the afternoon. The Three Sister's Guides were so excited and it was a momentous, crowd cheering event when Bishnu made it to the top, the first of any of the guides.
By the end of the day, the Nepali guides were helping each other with commands, reminding each other of the basic climbing rules (always make sure your belayer is ready, doublebacking, back up belaying...) and cheering each other to make the next hold.
As the sun set in the city, we walked back to our guest house en masse and as we crossed the hectic Kathmandu streets--daring break-neck speed traffic, one of the guides declared "Together, we are strong!"
"And tomorrow," Laura countered, "real rock!"
Stay tuned and thanks for your support.
The Global Daughters Program
The Global Daughters Program is dedicated to improving the safety, economic and social status of women and girls at-risk in Nepal through sound education and innovative job training in an enriching environment that honors indigenous culture. By partnering with on-the-ground non-governmental organizations in the Himalayan region of Bookim, the Global Daughters Program is striving to develop an affirming atmosphere for Nepali girls and women who will become the country's businesswomen, teachers and leaders of the future.
Himalay Keti, or "mountain girl" in English, is a biannual program dedicated to assisting Nepali women trekking guides in taking their professional skills to the next level in order to increase their economic opportunities.
The program is being developed in conjunction with 3 Sisters Adventure/EWN, a Nepali trekking agency that bucked the trend in 1994 and created the first all-Nepali women guiding service.
The Himalay Keti program is a separate course from the four-week intensive offered through the Adventure Tourism Training Center. This two-week, advanced mountain seminar has been thoughtfully designed to allow experienced female guides to take their skills to the next level in order to increase their economic opportunities.
The curriculum, to be taught by experienced volunteer mountaineers, consists of a 6-day rock climbing course and a four-day intensive wilderness first aid program. The first aid course is specifically geared for the mountain environment and will build on the basic first aid knowledge that the women learned in their initial training.
Now, five women are launching the program in Nepal. Check back here for updates as the program continues.
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