The Glass Ceiling on Everest

Alan Arnette interviews the team behind a new documentary on Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali woman to summit Everest.

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa is a national hero in Nepal, becoming the person “through whom a fledgling nation stakes it’s claim to a mountain commandeered by foreign adventure seekers”, but her story is little known outside on the country. Film-maker Nancy Svendsen, and a team including polar explorer / mountaineer Alison Levine, as well as support from Pasang’s family, are hoping to bring her story to the international audience.

The documentary, titled The Glass Ceiling, now needs help getting to market. The team have launched a crowdfunding campaign and have found a supporter in Alan Arnette, who writes that “the more I dug into this story, the more I join the chorus that it must be told.”

Pasang became the first Nepali woman to summit Everest in 1993, sadly losing her life on the descent. The documentary tells the story of her struggle to accomplish this dream, fighting sexism, racism, and the Nepali caste system along the way. Pasang “didn’t want to be confined by the cultural norms of her birth” and,

being “summarily dismissed by everyone” despite her ambitions, she persevered and accomplished her goal.

For Alison, Pasang’s legacy is clearly seen in the Sherpani women who have summited Everest since. Things are different now, “and Pasang is the reason things are different.”

You can read the full interview on Alan Arnette’s website here and donate to the crowdfunding campaign here.


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Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam. A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon. He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon. His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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