Weekend Warm-Up: DIDI, the Nepalese Word For ‘Big Sister’

When something you love becomes your profession, things can go sideways quickly. Add money or judgment or competition to anything, and what once felt like pure expression can quickly morph into a daily grind.

You probably know what I’m talking about. It’s an especially common problem with athletes that rely on creativity, flow, and style to make a living. Professional freerider Marion Haerty is no exception. A four-time Freeride World Tour champion, the French snowboarder nevertheless wanted more out of life than scrabbling for podium spots.

Like so many before her seeking meaning and perspective, she cast her eyes on the high mountains.

DIDI, a film from The North Face, follows Haerty as she travels to Nepal to climb and snowboard her first 6,000m peak — Lobuche. Joining her in the mission is Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, an accomplished Nepali mountaineer, as well as an all-female team of guides.

a group of women pose for a picture

Marion Haerty (center) poses with Dawa Yangzum Sherpa (center right) and the team of all-female guides who comprised the expedition. Photo: Screenshot


Dawa summited Everest at 21 after spending her teenage years gaining the skills and experience needed to accomplish such a feat. She went on to gain her IFMGA guide certification in 2017, becoming the first Nepali woman to do so. Dawa now spends equal time guiding in the U.S. and Nepal.

That’s quite a resumé between the two women, and watching them team up on Lobuche is just as inspiring as you’d imagine. There’s always joy in witnessing consummate professionals operating at maximum awesomeness. And as ExplorersWeb reported last year after a fatality on Lobuche, “even modest peaks in the Himalaya deserve the utmost respect.”

A powerful aura

Haerty is the youngest person on the all-women trek. Surrounded by a group of “didi” — a Nepalese word for “big sister” — the pressures of life on the Freeride World Tour circuit begin to dissipate.

women hikers laughing together

Photo: Screenshot


“I think an all-woman expedition it’s more fun because you can share everything. We can have fun together,” Dawa says in the film.

For her part, Haerty has nothing but respect for the guide, a woman who “exudes something powerful.”

“She has such an aura,” Haerty continues in reference to Dawa. “There is so much respect from the Nepalis, from the Americans, from the Europeans. She fought to get where she is today.”

Mutual respect. Sisterhood. The sharing of cultures. It’s hard to beat that for themes in a mountaineering film.

The way down

Do the pair and their all-female crew reach the top of Lobuche? It’s probably not a spoiler to say yes, as accomplished as this group is. It’s the snowboarding descent where things get dicey — and icy.

two women hug on top of a mountain

Dawa and Haerty on the summit of Lobuche. Photo: Screenshot


“I thought I’d be doing postcard turns in front of Everest,” Haerty says of her ride down the mountain. That was not the case, as the steep slope, low visibility, and icy conditions necessitated a piecemeal, achingly slow descent.

But that doesn’t phase Haerty.

a woman snowboards down a mountain

Haerty descends Lobuche slowly and with the aid of ropes due to low visibility and icy conditions. Photo: Screenshot


“It’s not the run of the year but I’m enjoying it!” she gushes to the camera during the ride down. And after all, getting away from measuring performance and back to enjoying the mountains was the whole point of the expedition.

“In the end, riding down Lobuche was more of an excuse. The most important was really the path to reach the top of the mountain,” she says.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).