Dawa Yangzum Sherpa: First Nepali Female International Mountain Guide

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa is a well-known figure in the mountaineering community. She is the first Nepali high-altitude female climber to ever become an international mountain guide. Sherpa also has an experience of working with the National Geographic Society on Everest. Dawa has officially been honored as the foremost Nepalese woman to evolve as an International Federation Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA) mountain guide with the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association (NNMGA).

There are lots of interesting facts related to Dawa Yangzum Sherpa’s life. Make sure to read till the end of this article to know more about her!

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa and Her Mountaineering Journey

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa and Her Mountaineering Journey

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa is a female mountaineer who became the first woman ever to work as an international mountain guide in a male-dominated industry. Dawa grew up in the mountains in Rowaling Valley. From the time she was a young girl, she saw many male members of her own village go on expeditions to the tallest of mountains in Nepal. She developed a fondness for climbing from the time she was only nine and even told her school teacher that she was going to be at the top of Everest someday.

Yangzum was only 13 years old when she went over the Tashi Lapsa pass with a trekking group. Sherpa was very young but learned about passion and hardship when she carried 30 pounds of baggage to her mother’s hometown, Thame. With the little money she made from her work, she flew to Kathmandu, where her uncle lived. When Dawa shared about her love for the mountains and her ambition to become a mountaineer, her family was rather amused than supportive.

Dawa Yangzum’s brother, Dawa Gyalje, worked as a mountaineer. This gave her a chance to explore a 15-day work in the mountains in the year 2008. While she had an experience of working odd jobs for the sake of her family as a young woman, this was her first time working as a mountaineer, where she was able to make herself $100. She started working as a mountain guide in 2010. Then, for two years, she trained at the Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC), founded by Conrad Anker and Jennifer Lowe-Anker in 2003. Soon after, Dawa started working as an instructor.

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa Mountaineering Career

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa Mountaineering Career

After having started her career in the mountains as an instructor and a mountaineering guide, she started climbing with the Nepal Mountaineering Association. Her training at the Khumbu Climbing Center was aimed to help her boost her experiences as a mountaineer, which started showing its fruitfulness. Working at the NMA, she started climbing mountains that were taller than 7,000 meters. She was only 21 years old when she became a working guide on Everest. The Everest expedition was organized by National Geographic and The North Face. She was the only female among the 12 other Sherpas who were on the same expedition.

Her first summit was with Yala Peak in 2009. To this date, she has been able to climb all fourteen of the eight-thousanders. It was finally, in the year 2017, that she received a certification from the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association which allowed her to become the first female international mountaineering guide officially. A major Western company paid Sherpa to become an athlete, for which she had to sign an agreement with that US outdoor recreation product company. This opportunity made her one of the few Nepali mountaineers to have ever gotten the chance.

Besides Everest, her most admirable climb is that of Makalu in 2019, when she became the first Nepali woman to ever accomplish the peak. In 2014, she also became a part of an all-female, 3-member Nepali delegation to Mount K2 in Pakistan alongside Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita and Maya Sherpa. In 2021, she became the first Nepali female to reach atop Manaslu during the fall season. After her return from the expedition, she went to America. There, Dawa started working as an IFMGA mountain guide. She worked other jobs, including landscaping. With time, Alpine Ascents Internation offered her a job. She started doing guided trips in the Cascades.

Sherpa took her final IFMGA guides exam in 2016 back in Rowaling Valley, Nepal, which led to a lead fall, causing her to retake her examination in 2017. She passed her exam the second time.

It really would not be wrong to say that Dawa is an inspiration to women and even little girls who aspire to make it big in the mountaineering industry. Her life and career suggest everyone never loses an opportunity and always follows one’s dreams.

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa Mount Everest Expedition

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa Mount Everest Expedition

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa became the first Nepali female international guide to expedite Mount Everest in 2012. It was never easy for the mountaineer to pursue her dreams as it was for her male counterparts. Her hardships working as a load carrier became worth the efforts and time she put in when she met Emily Harrington. Dawa and Emily climbed the Everest together. This made Sherpa the very first woman to do so from her village as well. Reminiscing all that she had gone through, Yangzum says,

“My dream to climb Everest had come true, and soon after, my passion changed to my profession. I earned quite good money on that expedition.”

Dawa Sherpa about Challenges in her Former Climbs

Dawa Sherpa about Challenges in her Former Climbs

The young female mountaineer has faced several challenges throughout her career as she went to the highest and most technical mountains in Nepal as well as other countries. Dawa Yangzum went on a female-dominated expedition of Annapurna in 2021, where Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita and her made it to the summit without any help from supplemental oxygen. Other members of the same team include Purnima Shrestha, Dabhuti Sherpa, Sharmila Tamang, and Maya Sherpa. She recalls her climb to Annapurna, saying, “Annapurna was the hardest for me, as I was climbing without supplementary oxygen, and I was with the rope-fixing team on summit day.”

Likewise, when she worked as a guide on a trip to the village with the highest elevation in Nepal, Lobuche, she reminisced about the moments, saying, “The trip was 100 percent successful. Its main intention is to encourage, inspire, and pave the way for underprivileged women, mostly from remote areas, into climbing. It was a productive two-week trip mentoring and sharing experiences with these women from different backgrounds.”


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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about dawa yangzum sherpa

Are there female Sherpa guides?

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, who is also known as Karki among her peers, is the first Nepali female Sherpa guide who has already received an international certification.

What does Dawa Yangzum Sherpa represent?

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa is the brand ambassador of the North Face and Rolex.

How old is Dawa Yangzum Sherpa?

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa is 33 years old as of 2023.

What other names do people know Dawa Yangzum Sherpa as?

People know Dawa Yangzum Sherpa as DaYangzum and Karki.

What is the nationality of Dawa Yangzum Sherpa?

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa was born in Nepal but holds American citizenship.

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