Tuesday, April 10, 2007

3 Pinays Ready To Climb Mt. Everest

Filipino climbers Janet Belarmino, Noelle Wenceslao and Carina Dayondon
posing on Gokyo Ri with the summit of Mt. Everest in the background.

They’ve completed their training, packed their gear, said their prayers – and now the three Filipina mountaineers are ready to climb to the top of Mt. Everest.

Janet Belarmino, Carina Dayondon and Noelle Wenceslao are now on their way to Tibet after training on lower peaks in the Himalayan range in Nepal. The three finished their preparation for Mt. Everest by climbing Gokyo Ri, a 5,500 meter peak in the Everest region. They needed to do this so their body could adjust to the lower oxygen level at higher altitudes.

At the altitude the team trained, the oxygen in the atmosphere was only 50% compared to sea level. But according to the team physician, Dr. Ted Esguerra, the women performed extremely well and did not show any signs of altitude sickness. In fact, he even made them go jogging and perform jumping jacks and push-ups, which the women did without any problems.

Dr. Ted Esguarra checks the blood pressure, pulse rate and oxygen
saturation of Noelle to ensure she isn't hit by altitude sickness.

But the women aren’t just ready physically, they’re mentally prepared as well. In an e-mail from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, climber Noelle Wenceslao said that their successful climb on Gokyo Ri boosted their morale. “We put up our own cairn (marker) on top of Gokyo Ri, which had a full view of Everest. Carina, Janet and I spent over an hour there, praying and crying -- girly cheesiness. The peak was warm and windless, but there were no other trekkers up there. The whole sky got overcast with clouds, but not one cloud touched Everest! The locals say it was lucky enough that Everest showed itself to us -- but to be out there for hours despite the clouds? Galing (Incredible)!”

Prayer flags on top of Gokyo Ri (5350 m.)

Other Side Of Everest

Mt. Everest sits on the border of two countries, Nepal and the Tibetan region of China. Last year, Filipinos Leo Oracion, Pastour Emata and Romy Garduce successfully climbed from Nepal on the so-caled South-East route. This is arguably the more dangerous route, because landslides are more frequent on the Khumbu Icefall, a part of the glacier that climbers must cross to reach the summit.

The climbers encountered heavy snow during their training in the Everest region.

This year, the women will instead climb from the Tibetan side or the North route up the mountain. Aside from being relatively safer, the climbing permit in Tibet is cheaper compared to Nepal. The permit for climbing Everest from Tibet is about $4,000 per person compared to $10,000 per person on the Nepalese side.

Because the All Women’s Team is on a tight budget, the climbers have been trying to save money, not just on fees, but even on their daily expenses. According to Noel, “the local homes and teahouses in the Everest area don’t have running water, so you have to pay if you want to take a shower. Because we wanted to save money, we decided to wash-up in one of the rivers. It was very cold! While we were washing our underwear, the Indonesian climbing team passed by. They had a TV crew with them which began filming us –- they probably thought we were locals, but not even the locals wash-up in the river!”

The climbers with a Sherpani lodge owner in the Solo Khumbu region.

Aiming For More Firsts

What the TV crew probably didn’t know was that these women doing the laundry would soon be racing against the Indonesian female climber they were with, to become the first ASEAN woman to reach the top of Mt. Everest. Indonesia’s Everest Women’s Team will reportedly have one female attempting to climb Everest accompanied by six male Indonesian climbers. Singapore has also organized an all women team that hopes to climb Everest in 2008. An Indonesian woman, Clara Sumarwati, had been reported as the first Indonesian, and first ASEAN woman to summit Mt. Everest in 1996. But Indonesian mountaineers have disputed her climb for lack of evidence.

Aside from being the first ASEAN women to reach the summit, the Filipina climbers hope to bag a much more rare achievement – to become the first women in the world to traverse or cross Mt. Everest. After reaching the summit from Tibet, the women hope to climb down the other side of the mountain, landing them in Nepal. This has only been done by a handful of mountaineers – all of them men. The traverse will pose a bigger challenge for the women as they will be passing an unfamiliar route to get down the mountain. They will also have to hire additional Sherpas to prepare tents, equipment and food that should be ready for them when they go down the Nepal side of Everest. Filipino Everest Summiter Leo Oracion will be stationed at the Base Camp in Nepal to welcome the women and accompany them back to Kathmandu.

The girls spin the prayer wheels for good luck.

High Spirits

Despite the difficulties they face, the women are glad they’re finally on their way to Tibet. “It was hard to stay focused in Manila as we had to deal with so many other things such as meeting with sponsors, attending events and buying and borrowing gear. Now that we are here, we’re doing what we’ve set out to do –- just climb,” says Noelle.

For the team, it is also a time to reconnect with friends they made on previous climbing trips to the Himalayas. The Filipino’s warmth and friendliness has endeared them to the locals who have once again welcomed them with open arms. According to Noelle, the locals still remember Everest Summiter Pastour Emata, who is accompanying the women to Tibet. “Pastour is such a funny guy and the shop owners love him. He’s so popular, it’s just like he’s in Davao. He could probably run as a Baranggay official here and win! Carina on the other hand is the “crush ng bayan” (neighborhood crush). An internet shop owner is offering us free internet access if Carina marries him.”

Everest Summiter Erwin "Pastour" Emata calling home.

Now that they’re about to begin what could be the toughest adventure of their lives, the women say they’ve as prepared as they can be physically and mentally. Their chance for success will now be up to the mountain, the weather and God. The women say they’ve asked for prayers from their families, loved ones and supporters for a successful and safe climb. According to Noelle, knowing that their loved ones are rooting for them at home will help boost not just their morale, but also their chances of reaching the top of Everest to once again plant the Philippine flag on the highest point in the world. “We are nervous but we are also very excited. We know that our success won’t be for ourselves, but for all Filipinas wherever they may be. We want to show the world that what the men can do, we can also achieve –- to prove that Kaya ng Pinay (The Filipina Can)!”

View from Shyangboche with the Everest summit (center, 8848 m.) peeking
above the Himalayan range and Lhotse (right, 8516 m.) with it's cloud plume.


Tata said...

hey! really nice! thanks for posting this one. looking forward to more updates :)

dolphinstate said...

We been watching the show in Discovery Channel, Everest Beyond The Limit..its tough out there! Best wishes and good luck to the three pinays who want to conquer Mt Everest! Im sure its gonna be a huge undertaking. Pinay women making it on the highest peak of the world will definitely be great.

nina said...

go carina, noelle and janet! we're all rooting for you and praying for you back here at home.

Jom said...

Janet at Noelle,

Good luck sa inyo, kay Carina, at sa iba pang members ng team. Mabuti yan na may iba pang UPM na makakaakyat ng Everest, para mabawasan ang yabang ni Garduch. Siguradong malaking party na naman ito pagbalik ninyo.

ina said...

partner, ja, ca! sobrang goodluck jan! miss ko na kayo! kaya nyo yan sobra! maraming naghihintay sa inyo! ingat kayo at magdadasal kami!

Retzel said...

goodluck! god bless! kita kits pagbalik!

papicture ako ha! :D

monix said...

NOELLE! Gusto ka na makita ng magiging inaanak mo! At pahaba ka na ng hair! hehehe! I miss you my piggy!

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the three pinay who successfully climbed the Mt. Everest was not convencing because they have too many help, without they can not be successful.

Anonymous said...


--ambar-- said...

Hi! I am so sorry to tell that there is first ASEAN Women that climbed Everest. Her name is Clara Sumarwati. She did in Autumn 1996 from North Col/North Ridge Tibet side along with five sherpas. She is been recorded by Himalayan Chronicles such as Elizabeth Hawley and Xavier Eguskitza from 8000ers.com

Best for Phillippines team!

Hannah said...

It's my dream to climb everest as well. Would there be details on how to prepare for the climb to summit?