MANILA, Philippines -- A small window of good weather, a little good luck and a lot of determination gifted three Filipino women who belonged to a Philippine expedition the ultimate triumph of a mountaineer: the summit of Mt. Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
In a satellite phone call to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, expedition leader Art Valdez confirmed that Noelle Wenceslao, Karina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino all reached the summit from the North Side Wednesday morning.
Wenceslao, who earlier suffered from acute mountain sickness (AMS) reached the summit at 6:10 a.m. Nepal time (around 8:10 a.m. Philippine time) together with her Sherpa Lakpa Gyalzen. Dayondon arrived 10 minutes later with Pemba Choti. Belarmino arrived at around 7:45 a.m. Nepal time with Pasang Norbu.
“The girls are in good shape and the weather is very clear with winds in between 20 and 30 kilometers per hour. It’s a great moment. It symbolizes what we can do if we work together. It also shows the strength of the Filipina. Ang Pinay naabot ang tuktok, kaya ng Pinay [The Pinay has reached the top, the Pinay can],” said Valdez repeating their slogan.
He said expedition team doctor Ted Esguerra “took care” of Wenceslao. “Every step of the way, the doctor was monitoring her condition.”
Valdez said the Filipino women had to make an early push for the summit to avoid the “traffic jams” on the way down the South side.
The Filipinas had to push their summit targets forward after bad weather caused some delay. They were scheduled to push for the summit last week.
Aside from Esguerra, Valdez was also accompanied by Pastor Emata, one of the first Filipinos to summit Everest.
The girls were making their way down the mountain on the South Side for a traverse route on Everest as of Wednesday morning.
They hope to reach Camp 2 on the South Side (established at 6,500 meters or 21,300 feet) by today and Everest Base Camp (at 5,380 meters or 17,600 feet) by Friday.
Waiting for them at the South Side are Leo Oracion, another Filipino who reached the summit last year, John Fortes of the Philippine Air Lines Mountaineering Club (PALMC) and Peewee Wenceslao, Noelle’s father.
Wenceslao, Dayondon, and Belarmino are the first Filipino women to summit the Everest and the first women on top of Everest this climbing season. Valdez also said they had a lock on the title as the first women from Southeast Asia to summit Mt. Everest.
A Malaysian woman is on South Side this climbing season but the North Side has an earlier summit window. An Indonesian woman was reported to have summitted in the early 90s, but this feat was being disputed.
The North Side route is considered the more treacherous route as compared to the South side. Valdez, who was calling from the Tibet Advance Base Camp at 6,500 meters or 21,300 feet, lamented the conditions on the route. “Mas mahirap dito [It’s harder here]. The Tibet Advance Base Camp is higher than the South side Base Camp,” said a breathless and coughing Valdez.
Last year, Valdez was on Everest Base Camp on the South side as a member of the support team for Oracion and Emata, two of three Filipinos who reached the summit last year.
Also last year, mountaineer Romi Garduce reached the summit behind Emata and Oracion.
Another mountaineer Dale Abenojar also claimed to have reached the summit from the North Side but his feat was being disputed.