Yale Himalaya Initiative

environment | livelihood | culture

Lhakpa Sherpa: story of the first and most successful woman climber of Mount Everest

By: Amanda Mei

Hosted by the Himalayan Students Association at Yale and supported by the Yale Himalaya Initiative, mountain climber Lhakpa Sherpa joined us for a reception and discussion of her life achievements. Lhakpa is the first Nepalese woman to successfully summit Mount Everest in the year 2000. She has since summited the 8,848-meter-high mountain eight times, more than any other woman in the world. Lhakpa along with her two daughters and son visited Yale for the first time on October 25. Although Lhakpa has been living in Connecticut for 15 years, she had not visited Yale’s campus until her invitation by the Himalayan Students Association.

Kelsang Dolma and Mila Dorji, co-presidents of the Himalayan Students Association founded earlier this year, wanted to introduce the Yale community to an accomplished yet relatively unknown woman like Lhakpa. After learning about the climber’s presence in Connecticut through an article, Dolma and Dorji welcomed Lhakpa to campus on behalf of the students from Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and other countries.

“Ms. Sherpa said that she was very honored to be at Yale,” Dolma said. “But we were more honored to have her here.”

During a small reception, Lhakpa shared her experiences with undergraduate students over snacks of momos and samosas. Later in the evening, she spoke at Pierson College’s Leitner House for a College Tea. Lhakpa presented images of her family in Nepal and her treks up to the peak of Mount Everest. With humility and good humor, she recounted stories of her unflagging efforts to summit Mount Everest and her lifelong passion for mountaineering.

Lhakpa spoke passionately about the value of education at institutions such as Yale. While grateful for her present situation, Lhakpa encouraged Yale students to follow their intellectual careers just as she encourages her children to pursue their academic and extracurricular interests. 

Lhakpa admitted that her journey to United States had not been easy. Though she became a citizen of the United States many years ago, she still experiences difficulties speaking the English language—women of her age in Nepal do not often receive full education. While she now supports her children’s education and personal growth in the United States, Lhakpa works tirelessly as a single mother.

At the request of HSAY, Lhakpa agreed to take a photograph on top of Mount Everest holding the Yale banner. During her most recent climb in 2017, Sherpa represented organizations such as her children’s schools as well as Yale. The university is the first to be represented on the world’s highest mountain.