1993. I was nine years old. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa had become the first Nepalese woman to summit Mount Everest. She was not able to make it home but her conquest inspired me to do something big.
It all started with a simple thought 'maybe I can be the youngest person to climb Everest'.
Although I knew nothing about climbing, I was determined; after all, my backyard was Annapurna Mountain Range. I started seeking information and help; wrote letters to everyone I could think of (even the king).
"What better place than here, what better time than now?"- RATM
I started waking up at 4 am to hike up a hill near my home before heading to school. My rucksack was empty in the beginning; it got up to 50 lb within a year.
1997. My school, Kumudini Homes, stepped up to support any financial or time-management challenges. Nepal Mountaineering Association promised to include me in their training.
I started going places. I started to learn climbing techniques.
1998. As a part of an Advanced Mountaineering Course, I spent 35 days at the Paldor Peak (19,344 ft) learning various mountaineering techniques with 4 professional instructors.
By the end of the course, I was physically, emotionally, and mentally ready for Everest.
Climbing Everest is expensive. With determination not to accept sponsorship from tobacco or alcohol companies, my mother called a meeting with community members of my hometown Pokhara. A committee was formed during the meeting to raise and manage funds for the expedition.
The expedition received overwhelming support; from school students chipping in their lunch money to local businessmen writing personal checks.
Even late King Birendra granted us an audience to boost our morale.
The expedition officially lasted from March 27 to May 15, 1999. Acclimatization is the key to a successful climb. By the end of April, I had spent few days at camp II multiple times, slept a night at camp III without oxygen, and hiked below base camp for a proper rest. We were ready for the submit, but the weather conditions determine the day for submit attemp. The first week of May was looking ideal.
On May 2 we left base camp for the summit attempt and reached camp II. On May 3 and 4 we reached camp III and IV, respectively. On the night of May 4, we left camp IV for the submit.
May 5, 1999, 11:30 am. At the height of 8,750 meters, just 98 meters below the summit, I was informed that we were running out of oxygen. We had enough to take us to the summit but the remaining amount didn't guarantee our safe return to camp IV.
To climb or not to climb?
With four lives at stake, there was no question; we descended.
After returning to camp IV, I suffered from snow blindness. I could barely see and the pain was excruciating. Tragically, we had left all our medical supply at camp II. The next day, I had to literally crawl my way down to camp II.
May 7. Finally, safely at the base camp.
It was time to pack-up and leave, and all I could think of was some fresh fried chickens.