Nepalese mountaineers who conquered one of the world’s most treacherous peaks returned home to a rapturous welcome, with cheering supporters hailing their first-ever winter summit of K2 as a triumph for their Himalayan nation.
Their ascent in mid-January of the world’s second-highest mountain — the notoriously challenging 8,611-metre (28,251-feet) “savage mountain” of Pakistan — shone a much-deserved spotlight on their own climbing prowess.
A band played patriotic songs as the team arrived in Kathmandu, while well-wishers held out flowers and waved national flags.
“This is not just our success — it is for all Nepalis, so that our future generations can look back and be proud about achievements of Nepali climbers,” one of the 10 summiteers, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, said. Kami Rita Sherpa, who has climbed Everest a record 24 times, said the recognition was long overdue.
“The Western climbers did not set the records without the help of Sherpas,” he said. “All the routes are set by us, the food is cooked by us, their loads are carried by our brothers — they haven’t done it alone.” To reflect their immense pride in making the achievement in their country’s name, the team sang the Nepali anthem, with their distinctive national flag fluttering in one of their hands, as they neared K2’s savage summit.
Since the first British teams set their sights on summiting Everest in the 1920s, Nepali climbers — mostly from the Sherpa ethnic group — have been by their side.
But they did not aspire to reach for the heavens — among Nepal’s poorest communities, they risked life and limb to help foreign climbers achieve their life-long ambitions because they needed to feed their families.—AFP