‘Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest’ (2022) Review: Inspiring Documentary Defying Expectations
Nancy Svendsen’s Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest highlights the untold and inspiring story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali woman to climb Mount Everest. The documentary brings her journey to the front and centre and looks at the struggles and confinements that she faced within the community. As an indigenous Sherpa woman, the community expects her to marry and care for her family, but Pasang defies those expectations. In her village, women aren’t educated or work for a living, and Pasang would have to settle for an arranged marriage. However, she persisted. She chose to marry someone of her choosing and eloped with him, walked to Kathmandu for eight days and opened a mountain guide business.
Historically, the Sherpa people were not climbers. According to this website written by Matt Rosenberg, the Sherpas would reverently pass by the high peaks of the Himalayas. They believe the mountains to be the homes of the gods. However, the Sherpa culture has drastically changed since the invasion of Western climbers in the 20th century. Because Sherpas are indigenous to the land, Western climbers rely on them to be their guides to complete the summit. Rosenberg further explains that the Sherpas started climbing the Himalayas in the 1920s when the British controlled the Indian subcontinent. The British planned mountain expeditions and hired Sherpas as porters from that point on, so climbing became part of Sherpa culture.
While many have heard of Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa mountaineer who was one of the first people to climb Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953, there weren’t many people who had heard of Pasang. Her pursuit of climbing Mount Everest was difficult solely because it was uncommon for Sherpa women to pursue a career in the climbing industry. In addition to her passion for climbing, she was irritated by the politics of favourite white climbers. Sherpas and Western climbers have a complicated relationship. It stems from the problem of Western climbers not acknowledging the guides. Pasang and her husband faced a lot of injustices when they opened their business and accompanied Western climbers to the peak. Instead of climbing the summit with them, she was told to stay at the base camp because she didn’t pay for the expedition. But that didn’t stop Pasang from attempting to climb the peak.
Upon facing the inequality in the climbing industry, Pasang took the task into her own hands and worked to pull financial support for her first climb to Everest. It wasn’t an easy task. It took her several years to overcome the burdens of inequality within her community, as an indigenous woman and as a climber. She failed three times, and on the fourth try, she climbed to the summit successfully. She succeeded during her fourth attempt, but the events that came after shocked the world and created a lasting impact on Nepali women and the community.
Pasang’s desire to achieve these goals wasn’t easy. She helped finance expeditions without anybody’s help and often became a voice for climbers and women in her community. Tired of the favouritism and the disrespect Sherpas received from white climbers, Pasang took the lead and changed the game. Before attempting to climb Everest, she climbed other mountains and proved that she had the physical ability. Her fourth climb to Mount Everest proved to herself and the world that her story is a cautionary tale of heroism and resilience. The descent from the summit was devastating, but the outcome of Pasang’s goals resulted in an uplifting story of a woman who believed in herself.
Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest is a moving and inspiring journey of a woman who defied cultural and traditional expectations. It’s a cinematic journey of bravery, even with a bit of stubbornness, she proved that her dreams matter as much as everybody else’s. Her legacy inspired many women to pursue a career in the climbing industry after all. Pasang’s untold story is powerful, and she made history as the first Nepali woman to climb the peak, which is a story that everyone will remember for years to come.
Edited by: Andres Guzman