Tibetan women on top of the world
Five Tibetan women mountaineers will join with four Japanese women colleagues to try to scale Mount Qomolangma next year between March and May.
The five, Gyigyi, Purbo Zholgar, Lhagyi, Canglha, and Guisang, head of the women's team, are seasoned climbers from the Tibet Mountaineering Team.
Mountaineering has traditionally been a male pursuit, but many women have become active participants of late.
All of the Chinese climbers have reached the summits of mountains over 8,000 metres high, and each of them has her own exciting stories to tell.
At 46, Guisang, from Namling County in Xigaze, has been climbing for about half of her life.
In 1974, she was chosen as a member of the national mountaineering training team.
She recalled that in March the following year, she had little difficulty reaching 8,600 metres with her national team members. However, a sudden snowstorm during the climb prevented them from further ascending Mount Qomolangma, known in the West as Mount Everest.
Guisang and her teammates waited for three days and nights at base camp. Although it cleared on the fourth day, she was forced to stay behind, after burning her feet while boiling water for her teammates.
On the same day, Pandog became the first Chinese woman to stand atop Qomolangma.
Missing her chance, Guisang was determined not to let another opportunity pass.
In April 1990, she became the only woman to join a Sino-Soviet-US team to make the ascent to the "Roof of the World."
Since joining the Tibet Mountaineering Team in 1982, Guisang has gone beyond 8,000 metres four times so far, and was the first woman in Asia to reach the top of Qomolangma twice.
"I have a 'peak' that supports and elevates me while reaching such heights," Guisang said, referring to her husband.
Gyigyi, 33 from Nyingchi, and her husband, Renna, are the first couple in the world to have stood atop Qomolangma.
The most prominent photo in her home in Lhasa is the one the couple took on May 27, 1999, while at the top of Qomolangma.
They lit a torch for the Sixth National Athletic Meeting.
"We were very excited then," she recalled. "But, we began descending and we were occupied with how to get down safely."
For 17 hours, Gyigyi, Renna and their teammates trekked downward, finally reaching the advance camp at 6,500 metres.
While Gyigyi is now preparing for next year's ascent, Renna and his teammates are working on scaling the 14 highest peaks in the world above 8,000 metres.
Thirty-four-year-old Lhagyi is from Xietoinmen in Xigaze.
Her father, Dacering, is a veteran climber, who has reached the summit of Qomolangma twice.
With good health, and a cool but considerate mind, Dacering always leads teams during hard climbs, earning him the nickname "Trail blazer."
Lhagyi joined the region's mountaineering team in 1986, when she was 17, and started training with her male counterparts.
In 1987, she joined a Sino-Japanese team to have a tilt at Lhabu Gyikang Mountain, a rocky ice-and-snow-covered mountains 7,367 metres above sea level.
It is part of a boundary mountain range around Nyalam and Tingri counties. There are three peaks above 7,000 metres, with the highest being Lhabu Gyikang.
During the first trek, Lhagyi fell into an icy lake, but was saved by one of her teammates. They reached the first campsite during the second ascent and then encountered a severe snowstorm. The subsequent avalanche tore open their tent, and Lhagyi had to squeeze into another tent to spend the night.
But on October 26, she and her Chinese and Japanese teammates successfully scaled the peak.
Since then, Lhagyi has been above 8,000 metres on two occasions, successfully reaching the top of Xixabangma Peak and Cho Oyu, the world's sixth highest peak in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Her husband, Dachimi, is also a noted mountain climber. Following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, he has also climbed Qomolangma twice.
At 29, Purbo Zholgar is already a well weathered mountaineer.
She exhibited fine athletic skills at an early age and was a member of the Tibetan Juvenile Track and Field Team.
Later, she became the rock-climbing coach of the Tibet Mountaineering Team.
In 1992, she reached Chiangsalhamo Peak with other mountaineers both from her team and Japan. Two years later she climbed Xixabangma Peak.
In 2002, she reached the summit of Cho Oyu together with her teammates and counterparts from Japan.
Then in May last year she succeeded in reaching the big one with climbers from South Korea- the summit of Qomolangma.
"I was born and grew up at the foot of Mount Qomolangma, and I always dreamed of throwing myself into her bosom," she said after the climb. "This time, Mount Qomolangma showed me her kindness."
At 25, Canglha is the youngest member of the Tibet Mountaineering Team. Although she has not been a member for long, she is one of the team's top climbers. She reached the summit of Cho Oyu in 2002 and completed last may's Qomolangma climb.
"I fell in love with the mountains as soon as I began to get in touch with them," Canglha said. "I've never feared them."
However, she has considered quitting several climbs - all above 8,700 metres.
"But the peaks kept their allure and I stood up again and continued," Canglha said. "When I stood on top of Qomolangma, I learned how pain can bring success."