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The selection of two young Ladakhi women to participate in an upcoming expedition to Mount Everest adds to the history of gender equality and mountaineering experience in that society. The two “girls,” as they were styled in an article last week in NewKerala.com, spent four months training at the National Institute of Mountaineering, located in the Indian state of Uttaranchal, to build up their fitness. The article describes their selection to participate in the 2005 Everest Expedition, though it does not indicate their ages.

In January this year, Tresing Chorol and Tresing Ladol, both from Ladakh, participated in an expedition to the Siachen Glacier in the Jammu and Kashmir State, an area famed as a very high, and very cold, battlefield on the frontier between Pakistan and India. The strategic value of the glacier is disputable, but evidently it serves to train mountain climbers.

The president of the Winter Sports Club in the Leh district of Ladakh, Tashi Rigzen, commenting on the selection of the young women, believes that the two climbers will set an example for all the young girls in their society. “They will create a history in Ladakh,” he said.

The young women themselves are understandably proud of their accomplishments. “When we were on our Siachen Expedition the temperature was minus 25 degrees centigrade. We have undergone many tests in the selection process,” said Chorol. She indicated that there were four contestants for the two positions on the expedition, and the two of them were selected. “The training at National Institute of Mountaineering was very tough. But we could overcome all hurdles because we were born in the mountains of Ladakh,” she concluded.

This kind of confidence has been an important part of their society, in which women have traditionally held positions of power and respect. The Ladakhi people also have served as porters to Western exploring and mountain climbing expeditions in the past, such as those of Sven Hedin, the well-known Swedish explorer. Hedin launched several of his expeditions into Tibet and Central Asia about 100 years ago from Ladakh. In his books, Hedin expressed a lot of praise for his Ladakhi porters. That two young Ladakhi women would be selected to participate in an expedition to Mount Everest is not at all surprising. After all, they are from Ladakh.