The Mountain Shepherds Initiative of the Nanda Devi Campaign has announced the long awaited list of finalists for the first ever Nanda Devi Women’s Trek 2006. Seventeen women from India, the US, Canada, and Taiwan were selected for their mountaineering skills and interest in mountain environments and peoples, and have been invited to come to the Nanda Devi region this September and October to take part in the initiative’s inaugural trek.
The Women’s Trek marks a major milestone in the community-based ecotourism efforts of the Nanda Devi Campaign. Five years in the making, the campaign hopes that this trek will launch a new type of tourism based on community aspirations in accordance with the social and environmental principles laid down in the groundbreaking Nanda Devi Declaration of 2001. For this, the campaign reached out to the world’s women mountaineers this past International Women’s Day to pay tribute to the mountain goddess as well as the region’s women who have played a central role in movements such as Chipko and more recent struggles over local forest, land, and water rights.
The Trek also commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of Devi Unsoeld’s untimely passing near the summit of Nanda Devi as part of an Indo-American expedition that ascended the difficult Nortwest Face-North Buttress for the first time. The daughter of legendary mountaineer Willi Unsoeld, twenty-two-year-old Devi had harboured grand ambitions to climb her namesake, yet she was struck by a fatal stomach ailment before the final ascent. Five years later, Rekha Sharma, Chandra Prabha Aitwal, and Harshwanti Bisht did become the first women to successful summit the mountain. Only a few months later, the region was declared a National Park and a blanket ban imposed on further expeditions.
In 2003, parts of the park were opened to limited tourism after a long struggle by local villagers for the restoration of their customary land rights. The Nanda Devi Campaign was forged out of this struggle, and has built up an impressive multifaceted movement that has found its most recent culmination in the Mountain Shepherds Initiative and this historic trek.
The offer includes free over night hotel accommodation at the starting and culmination point of the trek besides coverage of all the expenses during the trek. This includes permits fees, porter and guide costs, vegetarian Indian food, safe drinking water and single tent accommodation during the trek.
List of finalists:
— By Rajiv Rawat, 26 July 2006