Lixayda Vasquez, our Peruvian guide for multiple AGC trips to Machu Picchu, learns more about herself each time she climbs up into glaciated mountains. The high mountains teach her lessons of living simply, conscious decision-making, connecting to nature, physical challenge, and respecting teammates. She calls climbing high-altitude mountains “the Big School of Life.”
That is why she is joining five other Peruvian women to mount the first expedition of its kind to climb Gasherbrum II in the Himalayas. In addition to being one of the highest peaks in the world (13th), they chose the 8,034 meter /26,358 ft peak in Pakistan for several other reasons.
As an all-women’s team climbing without the support of sherpas or supplemental oxygen, they want to demonstrate to people around the world that women can reach great heights when they work together and support each other. She mentioned that mountaineers often focus on individual accomplishments and don’t always emphasize team building. Their team is motivated to work together. They believe climbing high mountains requires constant risk management, communication, and respect among the team and for the environment. Their focus is on relationships while demonstrating the strength, determination, and technical skills needed to climb in the harsh alpine setting.
One of the team goals is to encourage more women in the sport of mountaineering, which is still dominated by men. Lixayda believes that message is especially important in Pakistan and other places where women and girls don’t have many opportunities for individual expression.
Lixayda also believes that it is important for women to be role models for their children and families to follow their dreams in a conscientious way. She noted that their expedition is planning extra days, in case of challenging weather conditions, as well as for the team members to acclimate to the 26,000-foot elevation at their own pace.
Her five female team members come from across Peru and share the same passion for mountains. They have a range of experience, from the team leader, Flor Cuenca Blas, who has accomplished six (oxygen-free) ascents of 8,000-meter mountains, to others who have technical mountaineering experience in South America but have not yet reached the high elevations of the Himalayas.
Regardless of the challenges they confront, Lixayda is looking forward to working together on the mountain, seeking harmony in each other, finding new personal awareness, and being inspired by the forces of nature.
If you are inspired to attend your own “Big School of Life” in the mountains, I highly recommend Adventures in Good Company’s upcoming high-elevation mountain trekking trips to Everest Base Camp and Mount Kilimanjaro. I continue to learn and remember life lessons from those beautiful high places, where no crampons or technical skills are needed.