Valerie Parkinson, the Asia Base Manager and Trek Leader of Exodus Travels UK, became the first British woman climber to summit Manaslu(8,163m), the eighth tallest peak in the world, without supplementary oxygen last fall. This April, she is all set for an expedition to the highest peak Everest. She is climbing with Altitude Junkies & Project Himalaya Everest team, led by Phil Crampton. Explore Himalaya is handling the logistics for the team.
Just back in Kathmandu after spending two months in UK, Explore Himalaya caught up with Valerie (on 19th March 2009) to talk about her latest venture and her passion for adventure.
Valerie at Explore Himalaya
Q. How was your last expedition to Manaslu?
Valerie: It was very good, though a bit hard. It’s hard to climb without supplementary oxygen. But it was fantastic when we finally reached the top. Somebody asked me when I got back, what I saw from the summit and I couldn’t remember. I was just happy to reach the top!
Q. After Manaslu, why did you choose Everest?
Valerie: Because I have always wanted to have a go at Everest. I have done trekking peaks up to 6400m before but Manaslu was my first 8000m peak and maybe if this is the last time I am going to try an 8000m peak than it has to be Everest.
Q. How are you preparing yourself for the big climb?
Valerie: By going trekking. I went trekking between Christmas and New Year. I spent three weeks doing the Annapurna Circuit and Anna Base Camp treks, and really enjoyed it.
On 26th of March I am flying to Lukla with a Sherpa. I am doing two weeks trekking over the high passes of Renzo La and Cho La, and I will be meeting the group at Lobuche on the 6th of April.
Q. We see very few female trekking or expedition leaders. You say you have been working as a trekking leader for 25 years. What made you choose this unconventional career?
Valerie: I would say the mountains of Asia and its people. I have been doing this for 25 years .I have been leading treks. I love being with the groups. I started this 25 years ago, I loved it and I carry on doing it.
Q. On your adventures, do you feel you are being treated differently for being a woman?
Valerie: In Muslim countries like Pakistan and Morocco, yes. But in India and Nepal, they treat you kindly then they treat men. And especially the Nepalese people, they would do more if you are a woman. If you are in a group and face problems, the Nepalese would do the most to help you. I think it’s better being a woman leader than a man leader in Nepal.
In the last expedition I was the only woman in the team and I got special treatment. At meal times especially, I was given special treats!
Q. How supportive is your family?
Valerie: My father is 79 and mother is 76, and they live in Wiltshire. My father has been to Nepal thrice and he wishes he could do my job. My mother, of course worries when she reads the horror stories. But they know I love what I do and they are supportive. They know I love my job and Nepal.
Photo: Valerie Parkinson
I am not the type of person that would usually take a trip from Beijing to Kathmandu by land. I had no idea what international travel was like or how difficult it can be gaining entry into Tibet. In fact I still don’t because Explore Himalaya made it easy for me.
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.