Kathmandu, Nepal: When Dawa-Yangzum Sherpa first set her sights on being a mountain guide, she was told it was no job for a girl. Now she has proved her doubters wrong, becoming Nepal's first woman to earn a prestigious international qualification.
Last month, the 27-year-old completed a rigorous course run by the Swiss-based International Federation of Mountain Guides, often described as a PhD in mountaineering.
The prestigious qualification has been awarded to around 6,000 people worldwide and just 50 men in Nepal, despite climbing being a major revenue earner for the impoverished country.
Sherpa belongs to the Himalayan ethnic group that has become synonymous with mountain guiding thanks to their reputation for being strong climbers with a natural tolerance for the lack of oxygen at high altitudes.
But in Nepal -- home to eight of the world's highest mountains -- climbing remains a man's job.
"This is a challenging field, even more so if you are a girl. There were people who said this is not a girl's job, that I won't get work or (asked) what will I do if I have kids," Dawa-Yangzum said.
Mountaineering is the lifeblood of Sherpa's home village in Rolwaling valley, which neighbours Mount Everest, and scores of its residents have summited the 8,848-metre peak.
"I knew what I wanted to do. My passion was to be outdoors, to climb. And my family did not discourage me," she said.
At 17, Yangzum was already guiding tourists on trekking routes, and soon after that scaled her first mountain, Nepal's 5,500-metre Yala Peak.
American climber David Gottlieb, who works with US-based expedition operator Alpine Ascents International, remembers Yangzum showing great promise when he roped her in for an ice-climbing trip in the Rolwaling Valley.
"It is something else to see that great a promise of ability in a craft that not everybody is good at. And she displayed that immediately," Gottlieb said.