LIMA – A Peruvian who has already climbed two of the 14 mountains worldwide that are at least 8,000 meters (26,230 feet) above sea level says her dream is to team with other women to scale more of the Earth’s highest peaks.
After becoming the first Peruvian woman to reach the summit of Cho Oyu (China-Nepal border) and Manaslu (Nepal), feats she achieved without a sponsor or the use of supplementary oxygen, the 41-year-old Flor Cuenca told EFE in an interview that she wants to keep conquering other mountains in the Himalayas while also encouraging more women to take up mountaineering.
With whom would you like to form this team of female climbers?
There are new talents. I don’t think those from my generation want to climb any more, but there are young Peruvian standouts like Malu Espinoza, a climber from Huaraz; and Lixayda Vasquez, from Cusco.
What difficulties did you have in climbing Cho Oyu (8,201 m) and Manaslu (8,156 m), the world’s sixth- and eighth-highest mountains, respectively?
The difficulties are financial in nature. I hope some company becomes interested in us, because right now I’m still alone on these types of expeditions.
No company has shown an interest in your projects?
After reaching the summit of Cho Oyu, I thought some companies would contact me, because I had earlier sought assistance both in Peru and Germany. But it didn’t happen. However, that didn’t stop me from pursuing my plans to go to Manaslu. My next goal is Broad Peak (8,047 m) or Gasherbrum II (8,035 m) (both located in the Karakorum mountain range spanning the borders of Pakistan, India, and China) in June or July.
Once you’re up there, what’s the toughest thing?
The last few hours are difficult. Exceeding 8,000 m of altitude is another level. There’s not much oxygen, and everything becomes slow: your movement, breathing, digestion ... Fortunately, I felt good and tried to check that my body was fine.
How did you develop an interest in mountain climbing?
It’s natural for me. I learned as a child. My parents are peasants and when I was born in the Ancash mountains (Peru), at 3,500 m above sea level, my lungs were already large. It’s a big advantage to be from a high place. Our sheep were 1,000 m higher and I had to go up there in one or two hours so they wouldn’t go to the other side.