Liza on Mt. Yarigatake in Japan
There ain’t no mountain high enough for Liza Avelino, a Filipina domestic helper in Hong Kong who’s going to climb Island Peak, the 6,189 metre high mountain in Nepal, and Mt. Everest’s neighbor. The 43 year old domestic helper is on her way to the mountain (formally known as Imja Tse), and will become the first of her profession to climb it. She saved two years worth of her salary, including bonuses, just so she could do the 22-day climb.
Island Peak, a snowy ridge popular among trekkers for its varied terrain and where temperatures can go up to minus 7 to 15 degrees Celsius.
She spent HKD 27,000 (roughly P162,000) for a trekking company to accompany her up the mountain. She will be joined by two Irish guides, three fellow hikers from Europe and a crew of sherpas.
According to her:
When I was little, I had a dream to travel the world. But there was a lack of resources – time, money, I didn’t have it. [Now that I am fit to hike], I wanted to experience the beautiful mountain as you go up to one of the highest peaks in the world, and have that feeling that you managed to get there, the satisfying feeling.
Liza in her employer’s flat
Liza’s interest in climbing began when her first employer in Hong Kong encouraged her to do something besides hanging out at Statue Square in Central, a popular picnic and meeting place for Filipino domestic helpers. She then went to Central Library and read about the Second World War. She started following the trails in Wong Nai Chung Gap and the old barracks on Mount Davis, and it later became a passion. Liza said that she enjoys hiking because it’s quiet and peaceful.
Her passion for hiking eventually made her stronger and able to do her work better. She also promised herself that she will climb a new mountain each year on her birthday.
When she changed employers, the new one urged her to join a hiking organization. She joined Hong Kong Trampers and hiked every Sunday. She stood out because she was the only domestic helper in the group. Later on, she organized treks for the group in the Philippines.
Liza on her way to Everest’s base camp. The picture on the right shows Liza in Namche, one of Nepal’s mountain villages
When Liza’s family in Davao became financially stable, she slowly started saving up for hiking gear. She found new employers, and often took them on hikes. Sometimes she would take their children with her. She once said that she’s lucky to have supportive employers, only asking that she comes back in “one piece.” For her upcoming hike, her current employers gave her a thick down jacket for Christmas to keep her warm.
To prepare, Liza climbed the 3,180-metre high Mount Yarigatake in northern Japan. The three-day hike was so challenging that there was one part where she hiked for 16 hours straight.
She also shared that’s she’s not stopping at Island Peak. She plans to climb Alpamayo in Peru, and the ‘ice candy wall’ (a slippery, vertical face at the volcanic Yasugatake mountains) in northern Japan.
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