The first Nepali woman to summit and descend Mount Everest — now a single mom working at a Connecticut Whole Foods — heads back to Everest to make a better life for her two daughters.
Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa
Lhakpa Sherpa was the first Nepali woman to completely summit and descend Mount Everest. For anyone else, that might be the greatest challenge and achievement of their life. For the unforgettable Lhakpa — the funny, profane, no-nonsense, and fiercely determined subject of this extraordinary documentary — it was just the start.
Lhakpa grew up in Nepal, illiterate and rejected by her family, and emigrated to the US without speaking English. When we meet her, she’s working as a dishwasher at Whole Foods in Connecticut, raising her teenage daughters, Sunny and Shiny, in a small apartment. She’s a single mom and spousal-abuse survivor. Although she kept setting new records as a woman climber, those accomplishments didn’t improve her life economically. The film shows the gulf of experience between Lhakpa and her daughters, who were raised in the US and have not known the sort of hardship their mother experienced in Nepal. Lhakpa sets out to make one more ascent of Everest in the hope it might turn things around for her daughters, who are struggling to cope after a period of distress. Working a full-time job, she won’t have time to train. But it’s the best chance she has.
Filmmaker Lucy Walker first came to TIFF with a documentary about another woman climber on Everest, Blindsight. On this project, she collaborates with a dedicated crew including several Sherpa who participated in filming the expedition. Walker has a long track record of documenting extraordinary lives, but this film stands out as a career peak.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence