Reprinted from The Leader, Summer 2001, Vol. 16, No. 3
On May 23, NOLS instructor Cristina Prieto and two other Chilean women reached the summit of Mt. Everest, becoming the first South American women to climb the highest mountain in the world. It was a record-breaking season on Everest that included the summit of both a 15-year-old boy from Nepal and an American blind man.
All the expedition members are mountain guides and mountaineering teachers in Chile with broad experience in Europe, the Andes, and the Himalayas. The team included Vivianne Cuq, Cristina Prieto, Patricia Soto and Andrea Munoz. Three high-altitude cameramen also joined the group: Christian Cuq, Philippe Reuter and Francisco Medina. A doctor, one producer and one professional cameraman from Chilean National Television also accompanied the team to base camp. Cuq, Prieto, and Soto reached the summit successfully.
Prieto, 24, is a native of Santiago, Chile. She began her career with NOLS at NOLS Patagonia and took the Alaska mountain instructors course in May, 2000. Two years ago Prieto joined essentially the same all-female group to climb Cho Oyu on the Nepal/Tibet border. She was the first South American woman to climb an 8,000 meter peak.
"As head of the expedition, I consider it a great success," says expedition leader Vivianne Cuq of the recent ascent. "We owe it to a rigorous selection process and a still more rigorous training schedule as well as the human and professional qualities of the team members. I urge all Chilean women to get involved in sport in all its forms and I urge all mountaineers from our continent to set high goals."