11 Aymara Women Subvert Gender Norms, Scaling Snowy Andes Peaks as Mountaineers

Juan Karita, AP

Dressed in traditional clothing, a group of Aymara women took on the 19,974-foot high Huayna Potosi Mountain in Bolivia earlier this month. It wasn’t until they were on the last leg of the climb that they removed their long layered skirts as a safety precaution. Underneath, they wrote thermal sweatsuits, according to The Associated Press.

“Climbing in a pollera isn’t easy,” said Domitila Alaña, 41, according to Clarín. “You might step on the hem of the skirt and fall, but I am used to it.”

Alaña started climbing ~16,000 feet to the base camp as a porter – a job Cholitas take on as their husbands guide people up the mountain. Then, she became a cook, but was inspired to find out what the top of the mountain was like after tourists asked her about it. She’s been climbing for 15 years, and she has summited three mountains. She would like to be a guide, but lack of money makes it difficult to buy proper equipment.

In Bolivia, a housekeeper can earn $175 a month. But each guide can make $35-$50 a day, and female cooks can earn $20 a day.

Out of the 11 women that accompanied The AP on their climb, six of them dream of making it to the top of the 22,834-foot high Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas.

Check out more of The Associated Press’ trip here.