In 2010, Ritu assists in navigating a raft down the Sun Kosi river in Eastern Nepal. The raft is full of excited, adventure-seeking tourists. They are joined by a second raft led by a senior, experienced guide. In a brutal collision with a class four white rapid, the senior guide is thrown into the treacherous water along with two clients. After immediately rescuing the clients, attention is directed to the senior guide. Though desperately given CPR, his blue pallor signals a tragic death at the scene.
This would be enough to distance anyone from water, but Ritu Gyamdan is quite extraordinary.
Years later as a professional raft, kayak and trek guide, the 24-year-old has taken strength from fear, co-founding the first female adventure tourism company in Nepal.

Today in downtown Kathmandu, Ritu faces me, her words softly spoken but confident. She cracks a sudden, beaming smile, ‘You can edit this yes? My English is very bad. You can teach me and I’ll teach you?’ She throws her head back in a sheepish giggle.
Ritu appears sweet and almost childlike, until I mention her company, Himalayan Adventure Girls. At this point her face reveals all the intensity and determination one would imagine it took to create the company.

In April 2013, Himalayan Adventure Girls was born, specializing in outdoor adventures exclusively for female tourists. Ritu and her four-strong team have all the professional training and experience needed to whisk tourists away on thrilling trips.
Blessed with its location at the foot of the Himalayas, Nepal has an extensive reputation as a rafter’s paradise. From the introductory rivers to famed white waters, a large portion of the tourist industry is dedicated to all types of rafting adventure. For years this has quite literally been a man’s world, with business owners, adventure guides and porters being male. This is precisely what adds to the incredible work of Himalayan Adventure Girls; Ritu treads where no woman has before.

This fearless team have a not-so-hidden agenda – to change the game for women in Nepali society.

Throughout Nepali history women were seen as subordinate. Despite the constitution including a ‘right to equality’, the economic and cultural contributions from women often went unnoticed. It was rare for Nepali women to attend university, while their male counterparts were encouraged to gain education and thrive in careers.
‘Nepal is dominated by males and businesses are run by men only. In the village, the ladies get married early and have children early. We don’t want that yet.’ She neither demeans nor mocks traditional village life, but has firmly chosen an alternative path.


Ritu attended Tribhuvan University, studying Hotel Management and Tourism. She then joined rafting groups, completed training and gained years of experience in an adventure tourism company.
As urban city life thrives, female university attendance increases, showing steady improvements in gender inequality.
There is however, a long way to go before society exists as Ritu would like.
With national laws failing to be enforced, Nepal struggles to gain control of human sex trafficking, with over 200,000 women and girls working in brothels. It is an understandably difficult topic for Ritu to discuss, but one that affects her work and attitudes to Nepali women.
She indirectly addresses the issue, ‘People are often looking for girls in the tourism industry – not in a good way. We are using our company to change this. Women can do incredible things, we’re strong. We can hike, climb, raft.. We can do adventure tourism’. How soon change will come is unclear.

Ritu and her team make up the only 5 women in over 1000 rafting guides.

Himalayan Adventure Girls have hosted events with the aim of training women and increasing numbers, but attendance has been low. Ritu is neither saddened nor deterred by lack of participation.
Its apparent by her demeanor that negativity is a state she rarely entertains. Frequent meditation and thought focus allow her to channel positivity. ‘Women can do this,’ she says firmly, with earnest eyes. ‘Perhaps it will take time to overcome social, mental or physical problems, but they will come. Nothing is impossible in this world.’

At a recent ceremony celebrating womanhood in Nepal, Himalayan Adventure Girls were awarded for their inspirational work. It was a timely encouragement, received at a time when Ritu was missing family and finding work difficult.
The Bhawani Award, recognizing physical & emotional strength in sport, provided Ritu with renewed dedication. She diligently continues to promote training for women in adventure sports, providing careers and independence. ‘My team and I were so happy to receive that award. We love our jobs, being outdoors, with nature, trees and water, talking to people from all over the world. Our work gives us peace to know that we can support ourselves with our skills.’

When I ask about physical training, Ritu modestly downplays the aspects involved in preparing for her work. ‘I swim and paddle with kayaks, do push ups, run, exercise while carrying rafts, and pump rafts by hand’, she tells me causally. And if this power woman could give any advice to budding female entrepreneurs, what would it be?

‘You need an interest, without an interest, support is nothing. What do you want to share with the world? Then educate yourself. Have confidence. And be kind.’

As we reach the end of our conversation, Ritu is as energetic and attentive as when we began, her eyes dancing as she chuckles about reviews posted on the Himalayan Adventure Girls website. One claims ‘Ritu makes the best
curry in Nepal’, another that she is ‘the best Nepali guide around’. A grin covers her face, its disappearance abrupt as she solemnly asks, ‘And what did you think of my website?’ This adaptable, ever-changing energy is reflected in her life.

I return to the incident on the Sun Kosi river, a petrifying experience for a young person to endure. Didn’t that affect her? ‘Of course,’ she says, her voice low, ‘I wanted to stop rafting.’ She raises her head and narrows her eyes with emotion I hadn’t seen until this moment. ‘But I didn’t stop,’ she says defiantly. ‘I will be an example for other women. I’ll stay positive and stay strong. There is more work to be done, and that was not my ending point’.











Update: Since time of publishing, Ritu has also created a sister company for trekking – Nepal Female Guide – what a wonder woman!