Parched up on a beautiful village called Tengboche in Nepal at a height of above 16000 ft from sea level, lives the community of the Sherpa people, the indigenous mountain people…….the undisputed Gods of the Himalayas…….
And, I am fascinated by their life story…….
Not being an expert on Sherpa life by any means, I will try to give my perspective on these very hard working religious group of people and surely the bravest of all…….
The Sherpa community lives majorly in Nepal…..and many have migrated to Nepal from Tibet in ancient times. Tibet also has a sizable population of Sherpas. And they are present in the beautiful hill towns of Darjeeling and Sikkim……and also in the kingdom of Bhutan……and they are found in many western countries as many of the new generation Sherpas are migrating there…..:)
The best ways that we know Sherpas are that they are highly trained mountain guides, porters, cooks and probably much better climbers than many of the mountaineers from around the world they guide on the dangerous slopes of the Himalayas, particularly Everest. And that’s why I call them the undisputed Gods of the Himalayas, since without their presence and help, no mountaineer can ever reach the summits of the highest five peaks of the world.
Sherpas are very devoted Buddhists……and being their primary religion, they consider the blessings of Buddha are utmost essential on every part of their work on a daily basis on the high slopes……..
And, Sherpas are also highly grateful to the hordes of climbers visiting Nepal each year for onward journey to the highest peaks……Himalayan tourism has given the Sherpas an international identity and a confirmed mode of livelihood as the pay packages are not very meagre considering the high cost of transporting heavy material for large teams up on the high faces of Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga, Ama Dablam……..so they are in high demand throughout the climbing season….
Everest stands tall, lonely, guarding the world……..and most of the times uninviting to many……..and always has the last word.
Earlier days, farming and cultivation was the primary means of livelihood of Sherpas, until 1953, when Tenzing Norgay became the first Sherpa known to summit Everest along with Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and became worldwide icons for the climbing fraternity as well as for human race as a whole for achieving the seemingly impossible………
Many Sherpas started following the footsteps of Tenzing as he immortalised the livelihood and the very natural instincts of the mountain people with their climbing skills and hard work…….years after years amidst fatalities, casualties, numerous sad deaths, dangerous accidents on the very slopes they try to make so much comfortable for the climbers to climb including fixing ropes and lines, carrying oxygen cylinders to the highest points, and particularly, traversing the highly dangerous moving glacial ice face known as the Khumbu Icefalls, fixing ladders…..the Sherpas are the lifeline on the face of Everest and the other big ones….all above at height of 25000 ft from sea level, it’s the Sherpas, on whose expertise many depend with their lives……………
Sadly, in the climbing season 2014-2016, a large number of Sherpas died, majorly due to a mishap on the Khumbu Icefalls where several Sherpas were burried under a huge avalanche, and also during the devastating Nepal eathquakes in 2015, avalanches triggered in the lower parts of Everest………and many expeditions were cancelled due to the same that season.
Here are some of the famous Sherpas, who has earned huge respect with their climbing feats among fellow beings the world over……[data courtesy, Wikipedia]…..
In 2001, Temba Tsheri became the youngest Everest climber in the world (holder of Guinness book of world record), then aged 16.
In 2003, Sherpas Pemba Dorje and Lhakpa Gelu competed to see who could climb Everest from base camp the fastest. On 23 May 2003, Dorje reached the summit in 12 hours and 46 minutes. Three days later, Gelu beat his record by two hours, reaching the summit in 10 hours 46 minutes. On 21 May 2004, Dorje again improved the time by more than two hours with a total time of 8 hours and 10 minutes.
On 11 May 2011, Apa Sherpa successfully reached the summit of Everest for the twenty-first time, breaking his own record for the most successful ascents. He first climbed Mount Everest in 1989 at the age of 29.
One of the most famous Nepalese female mountaineers was Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali female climber to reach the summit of Everest, but who died during the descent. Her namesake, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, has also climbed Everest, and was one of three Nepali women who were the first to reach the summit of K2. Another well-known female Sherpa was the two-time Everest summiter Pemba Doma Sherpa, who died after falling from Lhotse on 22 May 2007.
On May 20, 2011, Mingma Sherpa became the first Nepali and the first South Asian to scale all 14 of the world’s highest mountains. In the process, Mingma set new world record – he became the first mountaineer to climb all 14 peaks on first attempt.
Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa is one half of a Nepali duo that was voted “People’s Choice Adventurers of the Year 2012”. In April 2011, Lakpa Tsheri and Sano Babu Sunuwar made the ‘Ultimate Descent’: a three-month journey in which they climbed Everest, then paraglided down the mountain and proceeded to kayak through Nepal and India until they reached the Indian Ocean.
On July 26, 2014, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, and Maya Sherpa crested the 28,251-foot (8,611-meter) summit of K2, the second highest mountain in the world. In doing so, the three Nepali women have become the first all-female team to climb what many mountaineers consider a much tougher challenge than Everest. The feat was announced in climbing circles as a breakthrough achievement for women in high-altitude mountaineering. Only 18 of the 376 people who have summited K2 have been women.
Here’s my visual tribute to these amazing people……and their beautiful and simple world……..climbing is a religion for them inspite of dangers……and their will power is unchallenged…….
Pic courtesy : Google……