Pemba Gyalje Sherpa is not a new name to those involved in mountaineering sector. The daring Sherpa from Jubing VDC-8 in Solukhumbu stole limelight when he was involved in one of the most difficult rescue missions in the history of mountaineering in Pakistan’s Mt K2 in 2008. Born on February, 20 1978, he is one of the finest mountain guides and Nepal and also the president of Nepal National Mountain Guide Association (NNMGA).
Pemba is the eldest of the two sons and six daughters of Lhakpa Sherpa and Nimi Sherpa. “My father used to work as a trekking staff. He also used to climb small peaks. During off season, he used to work in his farm in the village,” said Pemba.
Though Pemba was enrolled at a primary school opened by first Everest summiteers Sir Edmund Hillary, he wasn’t much focused on study. “I used to see caravans of trekkers passing through my village every day. Many people in my village are involved in trekking and mountaineering sector, he said, adding, “I also used to join trekking groups during school holidays.”
Enthralled by the trekking and mountaineering sector, Pemba discontinued study when he was at Grade 8 and started working for different trekking companies and expedition groups. Later in 1990, he came to Kathmandu and started working professionally in the trekking and mountaineering sector.
After working with different agencies for many years, Pemba decided that he would become a successful climber. He started climbing different mountain peaks in the Nepal Himalayas. Later, he visited Chamonix, France several times for higher level training, modern techniques and climbing techniques. In France, he took alpine climbing courses offered by National School of Ski and Alpinism Ecole Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme (ENSA). That was in 2000. In 2009, he was officially conferred the title of International Mountain Guide.
“Though I came to Kathmandu in 1990, my first foreign trip happened only in 199. Since then, I have been visiting foreign countries almost thrice a year,” said Pemba.
Pemba has climbed Mt Everest seven times, Mt Cho Oyu three times and Mt K2 one time. While talking about K2, Pemba says he will never forget that eventful night of August 1, 2008 on the icy slopes of K2. “An avalanche that triggered from the summit barreled down The Bottleneck route at around 8 pm, sweeping away safety lines. Though I returned down to Camp IV safely, I came to know that some of my friends are stuck somewhere in the mountain. Next morning, I climbed upward to rescue my friends,” he added. Pemba rescued two mountaineers — Italian Marco Confortola and Dutchman Wilco van Rooijen – from the jaws of death.
The daring rescue operation earned Pemba worldwide recognition. Popular magazine National Geographic Adventure published Pemba’s photo on its cover. It also covered Pemba’s heroics in a story titled ‘The Savior and the Storm on K2’.
Pemba is a family man. He is a father of two loving kids – a daughter and a son. While Pemba is on mountains leading expedition teams to glory, his better half takes care of the family. For him, life is a struggle which no one can escape. “I started working as a porter when I was 15. I had to carry load with bare fee, stay in caves and had no good food,” he said, adding: “Now that struggle is paying off.”
The experienced mountaineer feels mountaineering in Nepal has become heavily commercialized. “Mountaineering ethics has taken a backseat. Expedition groups are taking untrained and unskilled workers. And such workers are not hospitable to the guests at all,” he said, adding, “The main focus of some expedition operator is to make fast bucks.”
Pemba asks the government to update mountaineering rules and regulations as per the changed context. “The government should frame rules and regulations in such a way that our peaks earn billions of dollars in revenue. If small mountain peaks in other countries can attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, there is no reason why we can’t attract them,” he said, adding that the government, however, has to invest on infrastructure and human resource development for that. “We should also put in place adequate safety measures and keep rescue facilities standby.”
The humble mountain guide says he wants to live a simple life. “I want to get out and feel the nature. I like to read books, articles and journalists on mountaineering,” he said.
I will continue to work as mountain guide and mountaineering instructor as long as my mind and body allows, the soft spoken Sherpa said before concluding.
Pemba Gyalze Sherpa
President, Nepal National Mountain Guide Association
Born 1978 February 20 in Jubing VDC-8 of Solukhumbu. Father Lhakpa Sherpa, Mother Nimi Sherpa
My father used to work as a trekking guide. He also used to climb small peaks. During off season, he used to involve in farming in his village.
My village lies at an altitude of 2,800 meters. There is a primary school built by Sir Edmund Hillary. I studied in that school. I stayed in my village until I was 14 years old. I studied until eight. As the school lies in main trekking trail, hundreds of trekkers used to visit the school every year. They used to conduct different programs at our school. Also many persons in our village are involved in trekking and mountaineering sector. I was gradually attracted toward trekking and mountaineering sector. During holidays, I used to accompany trekkers. Then I stopped study.
When I turned 15, I started working with different expedition teams in different capacities. I came to Kathmandu in 1990 and I started working in trekking and mountaineering sector. Then I thought of becoming a professional trekking guide and mountaineering guide. My foreign friends also encouraged me to take professional training.
My first foreign trip was in 1999. Since then, I have been visiting foreign countries almost thrice a year.
In 2000, I joined ENSA for professional mountain guide training. After returning to Nepal, I have been working as a freelance mountain guide and mountaineering instructor. I don’t have any private company.
I have two brothers and six sisters. My younger brother is a Lama in a local monastery and the other brother is working in village itself.
I have happily married and I have two kids – a daughter and a son. My wife is a housewife.
I have climbed Mt Everest seven times, Cho Oyu three times, K2 one times. I have also climbed numerous other peaks.
I was involved in a daring rescue operation in K2. On August 1 in 2008, an avalanche swept away mountaineers. Mountaineers were resting there and they were very tired. Eleven people lost their lives. It is one of the most tragic moments in mountaineering history. Only about 4 or 5 managed to return to the camp. But we managed to rescue to two mountaineers – one from Italy and the other from the Netherlands. We have limited manpower and equipment for the rescue. We conducted the rescue mission under my leadership.
Recognizing my efforts, the popular National Geographic magazine honored my as Adventurer of the Year.
Life is a struggle, you have no option but to face it. I started as a porter when I was 15. We carried load with bare feet, stayed in caves and we had no good food.
When you have to lead a trekking expedition, you have to make certain preparations. You have to check whether you have all the required. You and your group members physical fitness. You shouldn’t take risk.
Mountaineering has become heavily commercialized. With this mountaineering ethics have taken a backseat. Expedition groups are taking untrained and unskilled workers. They are not hospitable to the guests at all. The main focus of these people is to make fast bucks. Handling agencies also don’ t follow work ethics.
Mountaineering rules and regulations need to be updated as per the changing context. The government should frame rules and regulations in such a way that our peaks earn billions of dollars in revenue. If small mountain peaks in other countries are drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year, there is no reason why we can’t attract them.
But we should also invest on infrastructure and human resource development. We should also put in place adequate safety measures and keep rescue facilities standby.
I will continue to work as mountain guide and mountaineering instructor as long as my mind and body allows.
I want to live a simple life. I want to get out and feel the nature and experience its grandeur. My hobby is to read books. I enjoy reading articles, journals and books on mountaineering. I also visit different portals on mountaineering.