Padam Ghale is a seasoned mountaineer, accomplished mountaineering instructor and a successful adventure tourism entrepreneur
Padam Ghale is a man who has thoroughly enjoyed his life while creating a niche in Nepali mountaineering sector. Born in 2008 BS in Barpak of Gorkha district, Ghale is a qualified International Mountain Guide, an accomplished mountain instructor, and a successful tourism entrepreneur.
But Ghale, who has no formal education, didn’t imagine in his childhood days that he would come this far.
“Life was difficult in my village. Villagers could earn square meal only after toiling in others homes and farmlands. It took us a four-day walk to reach district headquarters – Gorkha Bazaar,” Ghale said, adding, “The situation forced many families in the village, including ours, to migrate to lowlands.”
The Ghale family moved to Chitwan. “In Chitwan, I started working as a farm worker. I also worked in different shops in Narayanghat,” he added.
At that time, many Burmese of Nepali origin were coming to Nepal and settling in Chitwan. Most of them were into cow and buffalo farming. They used to make butter which was not finding market. “I felt I could take the butter to the market and make some money. Thus I started buying butter from the Burmese and selling it in Kathmandu,” he said, adding, “I used to sell butter to Dairy Development Corporation (DDC) which had just opened.”
Soon he started making money and enjoying the life in Kathmandu. Once or twice a month, he used to visit Chitwan to buy butter. Then he used to board the flight to Kathmandu from Bharatpur.
Padam’s brother is a British Gurkha solider. Not only his brother, his father and grandfather were also in the British army. “My family members also wanted me to join the army. But I wasn’t interested. Though I applied due to pressure of my family, fortunately I was rejected,” he said, adding, “I didn’t want to join the army because I grew up seeing ex-soldiers with disability due to war.”
While in Kathmandu, he used to hang around Tri Chandra College. Soon he came in touch with Kanak Mani Dixit and other friends who were studying in the college. It was during that time that his friends asked him to take mountaineering training at Hotel Management and Tourism Training Center (HMTTC).
“They told me I should take mountaineering training as I was physically fit and outgoing by nature,” Padam said.
That training changed his life.
“The training was very fruitful. The instructors were also fantastic. I enjoyed it thoroughly,” Padam added.
Once the training was over, Padam started getting offer form trekking agencies. “I led the first group of Kathmandu Travels to Dhampus. I was paid Rs 35 per day. It was a huge amount as other job holders were drawing only around Rs 5 per day,” he added.
In 1979, Padam underwent Basic Mountaineering Training form NMA. “I took the training as a joint expedition was being planned on Everest Nepal and Italy. It was the first training funded by the Yugoslavian government,” he added.
Padam completed the training and embarked on his first attempt on Mt Everest. But he was unlucky; he had to give up the mission after climbing to the height of 7,200 meters. Later, he took Advanced Mountaineering Training and training for instructors.
Though Padam couldn’t summit Everest, he climbed Mt Makalu in 1981. “It was a joint expedition of two Nepalis, two British and two Polish. We were to climb alpine style,” Padam said, adding, “We acclimatized in the area for nearly two months. But when we decided to make final assault, weather deteriorated and we had to abandon the expedition.”
But Padam didn’t give up. He decided to climb solo. With great difficulty he persuaded his expedition members and liaison officer, and headed to mountain promising his friend that he would return after a week. Padam climbed the mountain at 10:30 am on May 10, 1981. “I returned to the base camp on the sixth day. My friends were very happy,” he added.
His second attempt on Mt Everest in 1988 also became unsuccessful. “It was very hard to give up after we have climbed to 8,200 meters,” he added.
After working for different trekking agencies, Mandala and four friends teamed up to open Mandala Trekking in 1987. “I was involved with Mandala Trekking for nearly 12 years. After leaving Mandala, I worked as a freelancer guide for some years and took over the management of Shambala Trekking,” he added.
Padam has planned and implemented number of rescue missions in the Himalayas. One mission he never forgets involved his dear friend Kanak Mani Dixit – a veteran journalist. “Now sooner Kunda (Kanak’s brother) called me and told that Kanak has gone out of contact in the Annapurna region, I swung into action right away,” Padam said, adding, “Kunda told me that Kanak last call his family from Jagat, so I asked him to arrange a chopper and we left for Jagat.”
From Jagat, Padam, Kunda and Padam’s friend Raju descended toward Chamje after a local hotelier told them that a person, presumably Kanak, held left toward Chamje after having tea and light snacks at his place. The next day they spotted a big about 15 meters down the trail near a waterfall. Kunda identified his brother’s bag. “Looking at the site, we guessed Kanak tripped and fell down while trying to jump the small stream near the waterfall. He might have cried for help, but nobody listened due to the sound of water cascading down,” added Padam.
Raju and a porter abseiled down to the suspected site and found Kanak alive. They managed to bring him up and rushed him to a nearby health post. “I shouted Raju to immediately call a chopper. While inside the chopper, I asked the pilot to arrange an ambulance at the airport. No sooner we landed in Kathmandu, Kanak was rushed to Norvic Hospital,” Padam said, adding: “Kanak’s family members were all praises for us. I also felt satisfied as I could do something for my dear friend.”
Padam is the founding vice-president of Nepal Mountaineering Instructors Association (NMIA) and Nepal National Mountain Guides Association (NNMGA). “We formed the associations to give pressure to NMA to recognize mountain instructors and mountain guides. Now, NMA has realized our importance,” he added. He was recently elected as the executive member of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).
So far, 29 International Mountain Guides have graduated from NNMGA. The degree comes from ENSA – a French mountaineering and ski school. “NNMGA and Center for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) has jointly prepared curriculum for international mountain guides. Very soon we will get degrees from CTEVT as well,” he added.
Padam married in 2000. The Ghale couple is blessed with a son. “I will allow my son to choose his career. But I would be happy if he entered the mountaineering sector and continued my business,” he added.
Asked when he would retire, Ghale said he would continue to lead groups as long as his health allows. “I am already 58. I believe I can lead groups for few more years,” he added.