Zimba is the third generation from his family in the adventure tourism sector
Zimba Zangbu Sherpa is not a new name to those involved in Nepali travel trade especially the adventure tourism sector. Born in 2015 BS in Khumjung village of Solukhumbu district, Sherpa is the former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), owner of Khumbi-Ila Trekking & Mountaineering and La Villa Sherpani – a deluxe resort in Lukla, and President of Khumbi-Ila Samrakshyan Samuha – a non-profit organization.
Born to a family of mountaineering sirdars, adventure tourism was the obvious career choice for Zimba. “My grandfather Dawa Tenzing Sherpa was the first sirdar form the Sherpa community. He assisted legendary mountaineers like George Malory and Andrew Irvine as they explored peaks like Mout Everest in the 1920s,” Zimba shares. “My father Ang Temba Sherpa continued what my grandfather did.”
Zimba is the third generation from the Sherpa family in the adventure tourism sector. While his grandfather and father only worked as sirdars, Zimba established his own company to handle groups in the Himalayas.
The young Zimba studied in Khumjung School built by Sir Edmund Hillary. As his parents were not educated, he used to look after their accounts. “My grandfather and father used to bring groups to our village. I used to look into their accounts. Later, I also joined trekking parties led by my father. This is how I entered tourism sector,” Zimba adds.
Zimba was only 15 when he embarked on his first trekking trip. It was a trek to Gokyo and he joined the team from Khumjung. After few years, Zimba came to Kathmandu along with his family. “We had to walk all the way to Banepa via Jiri, Charikot and Dhulikhel. The journey took many weeks. My father had a Newari friend in Ason. We live at his place for some days,” he adds.
After completing his high school, Zimba enrolled at Amrit Science College for his Intermediate in Science. “But I was transferred to Biratnagar Science College because of reasons best known to them. After completing one semester there, I was again transferred to Amrit Science College. But as the college didn’t have seat, my year was wasted,” Zimba laments. He also enrolled for a pharmacy course at Teaching Hospital but couldn’t continue it. He completed Intermediate in Arts at around 2031 BS on the insistence of his friend. He also enrolled for BA. “But I didn’t sit for exams. But I received honorary diploma in mountaineering by ENSA after many years,” he adds.
Zimba’s father used to work for Mountain Travels promoted by Col Jimmy Roberts. “Most of the popular trekking routes in Nepal are explored by Mountain Travels. Many difficult routes explored by the company are no longer in use as trekkers prefer teahouse treks these days,” Zimba adds.
In the initial years, Zimba helped his father in Mountain Travels. Then he worked under Dinesh Gurung with Himalayan Rovers. After working there for some years, he moved to Trans Himalayan Treks promoted by Takahasi Miyahara. “My father and Miyahara climbed Jugal Himal together. Miyahara was a family friend. It is one of the reasons that prompted me to join Trans Himalayan Treks,” he shares. After working with Miyahara for seven years, Zimba felt he should start his own venture now. Thus he established Khumbi-Ila Trekking and Mountaineering in 1984. Since then, there has been looking back.
Zimba met a French national named Robert Reiffel in the 1980s. “It proved to be a turning point in my career in Nepali adventure tourism industry. He helped to promote my company in France and also authored a book on me – Avec Zimba, Le Sherpa which means ‘With Zimba, the Sherpa’ in English,” he informs.
Three editions of the book has already been published – one each in France, India and Nepal.
Talking about his business, Zimba said it was very difficult in the initial years. “I had to struggle a lot in the first six years. I used to look after everything: welcoming guests at the airport, taking them to hotels, arranging stuffs, leading them to treks,” he said and added: “I started looking after the management after business volume started picking up.”
Zimba also opened a branch of French company Atalante Trekking & Mountaineering in Nepal in 1994. “But I parted ways with the company in 2015,” he added.
Not just a successful adventure tourism entrepreneur, Zimba is a mountaineer and mountaineering instructor too. “I have climbed all trekking peaks of NMA. I have attempted Everest three times leading French and Korean groups. But I could reach up to the height of 7,400 meters only,” he added. Zimba has also climbed Ganesh IV, as part of Nepal-Japan joint expedition, and Amadablam. “Climbing Amadablam was a very memorable experience for me. “I was standing on the summit of Amadablam on the fourth day since I left Kathmandu. I arrived Lukla on the same day I reached the Amadablam summit,” he shared.
Zimba’s major clientele comes from France. “French people love Nepal. Lot of French people visit different destinations around the globe. But for those looking for mountaineering and adventure tourism, Nepal has no alternative. French people like our hospitable nature and smiling face. No matter how difficult is our situation, we always welcome guests with a big smile. This is our unique selling point,” he adds. He also argues that Nepal is the adventure capital of the Himalayan range. “We taught Tibet, and Ladakh and Sikkim of India to promote tourism. The incumbent chief of Tibet Mountaineering School learnt mountaineering from me. But they are now marching ahead of us,” he laments.
Zimba has completed basic and adventure mountaineering training from NMA. He has also trained in France two times. “I have also received mountaineering training in France two times. Likewise, I hold an honorary diploma in mountaineering from École Nationale de Ski et Alpinisme (ENSA), France.
Information about his social affiliations, Zimba said he was in the executive committee of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) two times in the 1980s. He was first elected in the board of NMA in the 1990s when late Dawa Norbu Sherpa was the president. Similarly, he was an office-bearer in the executive committee led by Tashi Jangbu Sherpa. He has served as vice-president of the association for two terms, and president for one term. Currently, he is the coordinator of International Mountaineers’ Memorial Park of NMA.
Zimba is living with his wife, three sons, two daughters in-law and two grandsons at his home near Chabahil, Kathmandu. As his office is on the premises of his home, he can be seen playing with his grand children. “My elder son is helping in my business, while the middle one is an orthopedic surgeon. Similarly, my youngest son holds a Masters in Political Science from India,” he adds.
Zimba owes his success to Fench national Robert Reiffel. “He introduced me to France and the French people. The book that he authored helped me a lot in my business,” he adds. Comparing today’s trekking with that of 1980s, Zimba said trekking was lot better in the past. “We had to everything – food and tent etc all the way from Kathmandu. After a tiring day, we used to set up camps, play madal and sing around campfire. We prepared our food ourselves. That was a new experience altogether,” Zimba adds.
Lamented that our trekking activities is still centered in Annapurna, Everest and Langtang, Zimba underscored the need to explore routes in other parts of the country and promote them effectively in the international market. “Far-east, mid-western and far-western regions have immense tourism potentials. But trekkers are not going there as these places lack infrastructures. We still don’t get good porters in mid and far western region. People there are also yet be friendly with tourism,” he said, adding: “The government should build necessary infrastructures first.”
Apart from his daily work schedule, his is sparing some time for social works as well. He has opened Khumbi-Ila Samrkashan Pratisthan to give back to the society. The organization is providing scholarships to needy students as well as building schools in quake-hit districts.
With the election for the new executive committee of NMA round the bend, Zimba is observing the situation closely. “I have led NMA in one of the difficult times. My friends and colleagues in the mountaineering industry know what I am capable of. If they think I am the right man to lead the association, I am ready to take the responsibility,” he said.