Mt. Everest is one of the most beautiful yet treacherous summits on Earth and despite its fatal terrains, it continues to attract hundreds of climbers each year. As the tallest peak on Earth sitting at 29,029 ft, it’ll forever stand as an attractive pinnacle for mountaineers. While notoriety and fame are largely bestowed to those reaching the top, the sport also brings in employment and income to the surrounding communities and their impact can oft be forgotten.
Albeit, these jobs require workers to risk their lives to assist foreign climbers to reach the top. Many porters and sherpas have witnessed their friends take their last breath and die to the unforgiving Everest landscapes as they encounter falling rocks, avalanches, exhaustion, whiteouts, or run out of oxygen.
Life provides unexpected detours and Apa Sherpa’s story is no different. A native of Khumbu Valley, Nepal, he was the only member of his family to attend school but at age 12 was forced to discard his dreams of becoming a doctor when his father died. It is all too common for children in a Sherpa community to forgo education and begin working as high altitude porters at a young age.
Apa Sherpa has climbed Mt. Everest 21 times, a world record, but he doesn't wish this upon anyone. He’s since retired and now lives garnering support for children education in rural Nepal. Apa not only dreams of a day when children are no longer forced to abandon their education to support their families, but he’s making that dream a reality. We’re honored to designate Apa a Rustico Mark Maker.
1. Can you tell us about yourself?
I am Apa Sherpa. I am originally from Thame, a small town near Mt. Everest, Nepal. I currently reside in Utah with my family. I went to school only up to grade four. I had to quit school to become a porter after my father passed away at the age of 12.
2. Can you describe what climbing Mt. Everest is like?
Yes, I climbed Everest 21 times. I began working as a porter, then as a trekking guide and eventually a climbing Sherpa. I first climbed Everest in 1990 with Rob Hall, Gary Ball and Peter Hillary. Since then I continuously climbed Everest until 2011 except 1996. Climbing is a very dangerous job. You have to put your life at risk. We go through emotional, mental and physical stress. It is a very stressful time for families back home. You have to be mentally prepared for the worst outcome. During those challenging couple of months, we all do our best to cope with the circumstances. The families back home perform cultural and religious rituals for the safety of the climbers. Despite the toughness and challenges that come with the job, it is the only source of income for many families. I have faced many hardships in life. The reason for where I am today is because of the blessing of Mount Everest.
3. You’re a world’s record holder, do you plan to summit Everest anymore?
I retired from climbing after my 21st summit in 2011.
4. Can you explain the feeling when you are on top of Mt. Everest?
It is very exciting and overwhelming at the same time. It’s hard to put it into words.
5. You’ve started your own foundation, the Apa Sherpa Foundation. Can you elaborate on its mission and goals?
I have always wanted to do something to educate our children so they don’t have to go through what I and my fellow Sherpa climbers are going through without education. Without education life is very difficult. My friends in Utah, USA, understood what I was looking to do and they helped me start the foundation to support schools in Nepal. We are currently funding teachers’ salaries and educational resources at several schools in Khumbu, Nepal. We recently started a Hot Lunch Program at Ghat School, on the way to Mt. Everest to support underprivileged kids and their families.
6. How can others help out?
We are always looking for donors to continue with school projects. Donations can be made on our website www.apasherpafoundation.org.
7. What brought you to Utah and what do you think of it?
I first came here for the Outdoor Retailer Show and later moved here for our children’s education.
We have lived in Utah for the last ten years. We like it here. The people are very nice. We made some great friends. The mountains here remind us of Nepal.
8. Do you hike Utah's mountains? Any favorites?
I have done most of the peaks in Utah. I enjoyed them all.
9. What are some of your hobbies?
I like spending time with my family and the outdoors.
10. What inspires you?
My family, and also the happiness I get from helping others.
11. What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to impact their community?
Try to help others wherever and whenever you can, and always follow your dreams.
Generosity and leaving your mark are more than words and phrases here at Rustico. They are a founding value and life pact deeply rooted in our foundation. Apa upholds and maintains both of these ethos we hold dear to our hearts and we champion him for living these principles.
We can’t thank him enough for setting some time aside to share his story and cause with us. He’s truly leaving his mark and impacting the children in his hometown in Nepal. To learn more about Apa’s story and foundation, visit his website.
Do you know someone who’s leaving their mark in your community? We’d love to hear about them. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.