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Mountaineering on Everest: this record sherpa gives away

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Mountaineering on Everest: this record sherpa gives away

L.Hakpa Tenzing Sherpa was tightly wrapped in a blanket that his mother, Ila Futi Sherpa, carried in a bamboo basket. It was the spring of 1956.

The snow high above the village of Teme, located in the Nepalese region of Soluhumba near Mount Everest, began to melt. Caring for the family yaks in the high alpine meadows above her house, Ila heard a loud roar. It seemed that the mountain above her collapsed. She knew what that sound meant. With Lhakpa on her back, she threw herself into cover under a rocky cliff, just before the avalanche roared down – a stream of snow plowed almost everything in its path and buried the rest.

When the avalanche subsided, Ila went to comfort little Lhakpa by removing her basket from her back. But her son was not there. In a frantic search for despair, she clawed her way through the snow, desperately hoping to save her son. And suddenly his cry pierced the silence. Lhaqpa was alive.

For the Sherpa people who inhabit the mountainous regions of Nepal and Tibet, almost all children are named after the day of the week in which they were born. Lhakpa means “Wednesday”. But the high lama of a nearby convent and his parents chose a new name for this child to commemorate the miracle of his survival. It was renamed Apa, which means “love”.


Fifty-five years later, Apa looked at the world from the top of Chomalungma, which in his native language means “Mother Goddess of the World.” This was his 21st time on top of a peak also called Everest. He set a new world record.

In fact, he broke his own record 11 times. His strength in the mountains brought him a new nickname: Super Sherpa.

During his career as a guide on the world’s highest mountain, Apa Sherpa has become famous in his country and around the world of adventure. His income from mountaineering provided a good life in Nepal, but the family’s move to Draper, Utah, allowed the children of Apa and his wife Yangin to get a better education and opportunities. But it was bitter. He loved to climb Everest the first few times. But, “so many times? No. ” It turned out that the career of one of the most decorated climbers in the world was what he never wanted.

“Climbing was not my goal,” Apa says. “I wanted to get an education and become a doctor … I wanted to save people’s lives.”

But in the Khumbu and Soluhumbu regions of Nepal, getting an education is a choice that not everyone can make free. In fact, after his father died when he was just 12, Apa had to start working full-time as a loader to support his family.

He says he wants people growing up in the shadow of Everest to have the opportunity to climb the mountain if they want, but haven’t been forced to because it’s the only way to feed their families. “If they have an education, then they have a choice,” Apa explains. His dream is that with better access to education the next generation of Nepalese children will not have to risk their lives in the mountains to provide for their families.


The following year after retiring in 2011, Apa and his business partner Jerry Mick opened Apa Sherpa Foundation. To provide educational opportunities in Khumbu and Soluhumba, the foundation pays teachers salaries, runs a hot lunch program to keep children full, and supplies heavy goods such as computers and furniture for local schools. The fund is now small, but Apa hopes it could become large enough to extend aid to the whole of Nepal, not just the region in which he grew up.

For the past 11 years, Apa has flown annually from Utah to Khumbu to see firsthand what children need and how the foundation can help. He brings with him cadres of hikers to help deliver aid, and with the hope that they will become ambassadors of the foundation.

But because of the pandemic, three years have passed since Apa was last here. To limit the spread of COVID-19, Nepal has closed its doors to tourists who flock annually to the Everest region. Now, after lifting the restrictions, hikers and climbers have begun to return, but Apa says the trails and teahouses are still too quiet. It is a reminder of the importance of its goal of creating a more diverse economy.


In Theme Apa meets the hero. Ironically, because of his arrival the school is canceled, but the students still come, like all their parents. Together with school officials. And the townspeople. And Sherpa cultural circles. It’s a holiday. Buddhist mantras are recited and donations are made. Children perform dances and give Apa scarves at home. Afterwards, teacher Om Prasad Bhattarai delivers a long speech in which he calls Apu the “guardian of the village”.

In Nepal, state support for education is in parts. Only six of the nine teachers in the Topic are funded by the government. Foundation donations are crucial in creating salaries that other teachers can count on.

Apa wears a wide smile as the reception unfolds. Although he has reached many heights, helping children get a better education is the pinnacle of his work.

“I’m very proud, the children are fine,” he says with a soft smile. Apa Sherpa may not have been the doctor he had dreamed of as a child, but here and now, in his hometown, he has found another way to save lives.

To learn more about the Apa Sherpa Foundation and their mission to improve education in Nepal, visit their website.

This story appears in the June issue Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.

Apa Sherpa and his group of hikers cross the suspension bridge over the Imja Hall River, against which Ama Dablam is visible, in Nepal on Friday, April 22, 2022.

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Yanji Sherpa, left, works in the kitchen at Sri Pema Choling Giang Elementary School in Ghat, Nepal, on Friday, April 15, 2022. The Apa Sherpa Foundation is funding a hot lunch program at the school.

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7-year-old Bipin Ray eats his lunch at Sri Pema Choling Giang Elementary School in Ghat, Nepal, on Friday, April 15, 2022.

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Nurbu Sherpa, a member of the school board of Sri Pema Choling Giang Elementary School in Ghat, Nepal, poses for a portrait at the school on Friday, April 15, 2022.

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The Arya Tara women’s group welcomes the Apa Sherpa rice wine ceremony at Shree Pema Chholing Ghyang Elementary School in Ghat, Nepal, on Friday, April 15, 2022.

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A member of the Thame women’s group holds a bowl of rice wine that was used at Apa Sherpa’s welcoming ceremony at Thame Elementary School in Nepal on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

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Carriers carry goods between Namche Bazar and Khumjung, in the Khumbu region of Nepal, on Sunday, April 17, 2022. There are no roads connecting the many villages in Khumbu, so goods are either delivered by helicopter, or, more often, by people or animals.

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Tem, the hometown of Apa Sherpa, is pictured at sunrise in Nepal on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

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On Monday, April 18, 2022, Apa Sherpa and his wife Yanjin receive visitors with milk and beer at their home in Tema, Nepal.

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Yangin Sherpa greets Apa Sherpa’s wife, also named Yangin, right, while the group travels through Tamo, Nepal, on Monday, April 18, 2022.

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A Buddhist devil stands over Tema, the hometown of Apa Sherpa, at sunrise in Nepal on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

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Apa Sherpa welcomes a monk to the Teme Monastery in Nepal on Tuesday, April 19, 2022

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Teachers, students and parents gather at Teme Elementary School in Nepal to welcome Apa Sherpa, representatives of his foundation and a group of hikers to the school on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. The school was built by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1963.

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4-year-old Kunga Palma Sherpa pictured at the Teme boarding school in Nepal on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

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Fura Gyalzen Sherpa, 5, and classmates are working on a lesson at Teme Elementary School in Nepal on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

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The boys work in a classroom at Teme Elementary School in Nepal on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

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On Tuesday, April 19, 2022, Apa Sherpa delivers brand new computers to teachers at Teme Elementary School in Nepal.

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A hybrid of yaks and cows called dzo or zopkio is transporting goods along a trail just below Everest Base Camp in Nepal on Monday, April 25, 2022.

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Apa Sherpa welcomes friends to Everest Base Camp in Nepal on Monday, April 25, 2022

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Apa Sherpa poses for photos with climbers and staff at an Asian trekking camp at Everest Base Camp in Nepal on Monday, April 25, 2022.

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The lights of Everest Base Camp, bottom left, illuminate the Khumbu Glacier, when the lower flanks of Mount Everest, in the center, and neighboring Mount Nuptse, on the right, are visible under the starry sky in Nepal on Monday, April 25, 2022.

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