Sat. Dec 7th, 2019

"Everest is the only way out for Sherpas without studies"

From pastor of yaks to porter, cook and height guide. The path followed by Sanu Sherpa, 43, is traced to the one undertaken by the legion of Sherpas turned into a sort of high mountain workers, a much sought-after workforce in recent times. Self-taught piolet and fixed rope workers who throughout their career have helped dozens of clients to climb to the top of the Himalayas. With the Dhaulagiri, Sanu was erected on October 3 in the third sherpa that crowned the 14 eight-foot planet. In fact, most have uploaded them more than once; Everest (8,848 meters), seven times.

The first Nepali who got it was Mingma Sherpa and then his brother Chhang dawa. Only a few weeks after Sanu, on October 29, they joined the club Nirmal Purja and his partner Mingma David Sherpa, in the Shisha Pangma. The record of the Purja media, which found all the tops in just six months and six days, but with all kinds of help (bottled oxygen, fixed ropes …) and with rock star airs, eclipsed the discreet Sanu, a currante qualified self-made altitude.

The story of Sanu It resembles that of not a few Sherpas who have taken their families out of poverty thanks to the possibilities offered by the high altitude tourism. The vanguard He recently interviewed him in Kathmandu with his son Nang Norbu, who helped him with the English translation.

Children in the shadow of Makalu

“When I was a child I looked after the yaks, I couldn't always go to school, I think that when I was eight I stopped studying”

How were your beginnings in the mountain?

I am from the area of Makalu (8,463 m.), From the same town as the family of Mingma Sherpa, the first Nepali who climbed the 14 eight-thousand. We are three brothers and six sisters and all the boys have worked as guides. My parents were farmers and as a child I looked after the yaks, I couldn't always go to school, I think that when I was eight I stopped studying. Many Sherpas do not have studies, nor do we speak English, and we are dedicated to transporting the loads of the expeditions to the base camps.

He started as a porter.

Yes, in 2004, in the Makalu, then I also worked as a cook in the Island peak. There they saw that I was strong and offered to work as a sherpa, that is, go from the base camp to the top. The porters only load up to the base camp. In 2006, with 35 years, I raised my first 8,000, Cho Oyu (8,201 meters).

And your children are also tempted by the world of mountaineering?

At 17, my parents decided that I should get married. And I married Kediki Sherpa, from my town, with whom I have a son and four daughters. Only the boy, Nang Norbu, 22, is in this business, he works in the trekking company that I co-founded in Kathmandu, as a carrier and last year he tried to climb Everest but stayed at 8,000 meters. My oldest daughter went to work as a waitress in Seoul at age 16; the second is still in town because he married at age 16, and the two little ones study in Kathmandu.

How many eight-eight did you use bottled oxygen?

In four: Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga and Makalu.

The roof business of the world

"The problem is when a client who is not prepared for Everest meets an inexperienced Sherpa"

Each season there are more aspirants to ascend Everest; Last spring, more than 800 people went up between clients and Sherpas. This upward business requires very prepared guides but it seems that there are not enough for so many top candidates.

Yes. Kathmandu Sherpas are coming and they get dizzy when they reach 6,000 meters. The problem is when a client who is not prepared for Everest meets an inexperienced Sherpa. The Sherpa's mission is to help his client feel safe, to teach him to climb well on the ropes … But some do not.

Do you think there is a sherpa deficit with a certain expertise?

Yes, there are even Sherpas for whom Everest is their first eight-eight, who have not climbed even the Mera Peak (6,476 m.). They are very strong physically but lack experience. Everything is complicated when the client does not have enough preparation in high mountains, which makes the work of the sherpa more difficult.

Sanu Sherpa on top of Dhaulagiri, last October

Sanu Sherpa on top of Dhaulagiri, last October

Good Sherpas are much sought after. How much do they earn per season?

On Everest you can charge $ 10,000 including the summit bonus (a kind of premium paid by the client if he reaches the summit).

Do you consider it a good salary?

It's okay. I have quite a few Korean clients, so one year, at the end of the season in Nepal, I decided to travel to Seoul. In the end I only stayed for two months because I didn't even work 15 hours a day in a factory. When I am not on the mountain I live in Kathmandu and from December to March I return to the village, where my wife is still and where we have flocks and orchard.

The future

“I feel strong to continue two or three more years, maybe I can finish a second round of the 14 eight-year-olds!

Your job is high risk, have you faced any situation in which you feared for your life?

I am afraid of the avalanches because they have killed so many people … Fortunately I have never had accidents even though I have equipped many mountains. I am used to danger and enjoy climbing. For the sherpas of my generation, without studies, climbing mountains, Everest, is the only way out. I feel strong enough to go on for two or three more years, maybe I can finish a second round of the 14 Eight-Year (a total of 27 Eight-year-olds, I just need to repeat, if necessary, the Lhotse, K2, G-II, Kanchenjunga , Annapurna, Makalu and Dhaulagiri). I am thinking what I will do in the future, we have the trekking company, and if before all our clients were Koreans now they also come with us Chinese and Bulgarians.

Self-taught guide

“I have learned about the progress of other Sherpas”

Have you followed any guide training?

No, never, I have learned about the progress of other Sherpas, and also of Korean climbers.

Have you seen many people die?

Yes, both Sherpas and clients, I have passed along many bodies on the way to the top of Everest along the south face. I was in Shisha Pangma when Bulgarian mountaineer Boyan Petrov died last year. We said goodbye when he started to climb and we met that we would meet after three or four days in camp IV. Upon arrival we saw his tent open, full of snow, with no trace of him. Nothing else was known.

How did you live your last ochomil, the Dhaulagiri?

My client was the Bulgarian mountaineer Georgiev toes Skatov. We leave direct from camp II, at 6,400 meters, to C III, at 7,200, where we rest for two or three hours. At eight o'clock at night we leave for the summit. We arrived at two in the afternoon on day 3 and spent 45 minutes taking photos. We advanced slowly because while taking care of Skatov he had to equip a 200-meter stretch of route to the summit with rope.

On the right, Sanu Sherpa, on top of Dhaulagiri with his client, Skatov Atanas Georgiev

On the right, Sanu Sherpa, on top of Dhaulagiri with his client, Skatov Atanas Georgiev

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