Mingma Tsiri Sherpa, a man that very few know his name or how to spell it, is one of the very best high altitude climbers in the world.
Mingma – a man who has climbed Mount Everest 19 times and and is the first Nepalese to summit K2 – and his brother Pasang climbed Croagh Patrick as part of an effort to develop closer ties with Ireland and promote tourism in Nepal, a country that has suffered greatly since the earthquake in April 2015 that killed over 8,000 people.
Mingma Tsiri Sherpa first summitted Everest via the standard north east ridge route on May 12th, 1995 with the Taiwan expedition. His next summit came on May 10th, 1996 again with an expedition from Taiwan but this time via the standard south east ridge route.
Mingma was at Everest Base Camp when the earthquake triggered an avalanche that killed nineteen people. In a talk given at Outback Jacks in Galway two days after his hike up Croagh Patrick, Mingma explained that if the earthquake had struck during the night, the sixty people rescued at base camp after being buried beneath the snow might not have survived.
Mingma’s brother Pasang, who himself has climbed Everest nine times (the family holds the Guinness World Record for most siblings to have climbed Mount Everest – a total of 56 ascents between seven brothers) explained how his father was employed by the first expedition to successfully climb Everest in 1953. His job was to collect from and deliver mail to Edmund Hillary and other climbers at base camp by running to and from Lukla – a distance of 38 miles each way.
Sherpas are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal. ‘Sherpa’ is now used as a generic name by many westerners to describe mountain guides from the Everest region. Being born at an altitude of 4,100 metres (13,400 feet), Sherpas like Mingma Tsiri and Pasang are at home in places where most people would experience symptoms of altitude sickness.
Pasang also spoke about the difficulty of rebuilding his own village, which was destroyed and is still without electricity nine months after the disaster. Despite this situation, he believes that Nepal is recovering quickly and that anyone interested in trekking or even climbing there should consider 2016 as a great year to visit.
“We are from the Rolwaling village, east of Kathmandu,” says Pasang. “Our village is in a very remote area that is over 4,000m high. You have to trek nearly five days from Kathmandu to get there.”
Because of this, he says, it received no assistance from the Nepalese government or NGOs in the wake of the massive quake, so he, Mingma and other villagers decided to fundraise by themselves.
“A lot of Irish friends helped rebuild the homes and set up the Solar Project, so I’d like to thank all the Irish people who donated.”
The project raised almost $30,000 to power the village by solar power, with Ascent Himalayas contributing money too. One of the most successful Sherpas in history, Mingma set up Ascent Himalayas in 2012. It employs 25 guides, as well as a number of support staff.
Whereas for decades climbing companies were Western-owned, more and more Sherpas are taking ownership of these businesses in Nepal.
“Mostly, climbing expeditions in Nepal are run by big Western companies, but we feel we can do it ourselves, as the benefit goes to the whole country,” says Pasang.
“For a Western company, the profit is split between them and the local company on the ground, because to get the permit you have to use the local company … We worked for many years for a Western company, which is why we wanted to give those services to climbers coming to our country, but by our own company, as we are more experienced than most other companies.”
Croagh Patrick may not have presented a particular challenge to these supermen, but they were pleased to have trodden on Ireland’s holiest mountain as part of their crusade to raise awareness of the disaster that struck their beautiful country.
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