The State of the Himalaya

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Apa Sherpa and his team have just completed the first month of their epic 1,700 km journey on foot across Nepal’s Great Himalayan Trail to draw attention to the threats of global climate change and the opportunities of eco-tourism. This week, Nepali Times spoke to Apa Sherpa as he sat besides Tso Rolpa lake in Rolwaling, the glacial lake that is dangerously swollen by global warming. Apa’s team has just traversed the Tesi Laptsa Pass, and will now be heading towards Langtang.

What most people know about me is only that I have climbed Mt Everest 21 times. What they don’t know is that I am also a victim of climate change.

In 1985, when the Dig Tso glacial lake burst because it was swollen with melted ice, the flash flood of muddy water and boulders washed away my potato farm and homestead near Thame. Most of my property and belongings were destroyed, and I could no longer remain a farmer. I was forced to become an expedition porter in the Everest region, carrying loads to higher camps. I climbed to the top of Chomolungma for the first time in 1990.

I have never looked back since. I just kept climbing the world’s highest mountain over and over again. With god’s grace I was successful in climbing the mountain 21 times in 21 years. I never intended it, but I became a world record holder.

I was happy and content. But it was only in recent years that I started to ask myself why I was doing this, putting my life on the line in one of the most dangerous places on earth. In 2008, I met Prashant Singh of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) who was a friend of Dawa Steven Sherpa, my long time associate, and someone I love like my younger brother.

 

Apa Sherpa

I have never looked back since. I just kept climbing the world’s highest mountain over and over again. With god’s grace I was successful in climbing the mountain 21 times in 21 years. I never intended it, but I became a world record holder.

I was happy and content. But it was only in recent years that I started to ask myself why I was doing this, putting my life on the line in one of the most dangerous places on earth. In 2008, I met Prashant Singh of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) who was a friend of Dawa Steven Sherpa, my long time associate, and someone I love like my younger brother.

Local fisherman prepares to throw in a line on a river.

Prashant pointed out something that I had not noticed. He said: “Apa Dai, you are famous for climbing Everest multiple times, but you lost everything to climate change and you earned everything back because of mountain tourism.” I had never thought of it like that. Prashant was right

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