Memorial at Everest Basecamp - Photo: Alex Steniforth

Nepal Earthquake – Tribute to 3 lost friends

It’s not fair. Life’s not fair – A tribute to my three Nepali friends.

Sitting in Delhi airport hundreds of miles away from the disaster unfolding in Nepal I’m devastated with each new update I receive. For the first time in 10 seasons I am not in Nepal, and I wish I was. Many good friends & colleagues are – were – on Everest and thankfully most escaped, just, but not all. I’m writing this down to try & make sense of it all.

The Sherpas who live in the Khumbu (Everest region) are a small community who live, love & grow in the shadows of the most beautiful mountains in the world. They are with out hesitation amongst the strongest, kindest & most welcoming people I have ever known. They look out for each other, they care & work tirelessly to try & provide a better education for their families. I don’t pretend to fully understand their lives & how they live but after all this time spent with them I have a small insight.

A single loss of life doesn’t only shatter a family in the Khumbu, it resonates through the entire valley, touching everyone. In 2014 the disastrous Everest avalanche took the lives of 16 Nepali climbers in the ice fall. Brothers and fathers, some from the same family leaving behind wives & children with no form of income. No one thought it could ever be that bad again.

My local Sherpa team with Ama Dablam in the back ground

 

I first arrived into Kathmandu in Autumn of 2011 all bright eyed & excited beyond believe. My first trip was to guide a group on Island Peak for Tim Mosedale. I trekked into the Khumbu tripping every step as I couldn’t take my eyes of the snowy peaks high above all around me. At basecamp I was introduced to my local Sherpa team: cook, tea boy, porters & climbing sherpas. I hadn’t realised at the time but Kame, my local agent, had given me his strongest, most experienced team – perhaps to impress me knowing I would return.

Over the next 5 years & 14 expeditions I used the same team through Kame. The same cook, the same tea boy, the same climbing Sherpas. I learned from them & admired them. They were strong, respected & very humble. I learnt from them. We could all learn from them.

There are many cogs in a big expedition wheel from the cook to the summit climbing Sherpas. The cook provides everyone with good, tasty, food which gives us the strength to climb the mountains. They are often the first person up in the morning & the last to eat at night. The cook tent is the hub of a basecamp for the Sherpas, alive with people chatting, telling stories, laughing & relaxing.

Memorial at Everest Basecamp – Photo: Alex Steniforth

Pasang Temba Sherpa was a true born and bred Sherpa of Pangboche village. He was my cook on every trip I have done. An elder of his community and highly respected for making one of the finest Dhal Bhat (local dish) in the Khumbu. He has fed thousands of western climbers and helped them fuel their climbing ambitions. Pasang Temba was a one off, he had a loving, kind, simple nature & his cheeky, flirty manor always won over my teams. I liked him a lot.

I have sat conversing over piping hot tea in the early morning light with him, staring out into the snow and ice & peaked through binoculars. We have laughed together & I’ve told him off for squeezing my bottom! At many basecamps, including camp 2 on Everest, I have sat & helped him chop vegetables and peel potatoes, my eyes stinging from the kerosene fumes. Time well spent. Time spent creating memories.

Kumar was a tea boy, porter & cook with infectious charm & smile. We shared a lot together. He has been part of every single one of my expeditions. Many of my teams will remember him for carrying kit to crampon point on Island Peak or for helping us at camp 1 on Ama Dablam.

His English was limited but we understood each other perfectly. Sometimes, with some people, you don’t always need words, a look & a smile is all you need. His smile was the best. He had an exciting life ahead of him & will be sorely missed.

Tensing was new to Kame’s team & I didn’t know him well.

There are others too…but news is hard to come by. I hope it is no one you know.