From Mountain to Mountain

  • off the track
  • Phura Geljen Sherpa is a mountain climber who grew up near Everest. Having been influenced by the hundreds of mountaineers who travelled through his village, his interest in mountaineering developed early. After toiling in the snowy trails for over two-an
- Post Report, Kathmandu
Whether it’s me or any other rescuer, our mindset always has to be strong, intuitive and persevering before we head out in an expedition or a rescue mission. Disasters can befall on anyone in the mountains and we need to be strong and prepared for any emergencyPhura Geljen Sherpa

Jan 5, 2016-Tell us a little about yourself growing up.

I was born in Panggom village in Solukhumbu district where I spent most of my childhood. As a kid, my father took me trekking with my uncles and brothers to support the local Sherpa climbers. Once I was done with school, I came to Kathmandu and got into trekking as a support staff. This provided me with

the opportunity to get upclose with trekking and mountaineering which helped me understand the trade better and push further. Life has been a great adventure so far.

What keeps you busy at the moment?

I am currently preparing for my ski training. I am also involved with Nepal National Mountain Guide Association and Nepal Mountaineering Instructor Association.

Can you tell us more about your mountaineering career?

It was in 2000 that I formally entered the trekking and mountaineering profession. I gradually honed my skills through various courses: starting from basic mountaineering training and moving on to the more advanced ones. Simultaneously, I also progressed to higher altitude climbing. I began with 6,000m peaks and eventually found my way into a few 8,000m expeditions. I would tag along with the expeditions that mountaineering companies organised every season. After several successful attempts on other peaks, I dared to take on Everest. I’m proud to have scaled it five times now, along with three other 8,000m peaks: Sishapangma, Cho Oyu and Kanchanjanga.

What inspired you to get into mountain climbing?

Well, my village lies in the middle of one of the most renowned trekking routes in the world. When I was small, I used to see a lot of tourists trek through my village. You could say I was inspired by those adventurous Western climbers who left their homes behind to travel and climb the mountains that I grew up with.

My father and brothers are trekkers too. While growing up, mountaineering was more of a financial obligation for us, as we had to somehow make our living in the harsh Himalayan terrain. It brought home more money than farming and labouring. Later, it became a common profession.

Give us a rundown of all the peaks you have scaled so far.

Chronologically speaking, I first scaled Ama Dablam in 2000 followed by Island Mera peak in 2001 and Mera peak in 2002. In the spring a year later, I climbed Kanchenjunga. In 2004, I scaled Shishapangma after which I went back to climb Kanchenjunga in 2005. The following year, I climbed Cho Oyu for the first time. Finally, in 2007, I summited Mount Everest. I went back again for another successful expedition in 2008. After that, I went on to climb Ama Dablam again in 2009, Everest again in 2010 and 2011, and Ama Dablam again in 2011. During 2012 and 2013, I chanced upon the opportunity to climb Everest yet again, twice.

When did you start working as a mountain rescuer? What sort of mindset do you bring to the work in such an unforgiving terrain?

I stared working as a mountain rescuer in 2011. Whether it’s me or any other rescuer, our mindset always has to be strong, intuitive and persevering before we head out in an expedition or a rescue mission. Emotionally, we need to be able to put the need of others before everything else. Disasters can befall on anyone in the mountains and we need to be strong and prepared for any emergency.

How difficult is it for someone from the local Sherpa community in Nepal to be a certified climber and a mountain rescuer?

These days it is not as easy as it used to be back when I started. There is a lot of paperwork and certifications that are involved to become a certified guide and climber, along with a lot of training and experience. You need to be physically and mentally strong. Financially, too, aspiring climbers and guides need to be sound. As for a mountain rescuer, you need a good heart to help others along with an in-depth knowledge of the place, survival instincts and hard training.

Can you tell us more about your interest in skiing?

I started my ski training last year. It was a Level 1 course in KulluManali, which was facilitated by Mountain Academy of Nepal. The government of Nepal sponsored expenses for the training. I’ll be leaving for a Level 2 course to be held in Switzerland and France.

Do you think there is any scope for skiing in Nepal?

Yes, of course. There are numerous places in Nepal with endless potential for skiing. All we need is a little push from different organisations and government agencies for development and promotion of those destinations, both nationally and internationally. Among many feasible places, I think Mera peak and Puta Himchiuli would be great for skiing. We are slowly getting there but the pace has to be hastened.

11. Do you have any unforgettable memories from your climbing or rescue expeditions?

There was a rescue attempt that I conducted in 2011. There was a snow blind and frostbitten climber who had to be transported from Lhotse Camp 4 to Camp 2. What’s most incredible about this incident is that he survived, even after enduring so much pain in the snow.

Where do you see yourself in a few years?

In the future, I hope I get to share my knowledge and experience in mountaineering and contributein promotingthe Nepali mountaineering profession. Nepal still lacks adequate professional mountain guides and every bit that we mountaineers do will help produce qualified expert guides who will do better work than us. Personally, though, I hope I’ll be a professional skier soon.

 

 

Published: 05-01-2016 09:26

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