Apa Sherpa Foundation – without education we have no choice

Apa Sherpa doesn’t know how old he is. He says one of his passports says he’s born in 1960, but he doesn’t know for sure. You don’t celebrate birthdays in Nepal. But, from early childhood there was something special about Apa.

He always had one wish – he wanted to help the people of Nepal.

Apa Sherpa smiles and has his hands up while surrounded by smiling children and villagers.

A life dedicated to helping others

To do this, he wanted to become a doctor. His parents saw his conviction and saved all of their money to let Apa go to school and fulfill his dream. Dedicated to reaching his goal he walked 3 hours to and from school, every day from the age of 5.

But at the age of 12 his father died, and he had to take on the responsibility of the family. He had to quit school and start working as a porter to get money to support his family. Soon, he became known as one of the most skilled porters, being able to carry more than his own body weight up and down the mountain.

Apa Sherpa smiles while hiking with tall mountains in the background.

Reaching the summit

In 1990, Apa Sherpa reached the summit of Mount Everest for the first time. Since then, he has taken 21 expeditions to the top of the world.

Apa is known as the Michael Jordan of Mount Everest, the Tiger of the Himalayas and has earned the title Super Sherpa. He also holds the Guinness World Record of reaching the summit of Mount Everest the most times. A record that he now shares with another Sherpa. And he has never lost a client.

Apa Sherpa hands a red backpack to a child in a village.
A group of children smile and wave to the camera.

The Apa Sherpa Foundation

Yet, if you ask him, given the choice between all his records and becoming a doctor, he would have chosen the latter. That is why education for his own children and for the children of Thame, his home village, is his top priority. His wish to do good and improve the life of his people is immense. In 2010, with the help of his best friend Jerry Mika, that wish led him to found the Apa Sherpa Foundation.

The Apa Sherpa Foundation advocates for Nepalese children to have better access to education. Apa strongly believes that without an education the children of Nepal have no other choice than to become porters and risk their lives. The Apa Sherpa Foundation seeks to empower individuals where they live, beginning in Thame, and expanding from there.

“...without an education the children of Nepal have no choice.”
Small children smile and wave at the camera while wearing Thule backpacks.

One of the greatest living mountaineers

Apa Sherpa is one of only two men in history to reach the top of the world 21 times. As such, he is widely recognized to be one of the greatest living mountaineers.

Ironically, summiting Everest was never a goal for Apa. At 12 years of age, he first began working as an expedition porter to earn money following the untimely death of his father. Leaders and trekkers alike immediately noticed the child who, despite his exceedingly small stature, carried loads greater than his own weight with strength, quickness and a wide smile.

Coming from Thame, the hometown of Everest legend Tenzing Norgay, it was almost inevitable that Apa would become a high altitude sherpa on Everest. He began carrying loads on Everest in 1988, but it wasn’t until May 10, 1990, that he reached the summit for the first time along with Rob Hall, Gary Ball, and Peter Hillary.

8,850 m.
Mount Everest is 8,850 meters or 29,035 feet tall
It takes around 39 to 40 days to reach the peak of Everest, while even just trekking to the Everest Base Camp can take anywhere from 10 to 14 days.
60 mil.
Mount Everest is over 60 million years old

Since that memorable day, Apa has participated in 22 Everest expeditions and reached the summit 21 times. Adhering to a simple philosophy that “Everest will always be there” and it is more important to keep all team members and sherpas safe, Apa has led his teams to amazing success.

In 1996, Rob Hall, an acclaimed mountaineer from New Zealand set out to climb the Everest once again. Hall had already climbed with Apa three times so he already knew he wanted him to join this new excursion. For the first time however, and despite Rob hall’s insistence, Apa declined. Instead, he decided to stay home and help his wife Yangjin build their new house in Thame. Tragically, this would be Rob Hall’s final climb as he and many of Apa’s close climbers lost their lives in what is now known as The 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. That year, fifteen people died trying to reach the summit, making it the deadliest year in Mount Everest’s history.

After officially retiring from climbing in 2011, Apa set another record by covering a distance of 1,700 kilometers on foot to raise awareness for climate change in the Himalayas in 2012 (The Great Himalayan Trail). Apa and his team completed 20 Himalayan districts from the East to the West of Nepal in 99 days.

Two small children wearing Thule backpacks give each other a hug.
Two people wearing Thule backpacks hike on a trail with tall mountains in the background.
Two young girls smile at each other while eating a meal.

Fighting for Nepal, from abroad

It is this desire for his children’s education that has brought Apa to the United States. While the decision to leave his homeland was a difficult one, Apa knows that his new home will bring him continued opportunities to pass on all that he has learned from climbing.

In addition to his mountaineering accomplishments, Apa is active in climate change education and the conservation of Mount Everest through annual Eco-Everest clean-up expeditions. Eco-Everest removed around 14,000 kg of garbage from the mountain. As a Climate-for-Life ambassador, Apa Sherpa was the recipient of the World Wildlife Foundation’s prestigious “Leaders for a Living Planet” award. He also established a foundation to assist with education projects and schools in the Khumbu Valley. In 2013, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Utah for his commitment to cultural and ecological conservation of the Himalayas.

A close up image of Apa Sherpa smiling in the sunshine while wearing a backpack.

Apa Sherpa
Probably 1960...or maybe 1965. He doesn't know.
Wife Yangjin, sons Tenjing and Pemba, daughter Dawa and granddaughter Tashi
21 successful expeditions to the top of Mount Everest
Seeing all his three children graduate

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