Story / Friend
Apa Sherpa Foundation – without education we have no choice
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, who could carry more than his own body weight up and down the
In 1990 Apa Sherpa reached the summit of Mount Everest for the first time, and since then he has
taken 21 expeditions to the top of the world. Nobody else in the world has climbed the highest
mountain on earth more times. And he has never lost a client. That’s extraordinary in itself in the world
of climbing Mount Everest. 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 in the world. A record that he now shares with another
Still after all the success and fame, if Apa had gotten the chance to choose between all his success and
all his records and becoming a doctor, he would have chosen to get that education and work as a doctor
to help the people of Nepal. His wish to do good and improve the life of his people is immense. In 2010
Apa founded the Apa Sherpa Foundation with the help of his best friend Jerry Mika. The Apa Sherpa
Foundation works for the children of Nepal’s right to an education. Apa strongly believes that without an
education the children of Nepal have no choice – then they have to become porters and risk their lives.
The Apa Sherpa Foundation seeks to build on Apa’s legacy by strengthening individuals where they live,
beginning in Thame, Nepal, Apa’s home village and expand from there.
Apa Sherpa is one of only two men in history to reach the top of the world 21 times. As the world
record holder of the most summits of Everest, Apa is widely recognized to be one of the greatest living
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.
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.
The only year Apa did not participate in Everest expedition was in 1996. Apa was asked to climb with
Rob Hall several times as he had climbed with Rob three times in prior years. Apa stayed home to help
his wife, Yangjin to build their new house in Thame. Apa was very saddened to learn that many of his
close climbers lost their lives including Rob himself during the expedition. 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 with a mission to raise awareness of climate change in the Himalayas in 2012 (The
Great Himalayan Trail). Apa and his team completed 20 Himalayan districts from East to West of Nepal
in 99 days.
If Apa could have planned his life differently, however, he says that he would gladly have given up the
world records for a good education and a career as a medical doctor. That is why education for his own
children and for the children of Thame is his top priority.
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 many Eco-Everest clean-up expeditions. Eco-Everest removed
around 14,000 kg of garbage from the mountain. Also a Climate-for-Life ambassador, Apa Sherpa was
the recipient of World Wildlife Foundation’s prestigious “Leaders for a Living Planet” award, and he
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.
Apa Sherpa is a legendary mountain guide from Thame, Nepal. He’s called the Michael Jordan of Mount Everest and the Tiger of the Himalayas. Apa holds the record of having reached the summit of Mount Everest the most times in the world.