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Moving Mountains

tendi

Nov 6, 2015- Born in the remote village of Ne Khembalung, Tendi Sherpa was six years old when he became a monk and 13, when he worked as a porter for the first time carrying 43 kg on his back on a 24-day expedition. A year later, he summated Mera Peak and at 20, he reached the top of Mount Everest for the first time—he has climbed Everest ten times since. Like hundreds of Sherpas who work in the mountains, Tendi’s story is a story of a man who dreams, breathes and lives mountains.

 

You started working as a porter when you were just 13. What prompted you to take up such a laborious task at such a young age?

My father used to work as a porter in trekking expeditions and whenever he returned home he would bring back gifts and photos given by the foreigners. It had always fascinated me so much, so, when I was 13, I came to Kathmandu with a hope to get a job as a porter. A friend of my father who worked as a guide agreed to hire me as a porter on a 24 day Thorong La expedition but when I met his boss, he said I was too young to work. I wanted the job so badly that on the day of the departure, I hid under the bus’s seat so that the boss wouldn’t see me. I came out only after he had left. When the bus finally departed, I felt so happy that I was finally realising my childhood dream. There were two porters, me and an elder guy, for the expedition and once we reached Besishahar, the guide gave us 43 kg each to carry. Carrying that load for eight to twelve hours a day was physically tough; I even crossed the Thorong La pass (5,416 m) on slippers and sometimes barefoot, for a salary of Rs 150 a day. I wish that no child has to go through such hardships. Regardless, it was an experience that I’ll never forget. When I think about it today, I feel lucky that I didn’t suffer from frostbite!

 

You were 14 when you first summated a mountain; did that play a role in you taking up mountaineering?

My father had asked me whether or not I’d want to go as a porter with him on a Mera Peak (6,476m) expedition, of course, I said yes. After trekking for a week, we finally reached the base camp. When I saw the summit, I begged my father to take me along to the top—he was a bit hesitant at first but he agreed. As I was climbing, I just kept on thinking about reaching the summit and looking forward to tell my friends back in the village. When we reached, the weather was so beautiful. Standing on the top of a mountain for the first time, that too with my father, was an out-of-the-world feeling and that was when I knew that my life is for mountaineering.

 

You’ve summated Mount Everest ten times. How did you feel when you got there the first time?

I was 20 when I was hired as a climbing Sherpa on an Everest expedition from the Tibetan side. In the middle of the expedition, a senior guide fell sick and had to return to the base camp—everything from choosing camp sites and setting up camps to leading a client to the summit fell on my shoulders. After spending nearly one and half months on the mountain, I finally led a client to the summit. We climbed for the whole night and finally reached the peak in the morning. For the first few minutes, I couldn’t believe that I was standing on top of the world, my happiness knew no bounds. That day, I became the first person in my family and my village to set foot on top of Everest. It was when I reached home and saw my whole family eagerly waiting for me, that it really started sinking in. Seeing all of them so happy made me realise that summiting Everest is a big thing but an even bigger thing is being able to come back home alive to my loved ones.

 

What keeps you occupied when you are not conquering summits?

At the mere age of 13 I had to choose the tough profession of a porter in difficult terrains. But today, I am in a position to make sure that the children in my village are not forced to walk the same difficult path I did two decades ago. So, for the past few years, in collaboration with a Swiss organisation, we have been providing scholarships to 23 children from my village every year. Apart from this, I’ve been involved in various projects to uplift the life of people in my village because in the last three decades, very little development has reached my remote village.

 

So, any words of advice?
You can do anything you want to do. All you need to be is be honest, be sincere, be respectful and be dedicated with what you do.

 

Timeline

1983: Born in the village of Ne Khembaling in Sankhuwasabha district
1996: Joined a Thorong La expedition as a porter
1997: Summated Mera Peak
2004: Summated Mount Everest
2005: Started social work in his village
2007: Summated Mount Everest twice in a week
2011: Became a certified International Federation of Mountain Guide Association (IFMGA) Guide
2012: Got married
2013: Became a father
Featured on Kathmandu Post-M&S, Friday Supplement. 11/6/2015
http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/printedition/news/2015-11-06/moving-mountains-1023457.html

What People Say

  • Tendi is one of the most amazing and talented people that I have ever met. He is an inspirational leader who successfully led our team to the summit of Everest on May 23, 2016. As a 25-year-old girl, I was one of the youngest of our group and a bit apprehensive of the enormity of our expedition, but I have to say that every step of the way I felt safe and in good hands with Tendi leading our team.

    From the moment I first was introduced to Tendi I had total trust and respect in him as a guide. His knowledge for the mountain and understanding how to communicate effectively with the different people and nationalities was remarkable. The summit is one thing but the climb down is where things can go wrong. I was very nervous for the descent but both Tendi, and my personal Sherpa Pasang calmed my nerves and assured me that we would get down safely.

    Our group had 100% summit success rate…but for Tendi success wasn’t the summit; success was getting our whole group down safely and being able to hug at advanced base camp complete with huge smiles on our faces. Tendi is a very special person that has left a huge impression on me and my life. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to climb with such man as Tendi!

  • Dear Tendi,

    I just wanted to say thank you to you one more time for this amazing experience!

    From the moment we all met in the USA I knew it was going to be a once in a lifetime journey. Your knowledge of trekking and the trials assured me we were all in great hands and I so much enjoyed learning about Nepal. Thank you for letting me pester you with all sorts of questions and teaching (Dr.) Sara and I (and the rest) some nepali and Sherpa- it was so fun!

    You are such an inspiration of a kind person who works so hard for their family.

    Your happy disposition is a pleasure to be around and always a reminder to smile :)

    I so greatly appreciate your sharing of Buddhism as well- I look forward to incorporating some practices in my own life and hope to study the philosophy more back in the States.

    Your business, trekking team, and family are all such a pleasure to be around- I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to meet them all (and I hope to see them again in the future!).

    Sara and I are excited to talk to our sorority (AST) about supporting your NGO in help of your village’s education and look forward to keeping in touch with you.

    Once more- thank you so much!

    -oh and your daughter is beautiful! I cannot wait to see her grow up to be another Ship grad :)

    All the best,
    Shelby

  • Tendi Sherpa is not only an amazing climbing guide, he is also an amazing friend. I first met Tendi in 2007 while climbing Everest. I was not feeling well while at camp III. Tendi and Ongdi Sherpa assisted me in reaching camp II safely. Later that night I developed severe HAPE. I credit Tendi and Ongdi for saving my life that night, and assisting me in my descent of the Khumbu Icefall, while being really sick.

    After Tendi reached the summit of Everest on May 16th 2007, he repeated an ascent with me on May 24th. I had recovered from HAPE in Namche Bazaar and was anxious to reach the summit before the monsoon came in. We climbed hard and fast. I have never met anyone with more strength and energy than Tendi Sherpa and Willie Beneges. We reached the summit of Everest 5 hours and 45 minutes after leaving camp IV then descended all the way to camp II in a single push.

    I would climb any mountain in the world with Tendi. He has become a close friend and also serves as a board member on an organization that I founded- Helping Assist Nepal’s Disabled (H.A.N.D.) Tendi has a huge heart and love for people. He is devoted to helping others in Nepal to have a better life.

    Brian smith
    Jacksonville, Oregon, USA
    www.handnepal.org

  • “We just summited Aconcagua, the first Nepali and the first Russian female to summit via Polish Glacier route. Tendi turned to me and said: “Now you do not need a guide to climb Aconcagua.” Ha! Tendi raised the bar!

    Thank you, dai, for bringing me closer to my aspiration of climbing unguided and unsupported; for making me a better climber and a better human being; leading me to great heights both mountains and spiritual.

    In the presence of Tendi Sherpa, one will find sound guidance, risk assessment, decision making, safety priority, and the highest level of expertise. Tendi is a true guide at heart, phenomenal climber and a beautiful human being.
    Thank you for your guidance and your friendship, Tendi!”

    Olya Lapina, entrepreneur, climber
    Sanfrancisco, USA
    www.mountica.com

  • I reached the summit of Mount Everest in May 2012 and Tendi Sherpa, with his experience of 10 previous summits, was crucial in such an accomplishment.

    During my stay in the Himalayas, I asked Tendi lots of questions about his culture, religion, etc. Maybe my questions were very silly, considering I belong to the Occidental World. It´s such a different culture! But I always found Tendi ready to share all his knowledge with humility and kindness.

    I had the opportunity to meet Tendi in a two-month expedition in the Himalayas. During that time I got to know a kindhearted person who not only made me laugh with his jokes, but also had the right words in the most difficult situations I had to undergo.

    It`s amazing to see how many characteristics coexist in the same person; the innocence of a curious young man, the determination of an experienced climber, and the permanent good mood of a wise person.

    Even during the toughest moments of the expedition, there he was, with his wide smile, ready for a friendly chat.

     

    Hernan Carracedo
    Neuquén, Argentina
    www.everest2012.com.ar

  • Tendi Sherpa was one of the leader/guides during my attempt to climb the highest point on the planet outside of the Himalayas – Aconcagua, in the Andes of Argentina, with my two sons and nephew in 2013. What a tremendous honour it was. Later that year, my daughter and I caught up with Tendi in Kathmandu, where we met his family and were shown his astonishing variety of well-kept climbing gear.

    Tendi is well-respected in the Sherpa and wider Nepalese communities, and other guides and climbers seek out his guidance. He has summited Everest with clients on multiple occasions, as well as other peaks around the world.

    His strength and perseverance, his knowledge and common sense, and his courage are legendary. His self-effacing nature, sparkling personality, politeness and sense of humour serve him well on the mountains, where things do not always go to plan.

    I would travel with him anywhere!

    From your friend

    Robert
    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

  • Truly one of the most fascinating individuals I’ve met in my life…meet Tendi Sherpa. He has an aura that captivates the attention of everyone within his reach and his personality glows so bright he could light a room. 

    Tendi has 10 summits of Mt. Everest (and counting). This season, he became the first Nepali to summit Aconcagua by the Polish Glacier Direct route. Congratulations Tendi! It was great to meet you! Good luck this May :)

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